Hiking to “Kbal Spean” – the lesser known trail of Siem Reap!

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sPoT the carvings & inscriptions!

Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm – these are on top of the list of things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Thus, today I’m going to write about an exciting adventure to the lesser known Kbal Spean. Honestly, too many temples and ruins in a day could have really gotten on to us, considering the heat and monotony… that’s why we decided to take a detour.

   Follow me as I hike along Kbal Spean… 🙂 

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and… let’s begin…

About Kbal Spean:

Kbal Spean means ‘bridge head’. It is also known as the ‘Valley of Thousand Lingas’ or the ‘River of Thousand Lingas’. A unique and exciting adventure for sure!

 

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Lord Brahma on a lotus petal

 

Where will I find it?

At Kulen Hills, NE of Angkor, at Siem Reap. This is about 10 kms from Banteay Srei. The river in which Kbal Spean emerges is called the Stung Kbal Spean, known to be a tributary of the main Siem Reap river.

 

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The most famous of them all: Lord Vishnu in a reclining pose on Ananta, the serpent God; and Lord Brahma on a lotus

Significance: 

The lingas are believed to date back to the 11th century, and were carved by the hermits during Udayadityavarman’s reign. What makes Angkor so pure is the Siem Reap river that flows over the lingas and finally into Angkor. However, this site was discovered only in 1969, by Jean Boulbet. Owing to the Cambodian civil war, further excavation was abandoned and the site finally opened to visitors only in 1989.

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Look out for these!

How to get there?

Kbal Spean is about 50-60 kms from Siem Reap city centre, depending on where you are staying. It takes about 45 minutes by car. Irrespective of the mode of transport you choose, if you want to hire one, make sure you book at least a day in advance.

  • Tuk tuk: If you hire a tuk tuk, get ready for a bumpy ride as you cross the village of palm sugar production. Dust, sweat and jerky thuds are inevitable.
  • Cab (recommended): Hire an air-conditioned van or car to beat the heat and reach faster.
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Right on top!

What will I find there today?

  • A jungle, with very little water
  • Butterflies
  • Shiv lingas – a thousand of them
  • Inscriptions and carvings set amidst sandstone formations in a previous river-bed
  • Hiking trails
  • Rest huts on the way up
  • Carvings of other Gods, Goddesses and a few animals
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The river bed of lingas

Tips: 

  1. To your right: Once you reach your destination, on top, you will see a number of lingas and carvings on your right hand side. These are the most famous ones.
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Use these concentric tunnels as your mark, to head left or right…

2. Go ahead: Most people just see the main piece and get back down. Do venture a little ahead to see a dense swampy forest, with some inscriptions within a tunnel-like   formation.

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Panoramic view of what’s ahead… [yes, that’s me clicking away 😉 ]
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Different Gods inscribed all along the inner edges of the pool-like feature

3. To your left: When you reach the main spot (concentric tunnels), make sure you don’t miss out the left hand side. You will have to step down a little, to reach a previous waterfall area, which is now dry. However, you will find more inscriptions and a number of butterflies fluttering all around.

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Leaves, trees, stones and butterflies

Will I find a place to eat, drink and rest up there?

  • Rest huts – yes, there is a hut every 500 meters
  • Eatables, drinks: no, please carry your own water bottles
  • Tour guides – yes, preferably book in advance

Facilities at the base camp 😉 :

  • Ample parking space
  • Restaurants
  • Shops to buy pants, hats, skirts
  • Iced beverage and coconut water stalls
  • Rest rooms

Highlight:

The hike was the highlight! Hiking is anyway so thrilling!!!!! And so was this… While some people may be disappointed to see ‘no’ waterfall or flowing river, it is quite adventurous and beautiful on the way up, and see the history behind it guys! Go hike-hike-hiking with a history 😉

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An abstract stone formation with roots all around. What is it? An elephant, a linga or just some random pattern?…

 

This post first appeared on Lyf&Spice

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