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Published: February 23rd 2015
Our time in Siem Reap is running out fast. Only two more days to enjoy and one of them is filled with a day trip to Kulen Mountain. This trip is also with Blue Bird Tours and is costing us $35 each, which includes the entrance fee of $20. As there were only three people taking this tour, ourselves and a very pleasant Korean man, it was made in an air conditioned car with a driver and guide, and not the expected mini van.
Phnom Kulen National Park is located in Svay Leu District about 50klm from Siem Reap. Eight centuries ago, much of what is known as SE Asia today was ruled from Cambodia, where the Khmer people's vast Angkorian Empire flourished. From its historic capital, seated beneath a tropical forest on the plateau of the Phnom Kulen, one of the world's most amazing civilisations was born. Although around 30 ancient temples are scattered in the Kulen Mountains, none of these can be visited due to the lack of roads and the danger of land mines.
Eventually we reached the ticket office at Kulen Mountain, though our tickets (being foreigners) were purchased at the office in Siem Reap.
Only locals can buy tickets at the mountain itself and there were carloads of people there. Our driver showed our tickets and we continued on our way. The road from here on was gravel and very dusty. It was also one way only, so we had to be on the mountain by 11.00am
as the road is then closed to incoming traffic. It reopens at midday for vehicles coming down from the mountain.
It was the last day of the Chinese New Year and Kulen Mountain was packed with locals and tourists. The first stop for us was the River of 1000 Lingas where we saw lingas, dating back to 11/12th
centuries, carved into the sandstone riverbed. It's not as impressive as Kbal Spean, in a different area of Kulen Mountain which I visited in 2013, but I didn't have to climb 2klm up the mountain to see these carvings, as I did back then.
We walked past some interesting food and souvenir stands as we made our way to the pagoda to see the 8 metre long reclining buddha, which was carved in the 16th century, from a massive sandstone boulder. The steps up to the pagoda
Ram Body Parts
Rather a grisly find on one of the market stalls.
were wide, and an easy climb, but many local women and children were begging there. Lined up along the railings, one after the other, they watched us as we passed.
There was traditional music playing at the top of the steps and lots of Buddhist devotees who came to worship at the shrines. Two monks were blessing devotees with holy water, incense filled the air and scruffy local kids followed the tourists around. I wondered if several of them were looking for an opportunity to pick pocket as they seemed to be 'just there' every time I turned around. We filed past the buddha along with everyone else, it was crowded today, standing room only. A small pagoda surrounded the buddha, suspended off the sides of the enormous rock he was carved from.
Next stop was the waterfalls, accessed via a metal staircase with treads set dangerously apart, where we knew we could swim. Unfortunately everyone else knew you could swim as well, the water was crowded. I didn't get too close, there were too many people and I didn't want to risk a fall scrambling over wet and slippery rocks. We took a couple of photos and
Dried animal stomachs, honey and bottles of jungle medicine balls.
On the way back to the car we browsed the market stalls. Several had ivory on display - sets of small elephant tusks and carved items for sale. This is the first time I have seen ivory for sale here and is definitely not something I would consider buying.
Other stands were selling medicinal items such as dried animal stomachs, and bags of what looked like wood chips, which was boiled to make tea. There were 600ml drink bottles full of very runny honey and hand rolled balls of some jungle medicine. There was also the entire skeleton of a ram, head, hooves, rib cage and assorted bones which looked like it had been smoked as it was black. I would love to know what that was used for...
We were back at Horizons by mid afternoon and spent a couple of quiet hours before meeting my cousin Chris and 2nd cousin Milly in Pub Street for dinner. Tonight
was the annual Giant Puppet Parade and what better night for a catch up with family members who are also in Siem Reap for a couple of days. We were lucky to get a pavement table at Viva
Kulen Mountain Pagoda
The pagoda entrance...we walked through here and up steps to the reclining buddha
Restaurant, right next to where the parade started. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and dinner from their Mexican menu whilst watching the giant puppets dip and dance their way through Pub Street, accompanied by traditional music, drums, and lots of over excited children. Ginny and I were in Pub Street in February 2013 for the parade. If I remember correctly it turned into a big night at the Angkor What! Bar.
Walking home later in the evening we passed the Yolo Bar and it didn't take much persuasion to stop off for a night cap. The music was great, rums were $1.50ea and came with a free shot.... A good finish to a big day!
Sunday was a slow one. Most of the day was spent next to the pool at Frangipani Hotel where we caught up with Chris and Milly again. We arranged to meet at Viroth's Restaurant for dinner at 7.00pm
before heading back to our rooms for an afternoon nap. Today is our last day in Siem Reap as tomorrow we head to Phnom Penh via bus.
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