Two of our favorite adventures are hiking and exploring ancient sites. We got a dose of both when we explored Cambodia’s Kbal Spean, a unique archeological site of Angkorian era. Although the hike was short, the site was astonishing.
Kbal Spean is a river in the jungle of Kulen Hills northeast of the main Angkor area. Its riverbeds and surrounding rocks are sculpted with myriad of Hindu symbolisms dating back from the 11th century.
The site was not discovered until 1968 when a hermit brought it to the attention of a French archeologist who was working in a nearby ruin. Shortly after, the site fell to the hands of the guerillas during the bloody Khmer Rouge rule and was not opened to the public until 1998.
Inscriptions found on the site revealed that the river carvings were commissioned by Khmer kings. The lingas and other divine carvings were intended to sanctify the water as it made its way downstream to the Angkor temples and settlements.
Just when we thought we had seen all the carvings at this point, a local boy who was hanging around the site told us that there were more and directed us on a trail uphill from the river.
We saw some small figures of animals and deities sculptured high on big rocks.
The boy also showed us more carving of deities, animals and lingas. We wouldn’t have possibly found them on our own as they were further uphill from the river and there were no mention of them in our guidebooks.
- Kbal Spean is located 50 kms northeast of Siem Reap and a direct trip by tuk-tuk takes about an hour. A visit to Kban Spean can be combined with a visit to the temple of Banteay Srei, which is 15 kms directly south of the road.
- An Angkor Pass is required for entry to Kbal Spean. For more info about Angkor Pass, please go here.
- The last entry on the trail is at 3:30 pm.
- Best time to visit the site is from May to December when the river and the waterfall have a good flow.
- Suggested accommodation: We stayed at Shinta Mani, a beautiful and contemporary boutique hotel and we highly recommend. We call it a hotel with a heart as it donates part of your nightly rate to help local communities. It has a non-profit component that trains locals in hospitality business as well as contributes in health programs.
Linking to Travel Photo Thursday. Please check it out for more interesting travel links.