Getting to Phnom KulenGetting to Phnom Kulen is a bit of an adventure in itself. While not necessarily off-roading, there was about ten miles of dirt road, recently grated, that went from two lanes to a single lane pretty rapidly. In the rainy reason, however, parts of the road would be impassable to a vehicle without a high axle and four-wheel drive.
It is beautiful. It is in the mountains, and like so many places in Asia there is a mysteriousness to the mountains. In Southeast Asia, they are where people who don't cultivate wet rice dwell, this being a major civilization divide through insular and mainland Southeast Asia alike. Mountains are not the paddy; they are wild, undomesticated, foreign. This means that unlike most other places, they have not been bared of their forests and still are wild even if one sees paths penetrating them or gathers taking what they are allowed from the controlled forests, like fallen limbs and plant resins.
History of Phnom Kulen
This is also near the river head of the Siem Reap River. In the bedrock of the river are carved hundreds of linga images. There are also some minor ruins. It was not long after the declaration of independence that Jayavarman moved his capitol, not yet to Angkor but to what is known today as the Rolous Group, among the oldest temples with the Angkor area.
What to do in Phnom Kulen
A nice photo opportunity arose when a few monks showed up to get their feet wet and take in the view.
The ruins, while not particularly impressive in terms of structures are in terms of age—they are among the oldest Khmer ruins in the Siem Reap area, and no real restoration work has happened. Seeing the rubble makes one appreciate what a difficult job just re-visioning the temple would be. After having a lunch (or without), one can go for a swim at the bottom or the very impressive Kulen waterfall. Stay on the trial. While not known to be a mined area, parts of Kulen are undergoing de-mining. As elsewhere in Cambodia, stay on well-trod trails.
There were about 100 steps climbing the hill to the pagoda and carving, and the first 75 were lined with beggars, mostly children and old women. There are a few money changers at the bottom so that you can get small change to pass out as you make the walk up, handing out between 100 riel notes and 500 reil bundles to the beggars. And at the bottom and top you can have an incantation recited for you over the loudspeakers for just $1—for luck, they say.
|This is carved into the top of about a 20 meter tall boulder.|