Sunday, June 2, 2013

Phnom Kulen National Park

Phnom Kulen National Park is located about 60 km north of Siem Reap.  The park is home to beautiful waterfalls, an active pagoda with a Reclining Statue of Buddha, and the stone carvings of the 1000 lingas.  The waterfalls are a popular swimming destination among the locals and my friends and I decided to take a day trip to check out the park.  We hired a van and driver to get us around since we were all still new to the area and didn't know where we were going.  The park is located on a private road through an area that is not completely demined and it was advised that we not venture there on own one.  (Good advice.)  Our group had a wonderful time and the swimming was a great break from the intense Cambodian heat to which we were all still adjusting.

Kulen Mountain Waterfalls
Along the river leading to the waterfalls, there were several huts like this one that you could rent (for $2) to eat lunch and  hangout.  There are also a few small restaurants close by that can prepare food and bring it to the hut.  Everyone ate lunch for about $3-4 each.    

Pineapple Stir-Fry Rice, served in an actual pineapple!

Chicken Curry and Coconut Milk (straight from the coconut)

This happy little guy was more than willing to eat any food we couldn't finish. 

A view from our hut of a wooden bridge crossing the bridge at the top of the waterfalls.

A view upstream from the bridge

There were several children hanging out and playing along the bridge.
They were quite curious about  something that was happening in the water.
They excitedly chatted with each other and pointed repeated at something underwater.

This little one in the orange skirt quickly left the group and returned with a friend and some "supplies". 
I wonder what she is up to...

...I guess I'll never know.
By the time I actually got close enough to the bridge, the children had gone to the other side and were eating lunch.  

Walking along the path towards the waterfall, I spotted a swing and shrine among the trees.

Another tree swing...looks relaxing!

Children playing in the smaller waterfall.

This little hut is close to the smaller waterfall.  
Simple, rustic, a gem in its own right, tucked along the path through the jungle to the waterfalls.    

A view of the waterfalls from inside the hut.

In order to get to the swimming area at the bottom of the waterfalls, you have to walk along a path through the  tropical jungle...then down a steep flight of wooden stairs.  There were several steps missing and some of the wood was old and rotting away.  Descend at your own risk!

Our group making our way down the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs, you then have to traverse a few creeks.  
Almost there... you can see the waterfalls in the background.

Another creek crossing

We made it!
The waterfalls are absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!

A popular place to swim, cool off, and take a break from the Cambodian heat.

Mike and I after a day of swimming.

On the way back in town, we stopped and picked up a bunch of bananas from one of the many road side stalls.

She sold a variety of fruits at her stall...

...including purple bananas.  

Plenty of bananas for everyone.

Bananas...nom, nom, nom! 

After lunch and a swim, we headed to an active pagoda that is located within the park area.  We were greeted by these amazing stone carvings...and more stairs.  After climbing down and then back up the wooden staircase at the waterfalls, these were a welcomed surprise.  

Stone carved statues and ornate archways adorn the gently ascending steps to the pagoda.



After visiting the pagoda, I found out that this 17 meter statue of the Reclining Buddha is rare in that Buddha is resting on the right side of the head instead of the commonly seen left side.

A monk praying

Our final stop for the day was a temple that was literally under water.  The temple of 1000 lingas are stone carvings of the lingas (male genitals of Hindu god) and yoni (female counterpart) placed in the bed of the Siem Reap River.  The location of the stone carvings is at the source of this river.  Many believe that the water from this river is fertile and good for crop growing because of the placement of the stone carvings.  

The Siem Reap River, a small and quiet brook tucked away from the road.  
If we didn't have our driver, we would have completely missed this place.

Stone carving of the yoni

Stone carvings of the lingas

When we first arrived, this woman was filling up water bottles from the middle of the river.  I found it interesting that she walked back and forth from the shore to the center of the river to fill up her bottles instead of from the water's edge and staying dry.

A friend crossing the river on a rather questionable "bridge".

Taking a moment to enjoy one of those swings before we left the park.  

Little did we know that the ride would be as entertaining as the places that we visited.  In order to get to the park, we had to take a private road up the mountain.  The road is very narrow and has numerous blind turns making it rather dangerous.  Before noon, the road is one way going up the mountain.  After twelve, the road becomes one way going down the mountain.  Our driver was quite skilled in navigating the road but I'm sure a few of us found ourselves holding our breathe as our driver zipped around turns, inches from the large roads that hugged the road, and drove over surfaces that most of us would not define as roads.  Here's one final picture from the day, heading down the mountain...
Thanks for reading.  

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