Updated: Feb 16, 2018
Kbal Spean River, or more commonly known as the "River of Thousand Lingas", was situated on the southwest slope of Phnom Kulen (or Kulen Hill), about 50Km from Siem Reap. Kbal Spean offered a different perspective from other temples with bas-refiefs and lingas found along its river banks and riverbed within a 200m stretch.
The first part of our journey from Siem Reap to Kbal Spean was travelling on a hot and dusty road in a tuk tuk. A mask and eye-wear to cover the nose, mouth and eyes were absolutely necessary. The tuk tuk also had its canvas rolled down to keep dust out but that turned the little carriage into an oven under the hot sun — it was either the heat or the dust.
It took us more than 2 hours to reach the entrance to Kbal Spean.
From the entrance, we took about 20 minutes to trek 1.5Km in the jungle to reach the river. We followed a well-worn and marked path through the jungle with a little uphill walk.
The bas-reliefs and lingas of Kbal Spean were craved on big boulders and littered along the river banks. Some were heavily eroded by nature, some coated with thick algae, and some had been preyed by robbers.
This was the biggest site with large number of bas-reliefs and lingas. It was the first sight that greeted visitors to Kbal Spean.
We were there during the dryer season of May. With lesser water flowing in the river, most of the bas-reliefs and lingas were clearly visible.
Apart from bas-reliefs that were restored, there were those that still bore evidence of robbery. The face of this bas-relief was stolen.
There were more algae-covered bas-reliefs lying around at another site. We actually missed several bas-reliefs because they were obscured by algae and dried leaves.
These were the different shapes and sizes of lingas in the river. As the name of the river implies, there could really be a thousand of them.
Another lingam on the riverbed. In ancient times, a Buddha statue would sit above it.
There was a small waterfall about 200m downriver from the first site where locals would dip in the cool water. The last set of bas-reliefs was near the waterfall but we missed them completely as they were located on the other side of the river. We retraced our steps back to the entrance where the tuk tuk is waiting for us.
And a beautiful snap of a wild white-headed bald eagle on the way to the entrance.
Note: Kbal Spean closes at 3pm.