An early start this morning at 7am to depart your hotel in Siem Reap for the drive to Phnom Kulen, an impressive sandstone plateau in an otherwise flat area which plays host to the hidden temples of Angkor.
You’ll arrive at the Kulen Mountain near the Preah Ang Thom pagoda where you’ll meet your motorbike driver who will take you around the mountain. You’ll ride as a passenger on the back of his cross-country bike along bumpy tracks, over volcanic rocks and occasionally through shallow streams.
Your first stop is at Poeng Tbal where a riverbed reveals a well preserved stone with details of Shiva and Vishnu and the rocks carvings feature the image of Ganesh and other wise men and deities.
A short ride further and you’ll discover one of the most significant sites in all of Cambodia: a small pedestal set on top of a three-tiered pyramid called Prasat Rong Chen.
Whilst there is little to see here today - the linga was been stolen from the pedestal long ago - the significance of the site is immeasurable in known Cambodian history.
It is here that Jayavarman II declared independence from Java and claimed himself the absolute monarch of the Cambodian Kingdom. Simply put, the Khmer Empire began at this very spot.
Whilst the mountain’s terrain has never been a mystery to the Khmer people and those who inhabit the local area, it was only recently confirmed beyond doubt that Phnom Kulen was the location of Mahendraparvata. In 2013, the precise destination was revealed by a team of archaeologists using laser mapping equipment.
It is believed that Mahendraparvata was established as a huge service city for Angkor, a completely unrivalled urban landscape in the pre-industrial world.
Once you’ve soaked up the atmosphere at Mahendraparvata you’ll next move to a more modern temple which features colorful statues and a scenic view of the surrounding area.
You’ll then have time to enjoy a simple packed lunch at the temple’s dining room before continuing on to a nearby bat cave. Armed with torches, you’ll venture into the cave for several hundred meters where you’ll find a modern shrine.
Next you’ll make a stop at Srah Damrei (otherwise known as Elephant Pond). The enormous stone elephant once served as a guardian for the mountain, its age reflected by centuries of natural wear and sprigs of green plant life that now cover it.
Your motorbike driver will then return you to the point your ride began where you’ll discover more stone carvings at Damrei Khrap (Kneeling Elephant) before finishing the excursion at Preah Ang Thom.
To round off your day of exploration, you’ll make two more stops. Firstly you’ll make a short visit to see the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’ where hundreds of the linga carvings can be seen in one fascinating stretch of the river.
Finally you’ll visit the majestic 5-meter-high Kulen Waterfall where (depending on the season) you can take a refreshing dip to clean and re-energize before you enjoy the drive back to Siem Reap.Please Note: There is still a possibility of landmines in the area. The trails your Backyard Travel guide will take you on have been made safe however, but it is important to keep onto the main paths and not stray from these areas.For the motorbike experience it is necessary to sign a waiver form. Also, we recommend wearing long trousers and using insect repellant for this innovative but rewarding experience.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Meals included on this day: Breakfast and Lunch