The Lingas and the Lady

The road to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean passes through lovely countryside

The road to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean passes through lovely countryside

It’s a day off today to catch my breath and to catch up on my blogging. After using most of last week to prepare a workshop I gave to a group of great university students, I have been back on the touring trail. So much to do and just not enough time! More than a week ago, on October 12 (wow, has it been sooo long!?), we headed off to Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei. I am so lucky that Chov, the university student I sponsor, has been able to join us almost every day as long as we get him back in time for his classes which take place six days a week from 18.30 – 21.30. As always, my friend Savuth is our trusted chariot driver.

Kbal Spean, also known as The River of 1,000 Lingas, is about a one hour and 45 minute tuk tuk ride from Siem Reap. The road is a perfect quality paved road all the way and passes through some great countryside and along many rural

"Hello!" and sometimes "Bye bye!"

"Hello!" and sometimes "Bye bye!"

homes and villages. As always there is always something to see along the way and the open tuk tuk remains a refreshing and airy way to travel. The slower speed than a car also allows taking it all in and having some fleeting contact with people you pass. The kids as always are a joy to see as they bike along the road or run along the tuk tuk for a second and always wave and scream, “Hello!” or “Bye bye!”

The river than finds its source in the Kulen Mountains flows for 50 kilometers feeding a large area, including Siem Reap, on its way to Tonle Sap. The ancient Angkorian Khmers carved figures of deities and other

One of the thousands of river bed carvings that bless the water as it flows by.

One of the thousands of river bed carvings that bless the water as it flows by.

religious symbols into the river bed along tens of kilometers of the river starting at Mount Kulen. They believed that as the water flowed over these so-called ‘lingas’ it would become imbued with the blessing of the Gods. Given that these lingas have withstood the ravaging waters for about a thousand years perhaps they do contain some inexplicable powers. Unfortunately you can see that the lingas have been less lucky

You can clearly see where parts of the figures were hacked away by poachers.

You can clearly see where parts of the figures were hacked away by poachers.

with resisting the greed of antiquities poachers. Here and there you can clearly see where bits and pieces of have been hacked away, some as recently as a half year ago. Sadly the culture thieves were not caught but perhaps they will have to answer to an unseen magical or higher power.

Chov is always so sad when he sees this kind of damage as he feels the pain of having his beautiful heritage, of which he is rightfullly very proud, stolen for profit. As he told me at one point, there is a Cambodian saying, “Lose your stones, lose your country.”

Visiting KbalKbal Spean Banteay Srei-walk in Spean is well worth the effort providing a nice alternative to all the temples. To reach the area of the river where you can view the carvings there is a 40 -45 minute relatively easy uphill walk through the forest. There are only a few short stretches where some confident and careful footing is required to navigate the rocks. Halfway up there is a lovely panorama of the surrounding jungle where you can clearly see the effects of deforestation where the jungle has been cleared for more profitable things like banana groves. Savuth told us that the jungle here used to be so thick that it was actually quite cool because so little sunlight reached the jungle floor and that the area used to be rich in jungle wildlife. This was one of the areas of jungle where Savuth spent many years wandering, often alone or with a small group and sometimes as a young forced conscript during the war with Vietnam.

Visiting Kbal Spean in the middle of the jungle gives you a differentKB SP Ba SR web9 kind of opportunity to ponder and imagine the incredibly rich and visually expressive belief system that was the throbbing heart of the ancient Angkorian society. And being up the in the foothills of the Kulen mountain range drives home the incredible, almost inconceivable nature of the Angkorian building project when you realize that all of the stones you see in all of the temples were brought most likely by elephants from quarries in the Kulen mountains to the magical city of Angkor 50 kilometers away.

KB SP Ba SR web25After enjoying a delicious lunch at one of the restaurants in the parking area we headed off back towards Siem Reap to visit the unusual temple Banteay Srei, which translates to the “Fortress of the Women.” The KB SP Ba SR web30name stems not from the untrue story that the temple was either built by women or dedicated to a woman but from the incredible almost feminine intricacy of the thousands of carvings that adorn the temple. Banteay Srei is also made from a different material, red sandstone, giving it a pinkish color. This was my third visit to the temple and it never ceases to amaze, enthrall and engage me.

You can see the entire album with many more pictures of the countryside, kids, local life along the roadway and of course of Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei.

The Lingas and the Lady

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services!)

~ by Leonard on October 21, 2009.

7 Responses to “The Lingas and the Lady”

  1. to leonard, hey thanks to a great insight to siem reep, this is just what i was looking for, this is well put together and very helpful thanks sincers\o.o/

  2. Leonard..Nice reports. Found your site earlier this year. Have been to Siem Reap on three occasions ths year.. 15 days in total. Will come back in 2011 as well.
    All the best… Peter G

  3. Hi Peter! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment (and a compliment) :)…You are lucky to be able to be there so often.. do you live in that part of Asia? Remember, if you ever need a tuk tuk while in Siem Reap think of my friend Savuth via …. Be well!

  4. Leonard.
    No, I live in Australia. Have lots of FF Points, and I used to go to Thailand on business from 2003 to 2008. Saw a book on Angkor Wat, and became interested. So, finally went there in MArch ,2010 for 4 days.. Then I discovered that I did not know anything about the place. When back to Australia and started buying different books Went back in July for 8 nights / 7 days.. Then down to Phnom Penh,and back to Bangkok to help a mate out. I was supposed to go back to Australia, but, decided that, as I was in BKK, its easy to go back to Siem Reap by bus/ taxi etc, and had another 5 nights / 4 days.

    Founda nice low cost hotel but, very clean and restful.
    I actually have a greatTUK TUK driver as well..Met him in March.
    Are you on Facebook, because I have put many ohotos up there.

    Look forward to hear from you again..

    Rgds…Peter Geran

  5. Hi Peter,

    You really got the Angkor bug! :)…. This November will be my fourth annual trip in four years. Your tuk tuk driver, does he speak okay English? I could use another driver to refer people to when my friend is booked. If you like, you can send me his details to Leonard AT angkortuktuk dot net. I am on FB and also looked up ‘Peter Geran.’ Found one with a profile picture with a massive zoom lens. Is that you?

  6. Leonard,
    Yes, thats me on Facebook. My TUK TUK driver speaks perfect Englich. I put his phone of Facebook as well, and his e-mail address is ( Mister Rattana )
    Phones (855) 11669975, (855)12669975 ( of course in Cambodia , delete the 855 and add the 0 in front of the 1.
    Send me a friend request on Facebook, please. You will be able to see my photos there.. I still have a lot to put up, but, its a guide
    Regards Peter

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