Cambodia Trip – Kulen Mountain


Definitely one of the highlights of our trip, exploring Kulen Mountain by motor cycle.

Fascinating. That’s what it is. Only recently, researchers discovered through a special airborne laser scanning technique that Kulen Mountain has kept its secrets well over the last millennium. Underneath the jungle are the remains of large medieval cities and settlements. They even think it must have been the largest city on earth in the 12th century. Only about 20% has been actually discovered on the mountain itself. I wanted to see this with my own eyes.

It would also be a first for Sarak, our driver-guide-friend. He has taken tourists to the “end of the road”, with the easily accessible – and also nice – attractions. But he never went deep into the jungle as we did that day… A few days later at the end of our time around Siem Reap he said that this visit to Kulen Mountain was the absolute highlight for him. Especially, when he lost his baggage – aka me – while driving his motor cycle through loose sand.

So, at the “end of the road”, Sarak negotiated two motorcycles and off we went with a local villager showing us the way to the secrets of the mountain. We are driving through small passes in the jungle, on narrow paths, over roots and streams and get to the first stop: a cave full of bats and a monk. The walls of the cave are covered in gold sparkles, the floor in bat poo. We pass by a “tent” where the monk seems to sleep or meditate in the pitch black. At the end of the cave we look up and see a mass amount of bats hanging out. Let’s get out of there before we get hit by a poo rain…

After some more slaloming through the jungle we arrive at Srah Damrei, a collection of large sculptures of elephants, monkeys with sharp teeth and a bull. There are some local villagers hanging out here keeping an eye out on things. Quite special how it just “pops up” in the middle of the jungle.

We are high up the mountain now and now and then we peep through the trees to overlook the larger Siem Reap area. I am not sure which temple is the next one we visited. It has suffered a lot, almost completely crumbled down. I think it is the Krob bei Krab Temple, but if I am wrong, let me know. We meet some younger people here and are laughing when we do another of the “Sarak” pictures, getting us 3 times into a panoramic picture.

After the quiet, relaxed monk we saw at our first stop, we now meet a grumpy, biker type one. If looks could kill… He messes up the atmosphere here with his bad vibes. We ignore him and go and investigate the area with its beautiful carvings. I don’t know the name of this particular site either… anyone?

We seem to be at the very top of the mountain with logged forest and cashew plantations. What a difference the forest makes in terms heat… It is so hot up here now without the green protection. Meanwhile, the young people we met earlier have joined our group, as it is quite difficult to find your way without a local inhabitant. Again it feels like a family day out. We stop regularly to eat fruit from the trees. Most of the fruits I have never seen in my life. My friend and I enjoy this day thoroughly, we feel 16 again, the freedom of being on a motorcycle, the exploration… We also encounter some “road blocks” on our way in the form of cows with carriage. We get off, the motorcycles are pushed into the jungle, and while the cows are looking at us with big eyes, they continue their way. Hope they don’t have nightmares or trauma’s… those eyes really projected fear of death…

The magic doesn’t seem to stop… As we are heading back to civilization (the tourist spot), we are bombarded with butterflies. This really feels like a fairytale… Still with a big smile on our faces we arrive at the reclining Buddha. We have mixed feelings again, as we feel this sacred site is a bit being exploited, convincing people to give money for Buddha in turn of a favor for whatever they are struggling with.

It is time for some relaxation… and the waterfall with its park are the perfect place for it. We buy those jummy baked banana snacks, some soda, and go the much needed “bathroom”. And then, as we descent the stairs, across the rocks… we see the waterfall… through the mist arises the figure of a young fisherman – shirtless – standing on one of the rocks… it looks like we have been catapulted back to the 90s in the Coca Cola Light commercial with the so-called “Coca-Cola-Light-man”… This is such a weird day…

I didn’t bring my bikini as that would have been shocking in many ways, so I am happy to see a woman operating a made shift business renting out shirts and shorts for swimming, you can change in the “changing room” for 0,5$, rent a locked box, and you can rent one of those big black innertires to floot in the pool. Good business. The fish nibbling at your feet and legs are free of charge. We are in heaven…

*** As you will have noticed we were quite fond of Sarak and would recommend booking him for your trips in the area of Siem Reap. You can check out Sarak on TripAdvisor and reach him through the info on his Facebook page. Say “hi” to him from “Black & White”. More on our trips with Sarak in the next posts. ***