TWHS: Site des Kulen, Cambodia

Now, Angkor Wat by itself is a huge site, but there’s also many other places to visit in the Siem Reap area, some that are part of the Angkor Wat ticket and some that aren’t: today we’ll visit one that is part of that ticket, and has a Tentative Site nomination of its own:

Site des Kulen

Kbal Spean


Cette contrée forestière est d’une grande importance historique, appelée aussi le château d’eau d’Angkor, elle offre de nombreux sites archeologiques (Temples, enceintes,sites rupestres,douves et bassins); dans un numéro special d’Arts Asiatiques (1973), “Les sites archeologiques de la region du Bhnam Gulan”, Jean Boulbet et Bruno Dagens ont denombrés quarante deux ensembles monumentaux. Il faut plus particulièrment souligner le remarquable site de Kpal Sban ou la rivière aux mille linga qui fut découverte en février 1968 et qui se développe sur près de 200 mètres.

Or, in handy translation for our Dear English Readers,

This forest area is of great historical importance, also called the water tower of Angkor, it offers many archaeological sites (Temples, pregnant, rock sites, moats and ponds); in a special issue of Asiatic Arts (1973), “The archaeological sites of the Bhnam Gulan region”, Jean Boulbet and Bruno Dagens counted forty two monumental ensembles. In particular, the remarkable site of Kpal Sban or the thousand-linga river which was discovered in February 1968 and which develops over nearly 200 meters is worthy of mention.

Forty-two, eh? Well, for our visit we’ll pick that particular site they mention, Kbal Spean on Trip Advisor or at

Kbal Spean lies 50 kilometers northeast of Siem Reap provincial town or about 18 kilometers from Banteay Srei on a dirt road. It takes from one to two hours to get there from the provincial town.

The original River of Thousand Lingams, Kbal Spean is an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cam-bodian jungle. Lingams are phallic representations sacred to Brahmanism as symbols of fertility, and hundreds of them are carved into the rock here, as are several carvings of gods and animals above the small waterfall.

That is definitely a change from the usual run of temples, and we were getting a little templed out by this point, so that sounded like a good idea.

There’s a 1500 meter hike — with signposts every 100m to keep you going — from the parking lot, not too strenuous although there are some steep bits and you’ll want some proper shoes, and then you arrive at the top part of the carved portion with the picture above; here’s a closer look at the carvings there:

Kbal Spean

Then you basically wander down the stream a bit checking out all the various carvings to be found around the river banks,

Kbal Spean

or on rocks in the river bed,

Kbal Spean

or great platforms of linga being flowed over.

Kbal Spean

Didn’t count them ourselves, but the reputed 1000 seems in the right general ballpark.

The end of the tourist portion is at this little waterfall,

Kbal Spean

and apparently that’s where the water is most purified by all these holy linga, so you should splash yourself with it for purified good luck. And every time we visit a holy site like that we participate enthusiastically in the local traditions…

… everywhere from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes to the remote-ish Cambodia jungle we’ve racked up now, hey we can use all the purification we can get!

And while you’re at the Kbal Spean parking lot, that is also the parking lot for another place we recommend you visit, the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity:

Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity


The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), located near the famous temples of Angkor, is the first nature conservation centre in Cambodia. The ACCB aims to contribute to the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity in Cambodia.

  • The ACCB pursues objectives in a variety of fields – from wildlife rescue, conservation breeding and reintroduction of endangered species to research and in situ conservation as well as environmental education…

Mainly it’s a rescue center for trafficked animals, but there’s a wide variety of rehabilitating and protected animals that you’re vastly unlikely to encounter in the wild or in typical zoos to see:

Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity

— although we must admit to just a bit of disappointment; never having seen a PANGOLIN! in the flesh, and noting that there were pictures of PANGOLINS! on the site, we were all excited to meet a PANGOLIN! …

Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity

… turns out pangolins have absolutely no use whatsoever for coming out in the daytime, even when tempted with food. Soooooo, the closest we got to an actual pangolin was our guide there showing us a hide and passing around some scales.


p dir=”ltr”>So although we can now say we’ve touched a piece of a pangolin, well that’s not quite the look-at-my-new-friend cool selfie we were hoping for. Ah well, even if the pangolins are shy, still recommend a visit, that and the Kbal Spean hike make for a nice Siem Reap change for a day from the temples!


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