During my time in Siem Reap I had three full days, but after the big tour and small tour I was feeling slightly ‘templed out‘. Another traveller I’d met whilst on Koh Rong Island had shown me a photo of him pretty much under an amazing looking waterfall, I learnt this was at Kulen Mountain, Phnom Kulen National Park, about 47km (29 miles) from Siem Reap.
Bros was able to take me using just his motorbike, of course the power behind his tuk tuk. I was slightly apprehensive at first, but Bros was able to supply a helmet and suggest an itinerary that meant taking in some more temples (and culture!) enroute as well as stopping for food and drink. He even kept the cold water coming without his coolbox, with fellow friends (other Siem Reap Tuk Tuk drivers) supplying the chilled water, or Bros buying from local sellers or stopping off at road side breaks to recline in a hammock and enjoy an ice cold drink.
Pickup from my hotel was prompt as ever at 5am, with Bros emailing me around 10 minutes before to let me know he was outside ready when I was. First stop was back to a temple I’d visited the previous afternoon, as had hundreds of other tourists – Ta Prohm temple. This was a chance to get in early in the cooler weather and take some scenery photos that just weren’t possible the busy afternoon before. Ta Prohm is home of the ‘Tomb Raider Tree‘ – you’ll want to watch the movie again after (or before) visiting!
We were then back on the road, headed to Kulen Mountain, but with another temple stop on the way, Banteay Srei temple (also known as “Ladies’ Temple”. Bros was always kind enough to stop at any other point of interest on both his tuk tuk and motorbike tours in Angkor and Siem Reap. During this next leg of the journey he stopped as we passed a traditional Cambodian wedding. My impression is that these are bright, fun, loud(!) celebrations that start early and can typically last a day and a half or two days. I took a few snaps of the wedding procession lined up in the morning.
Soon enough we were at Banteay Srei temple – there’s a fairly large entrance area, I sat in the shade to eat the breakfast my hotel had packed for me, requested the evening before due to the early start. Your ticket for the main Angkor temples covers your entrance to Banteay Srei. Expect to see some wildlife as you approach the temple site, including pigs and water buffalo! The temple itself is of course impressive, with highly detailed engravings. I’d recommend allowing up to an hour and a half to visit the site.
As we approached the Phnom Kulen National Park, Bros stopped so I could show my ticket. I’d given him the $20 to purchase this for me the day before in Siem Reap, which just led to a more efficient and smoother visit.
Phnom Kulen National Park itself is massive – you get some impression by the map on the board at the entrance. Our planned visit to the waterfall, Buddha on the mountain and River of 1000 Lingas would only scratch the surface, but was plenty to do!
There’s a long dirt track to follow once into the park, Bros manoeuvred any pot holes with expert care. First stop was then the main attraction for me – the waterfall!
The waterfall at Kulen Mountain has two levels. On the first you can easily wade into the water and take some photos. Do take care, needless to say it’s slippery! On the second you can pay a small fee (I paid $2 for my bag and shoes as well as Bros’ to be kept safe) and use a wooden shack as a changing room. You can then get in and swim at the bottom of the waterfall. Don’t be surprised to feel the fish harmlessly nibbling at your feet! Take care with your camera too, your lens won’t thank you for any water. Thankfully I took my poor man’s Go Pro, a Kitivision Splash to test out in the water. It was an amazing experience.
After enjoying the waterfall it was time for a spot of lunch. There are various sellers of gifts and snacks, and it seemed one main restaurant. Prices were still reasonable and I offered to buy Bros and I lunch.
Following lunch we visited the giant reclining Buddha, which is on top of a mountain that has been impressively built around, as well as The River of 1000 Lingas. The latter is a fairly brief spot, but intriguing to see for yourself.
On the way back to Siem Reap we were able to still take in more, including a visit to the impressive Banteay Somre temple.
All in all an amazing day trip! As you can probably tell, the waterfall was the highlight for me and the main reason of going, well worth it. The trip with Bros cost $30 USD, see the ‘Book’ page for more info and to book your own trip to Kulen Mountain. Feel free to add comments and questions below.