Kbal Spean Travel Guide

The ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’ at Kbal Spean is famous for its ancient Hindu carvings on the river bed and around the waterfall depicting Hindu deities and phalluses.

Set deep in the jungle northeast of the Angkor Wat complex, Kbal Spean was a pilgrimage site for 200 years before Angkor was built. Its name translates as ‘the bridgehead’, referring to the natural rock bridge at the head of the waterfall.

At the top of the waterfall, approached via a 45-minute steep uphill climb through thick jungle accompanied by myriads of butterflies, are many rock carvings of gods, goddesses and animals, including a frog and a bull. These carvings are now roped off as, in recent years, a number have been vandalised.

The banks of the river and the carved-out basins in its bed are sculpted with religious scenes, inscriptions, symbols and the famous lingas with their female counterpart, the yoni.

A favorite theme is the re-creation by the god Brahma of a world fallen into chaos. The water flowing over and past the carvings is considered sacred, and drains into the Siem Reap and Puok rivers far below, which meander through Angkor to Tonle Sap Lake.

In brief

What is it? An ancient Hindu pilgrimage site celebrating fertility and renewal in a dramatic jungle setting.

Opening hours: early until 15:30 (last entry), daily.

Entrance fees: included in the general Angkor Pass.

Address/website: www.pbase.com/boon3887/kbal_spean.

Where: 50kms northeast of Siem Reap.

How to get there: by car or motorbike, take the road from Siem Reap to Banteay Srei temple, and continue past for 12kms, watching out for the sign and parking area on the left. Flights connect Siem Reap with Phnom Penh in 25 minutes.