Kulen National Park is famous for its stunning Waterfall, largest Reclining Buddha and sacred 1000 riverbed Lingas carvings. Are those all to see in the coverage area of up to 373.73 km2? From the travel experts and adventure lovers’ taste, the answer is “NO, NO, NO!”. Kulen National Park has so much to see, experience and discover far beyond the bespoke Waterfall, Reclining Buddha, the thousands of Riverbed Lingas, Elephant Pond, Bat Caves… If you are looking to explore what are the hidden gems of Kulen mountain, you are in the place now. This article is bringing you with the best insights of Kulen sacred mountain and the rich archaeological gigantic complex. You will also find the best travel, tours, ride, camping and adventure tips from the experts in this article as well.
A Glimpse of Kulen National Park and Kulen Mountain
Phnom Kulen National Park refers a plateau and mountain area at Northeastern part of Siem Reap. It is officially known as Preah Jayavarman-Norodom Phnom Kulen National Park. It was established in 1993 under a Royal Degree covers the area of 373.73 km2. This mountain range stretching from Kbal Spean mountain to Phnom Kulen mountain itself. As for the area it takes some parts from three districts, Svay Leu District to the Southeast, Banteay Srei District to the center and Varin District to the Northwest.
Located 50 km from Siem Reap around 1h30 drive, Phnom Kulen means the Mountain of Leeches in Khmer. It was the former capital of the Khmer Empire in the Reign of Jayavarman II after he liberating the country from Java in 802 AD. According to the Khmer inscription (Sdok Kak Thom inscription) this mountain capital known as Mahendraparvata, the mountain of the Great Indra, an ancient city established at the late 8th-early 9th-centuries, comprising of at least 60 temples and the religious remains. Just on the surface of Kulen mountain alone there are 10 villages / communities. Therefore it looks far beyond what we really see as normal Kulen visitors. Furthermore, Phnom Kulen Archeological Site or Ancient Site of Mahendraparvata has been submitted to be inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List on 27th March 2020 and now waited to be approved.
Most Popular Attractions on Phnom Kulen Mountain
Let’s skip the Phnom Kulen National Park apart because it is too broad to cover and just focus on a single Phnom Kulen / Kulen Mountain. The most popular things to see on Kulen mountain is the 15 meters high Waterfall. Some people describe it as the public natural playground for Cambodian people. Then the gigantic Reclining Buddha called Preah Ang Thom just means big Buddha statue. Then the 1000 riverbed Lingas, but this is less interesting for local. For those who choose to climb the mountain by walking, Preah Ang Chub, water surging Buddha. This road is not recommended for non-physical fit people because the elevation is high and the walking toward the waterfall area where you can meet your awaited vehicle is far.
A little bit outside of these long established attractions on Kulen, Sam Inspire counts the less visited Srah Damrei (Elephant Pond) and La Ang Bra Chiev (Bat Cave) and the shrines of hermits. These places are only accessible by motorbike or on foot. Therefore, this is the best if you are planning an trekking or hiking activities on Phnom Kulen.
Phnom Kulen Hidden and Unknown Attractions
Before digging deeper into the heart of these Kulen unknown and untouched attractions is the best for deep explore and camping experience. Sam Inspire would like to invite to explore his experience in his YouTube channel (Sam Inspire Vlog) as following. If you like this the places featured here, then you can carry on the reading.
This video features special places on Kulen Mountain Cambodia National Park. Special Phnom Kulen Camping Site that almost no one know it. And the Untouched trails for trekking, hiking and motorcycle riding on Kulen Adventure.
This video is an exclusively unique discovery and explore of Kulen Mountain far beyond the regular sites of visit like main waterfall, 1000 river bed Lingas, Preah Ang Thom Reclining Buddha and Prea Ang Chub. This trip even not about the less visit Elephant Pond, Bat Cave, Veal Preah Kral and other regular camping sites.
What is video covering then? It is very special. It is a two full days and one-night motorbike trip including one-night camp. From this Kulen Beyond Waterfall, aTwo Day Kulen Motorbike Ride or other word a Deep Kulen Adventure, you can see the following video timelines:
Video Chapters and Some Comments on each Location on our Family YouTube Channel
0:00 Introduction of the Beyond Waterfall Kulen Mountain Trip video
0:40 The trip with motorbikes started from our leaders’ motorbike shop “Motor Et Chay”
03:10 First stop at Chruonh Cliff or Ta Kok Crest. It is half way from Kulen mountain base to the main waterfall on the left. This special and amazing cliff are often forgotten and missed by the mass tourists.
06:00 Second stop at the Ta Oung Waterfall, the least visited and known waterfall. During the dry season, what is not much but you still can see the drift of water flowing on the hairy roots of the trees.
09:35 Arrival at our Camp site on Kraham Hill and doing the forest hiking. Kraham Hill is highest spot on Kulen mountain. On top of it, there is a single Prasat temple built from bricks in the reign of Jayavarman II as told above.
21:27 Arrive at Prasat Kraham temple and visiting the temple with Leader Bunthorn Tan.
31:30 Day 2 begins with beautiful mists (ចុះអាប់នៅប្រាសាទក្រហម). This is not always happening that the mists are coming down. From our experience, we had experienced the whole night sprinklings resulting in this amazing foggy morning.
41:30 Stop at Ou Phnok Waterfall where we saw Green Lizard. Ou Phnok is the first ever visited place, except locals know it. This water or Channel is completely new to us even we know Kulen mountain just like our neighborhood. A lot of places are still keep secret by local people, because they don’t want tourists to go and spoil it. The story of finding this Ou Phnok Waterfall was because our motorbike was broken in the village and by accident they told us the place, opp!
50:15 Our last important stop at Natural Drug Soaking Caves (ល្អាងត្រាំថ្នាំ). This gigantic rocks and found to be the place for hermits’ meditation site. I have never seen and rocks at this big in Cambodia. The access was very difficult to get there, but it’s worth trying and investing our effort.
This video one of many more episodes that Sam and his family creating to feature Virtual Cambodia Tours of Angkor temples, Beyond Angkor and its diversified surroundings during this Coronavirus Pandemic.
Special Birthday Event and Camping on Kulen Mountain
As we have already addressed above that Kuelen Mountain has endless things to do and see. The following video is another special trip that Sam’s full family spent to celebrate a Camping Birthday Event at a secluded canyon on Kulen mountain. Here are the full video from travelling by motorcycles to celebrating the special moment. Please enjoy as following!
This is a complete off-and-on road and up-and-down mountain motorcycle ride close to 200 km round trip including a few other stops. Kulen mountain is not new to Cambodian people but all the sites and places we have been to, on this trip are mostly newly discovered by our jungle leaders from Recycling Motorcycle (RM) Shop, Mr. Vanny Pot and Mr. Buntorn Tan. This special camping site called Anlong Cheung Chab, which literally means Bird Footstep River Channel Canyon. The access to this camping site is best to do with foot and motorcycle.
How to Reach Anlong Cheung Chab Camping Site and What Can you Do
Travel by car a little bit risky to damage the car and get stuck but possible (please refer to the video). After passing the main waterfall and Anlong Thom village, take right on the main road for around 2 km. After crossing the bridge, you will see the road on your right to Preah Kral Pagoda. Take that road to the pagoda and when you arrive at the entrance to the pagoda, just keep going straight forward. All the road condition from from the village are on the broken road, and off-road trails. Just keep going until you reach the channel, that is Anlong Cheung Chab (អន្លង់ជើងចាប). This Bird Footstep River Channel Canyon is the water flowing on the rock surface with many canyon or whole. Therefore, it is your decision to choose where to set up your tent. Moving downstream, there are a few waterfalls, but two of them are significantly beautiful. From this waterfall, the water just falls down on the mountain cliff.
Amazing Camping Birthday Celebration for Maly, Veasna’s fiancée
If you have watched till the end of the video, you will see that we had fire camp, candles light around the pool and Candle heart to celebrate the birthday of our sponsors, Mr. Meas Veasna’s fiancée, Ms. Maly. Veasna was our former colleague when he was working in the tourism sector. Veasna was born with entrepreneurship talent. With a long story of his career journey before meeting us in the tourism. He has moved himself unbelievable to start the Property and Real Estate business.
This special trip was a friend reunion event and to celebrate the birthday of his fiancée, Maly. And yes with creativity from all our travel companion especially Sayon, the wife of Vanny, we could have all this Wow organization. As for the locations and trip leading, all was designed and lead by Motor Et Chay (Recycling Motorbike) team.
Very special thanks to the Sponsor, Mr. Meas Veasna, Maly and her family. Everyone on the trip was enjoying our time so much. We wish you all the best and most successful in life and business.
What else Did We Explore?
Day one has passed. Day one was our main event day, therefore we paid everything off including camera battery, food and drinks. However, that was not the end yet, we were still having full day to explore Kulen mountain. With our resourceful leaders, we left the camping site after cleaning up and packing everything and contacting the community leaders to collect the community contribution fees which is 2.5$ per tent. This cost is taken to make sure that the environment on the site are in good condition and clean.
First, we head up to the Wat Preah Kral pagoda and make some offerings to the monks there. Then, we rode our motorcycle North on the main road and down a small path to Ou Khlar Khmom Channel (Bear River Channel អូខ្លាឃ្មុំ). The riding there was through the cashew nut tree farm. At this site, there was not much to do and see, just the river channel and swim. What is good there, this area is away from the crowd, therefore the it was very peaceful and the water was so clean to swim. We were about to have our lunch here but since we still have more time and not everyone wanted to swim. So we decided to explore more site.
This time, we headed East on the main road to almost at the other side of the mountain down to Svay Leu market. Just somewhere on the right, there is a small road that we took to visit an ancient carving and bas reliefs on the gigantic rock Blocks called Peung Tbal (ពើងត្បាល) literally means Mortarlike Rock Block). Those carvings was about the Hindu legends made during the reign of King Jayavarman II, in 802 AD.
After enjoying visiting the site and also listening to our leaders who are professional tour-guides as well. We went picking up some jungle fruits along the way to take the bird view from Peuy Peung Tbal (ពឺយពើងត្បាល) literally means Mortarlike rock block CLIFF). This cliff is the best spot for watching Sunrise as it is facing East.
After after having a few pictures here, we went down and took ride to our lunch place by the river. For our lunch, please we went to OU Ta Soeng literally means Master Soeng River Channel (អូតាសឹង). This natural channel is part of the river connected to Ou Khlar Khmom Channel and flow down to the 1000 Lingas river. Therefore, there were also some other people enjoying their picnic lunch there.
After our very late lunch, we took the ride back and have a few more group picture at the Amazing Chruonh Cliff (ពើយជ្រួញ) and time to say Goodbye 🙁
Phnom Kulen Travel and Visit Tips
Phnom Kulen mountain is in a separate national park from Angkor archaeological park. Therefore, Angkor temple tickets is not valid to visit Phnom Kulen. To visit Phnom Kulen mountain you need a separate Kulen National park ticket which cost 20$ per person for non-Cambodian citizen and Free for Cambodian. Even there are ticket booth at the foot of the mountain, Sam Inspire recommend that you let your drivers or tourguide to organize this ticket in advance. They will be happier as they got a few dollars deal with the ticket agent in town. Nothing to complaint, business is business!
The contribution to the ecotourism community is 2.5$ per tent / not person. From this contribution, the community will make secure cleanliness of the environment.
A very important note for the time to visit the Kulen, please try to be there before 11:00 AM otherwise you are not allowed to drive up the mountain. From morning till 11:00 is the driving up hours and after 12:00 is the driving down hours.
With the recent infrastructure development for instance the road construction crossing the mountain from the East to the Waterfall village (Ang Long Thom), made the visit and deep exploring trips a lot more convenient. And easier to connect with other attraction like Beng Mealea temple and Koh Ker temple group.
If you want the best trip experience either for just a day trip or deep adventure with trekking, motor riding and overnight camping on secret camping sites of Kulen. Sam will be more than happy to assist or just forward and introduce you to the jungle folks.
For more assistance on your trip planning, please drop us a line, our experts will get back to you and build a perfect plan for your trip to Koulen mountain.