Kbal Spean- River of Carved Stones

Kbal Spean which means Bridge Head is a river of carved relief stones. The ‘bridge’ is a natural sandstone arch. These stone carvings are mainly of lingams (phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva). Also known as the River of 1000 Lingas, the trail head is about 48km to the north of Siem Reap. I was curious about seeing these and thought it would be a change from the temple agenda.

I hire a car with AC to get there. The driver drops me off at the trail head and points to the path. He will wait for me to return. I see a sign saying that its 1500m ( or about a mile) to the site. Many locals approach me to sell something. There’s always a cafe or two and many craft items for sale at all the sites. The path starts off wide and sandy but becomes twisty and undulating with narrow and rocky steps.

The trail runs alongside the river but not very close until later. There are some people on the trail and some with tour guides but since the trail is long we get dispersed. I also took some side trails to explore, most of which return to the main trail. I’m thinking when am I going to see the first carving? One side trail got me to the first lingas which seemed like a discovery to me. That was not the main trail path to get to these.

There’s very little water in the river now. If there was too much water flowing then it would be difficult to traverse and see the stones. This is probably the lowest water level of the season.

I passed through some narrow boulder paths to find some better carvings, now wondering where are the main ones?

The carvings are getting better as I traverse and climb boulders to a more open area. Along the way there will be some people just camped out in hammocks. I’m not sure who are these people? They look like locals just relaxing by the non-water river. I believe I took the most difficult path but it was also the most enjoyable one.

I arrive at what I believe to be the best of the carvings for Kbal Spean. Wandering up a little further up the path I see that it’s marked as closed. Returning back to spend some time admiring these best carvings I try to get the best photos possible.

Some of the carvings are worn by the river flow while some appear to be restored such as the fine carving of Lord Vishnu in a reeling pose.

I look back to the way out thinking I could use a cool drink about now. This was the hottest day yet and I have another mile to walk back. A cool avocado/coconut smoothie at the cafe at the trailhead refreshes me for the ride back.

My driver waited patiently the whole time for me to return. During the drive back I was thinking there could have been more carvings. However, the trip was worthwhile since I enjoyed the hike and flora, finding it entertaining to search for these carvings without a guide.

Back at the hostel where its time for some pool and more cold drinks I felt accomplished with a decent hike.

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