Siem Reap: Day 2 – Discovering Phnom Kulen

20130406_103719

Our second day in Siem Reap was just as exciting as our first. We got to ride in an original “Tomb Raider style” military jeep which took us to Phnom Kulen–the mountain is considered the birthplace of the Khmer empire and a sacred place for the Khmer people. Here we got to discover ancient stone carvings in a riverbed and visit several hidden pagodas, including Cambodia’s largest reclining Buddha. It required a light trek on our part which wouldn’t have been so taxing if not for the heat. I guess you can say we experienced the real Siam Reap–with its rough roads, flying dust and rising temperatures (it was 42 degrees Celsius that day). Don’t get me wrong, it was all very fun in the beginning, until the heat finally got to us. We also experienced a bit of bad luck for this trip. The military jeeps–we had two at our disposal–kept breaking down, until the tour group finally called us a van and later on a car. We lost precious time as they attempted to fix the broken vehicles, so we weren’t able to do all the things in the itinerary in one day. It didn’t really bother us though, because it gave us more time to chat (that’s what girls do) and we were able to visit the hidden temple on our last day so all is good.

20130406_114829All ready to go in our M151 Mutt Jeep.

20130406_114815These jeeps are made to last–sad they decided to breakdown during our tour.

20130406_103943We sighted an ancient temple along the way.

20130406_121630Most of the landscape was like this. The drought turned Siam Reap’s lush plains into a desert.

20130406_124603Packed lunch. Love how this lunch box had a compartment for every little thing. The food was so yummy!

20130406_130633We had lunch by the River of a Thousand Lingas. The stone carvings you see on the river bed represent countless lingams (phallic symbol of Hindu God Shiva) which are sacred to Cambodians.

20130406_130643Some of these lingams date back to the 9th century. The lingas are symbol of God Shiva’s essence and were built to purify the water of the river and make it fertile to then irrigate the rice fields.

20130406_132348The long stretch of this river is filled with these ancient carvings.

20130406_132838Buddha chilling by the river.

20130406_135227The trio takes a break.

20130406_141008A short jeep ride away is Preah Ang Tho, a 16th century Buddhist monastery notable for the giant reclining Buddha carved into the top of a 20-m boulder.

20130406_141113Intricate carvings.

20130406_141450Buddha.

20130406_141610Admiring its elaborate design.

20130406_141854Happy kids watch our shoes for us (we had to remove them to go up to see the reclining Buddha).

20130406_144124A giant linggam.

20130406_142115Just a wooden staircase away is the 17-m long reclining Buddha, where monks and believers bow down, burn incense and leave fruit.

20130406_142403The reclining Buddha.

20130406_142101Our tour guide told us that because Buddha’s arm is down, he is dead in this pose.

20130406_143641A man getting a Buddhist life consultation.

20130406_144149More carvings.

20130406_144717Climbing steps is not easy.  20130406_151327After a short walk we get to the waterfalls. It felt great to cool down.

20130406_151012These falls were a welcome respite from the heat.

20130406_152005And just across the river was this rundown temple.

20130406_165958Snacks and fruits on our way back.

20130406_180802We figured we stop at this temple before sundown. 20130406_180920Beautiful relic. 20130406_180955