Phnom Kulen National Park
If you want to have a refreshing afernoon you should definitely visit Phnom Kulen (or Kulen mountain) at about 50km from Siem Reap town. At Phnom Kulen, you can enjoy a combination of natural beauty and Cambodian culture in a relaxing atmosphere.
Phnom Kulen is very important for the Cambodians. It is the place where in 802 Jayavarman II was crowned to devaraja (god-king) and announced the independence of Java. Cambodia as we know it today was born. In the weekends and on public holidays it is a very popular place. Cambodians like to take their whole family to Phnom Kulen to have a picnic, swim in the waterfall and to climb up the mountain to pray at the large resting Buddha.
What to see?
Most people spend a full day at Kulen Moutain to visit the following sightseeings.
Most people first climb up to the top of the mountain to have a look and to pray at the pagoda with the large resting Buddha. The statue of Buddha is carved in a boulder of sandstone and is one of the biggest you can find in Cambodia. Walk around the statue and you will notice that at the back of the statue a lot of people leave money and small notes with whishes for their families and friends.
Before going down take you time to enjoy the view. You will see a part of the jungle and forests that are still presented in Cambodia. After this you can go down by following a small trial which leads to small sanctums and a natural source with holy water. A lot of people wash their hands and face with this holy water hoping it will bring them good luck.
After climbing up and coming down it is time for lunch. There are a lot of food stalls where you can order a nice picnic. The price for one dish is around 5 dollars. It is also allowed to bring your own food which is often done by most Cambodians.
After lunch it is time to go and have a refreshing swim in the waterfall. You will see many people swiming and playing in the cold refreshing water. There is a small trial and steep strairs leading you to the bottom level of the waterfall. Stay on the trail because it can be slippery in raining season. Pay attention to the riverbeds which are carved with gods and lingas images.
On the trail and at the waterfall there are some lovely wooden rocking chairs decorated with flowers which are nice to take a picture in but be aware that they will charge you 1000 riel or 0.25 dollars to use it.
How to get there?
Phnom Kulen is located 50 kilometers from Siem Reap town. The easiest way to get there is by renting a taxi. They can easily climb up the mountain anrd drive on the narrow road. It will take you around 2 hours to get there. Leave on time because you can only climb up till 11 am. In the afternoon, you are only allowed to come down. They do this to avoid too many vehicles crossing each other on the small road. Climbing up the mountain will give you amazing views on the green forests and flora.
Cambodians can enter Phnom Kulen for free, but foreigners and tourists have to pay US$20. This is only for entering the park. Please get your ticket upfront. You can get it in any travel agency. If possible, let a Cambodian buy the ticket for you. Most of the time they can get it for US$15. The taxi to go there and back will cost you around US$50. Try to share and always negociate before agreeing. Some tuk tuks may try to persuade you to go with them but be aware that they can't really climb up the mountain.