Phnom Kulen, Origin of the GodsPhnom Kulen is a mountain range that was seen as the actual Mount Meru, the 5 peaks of the origin of the gods in Hinduism and therefore the making it origin of the world itself.
This is the where the sandstone and laterite stones was quarried to be used in the Angkor Temples, 50 miles down river.
Now still seen as an intensely holy site in Bhuddism, it is a pilgrimage place where one can gain kharma and favor with Bhudda himself.
The ArrivalThe journey from Siem Reap is a long dirty ride. Lucky, my driver, had to separate the Tuk Tuk trailer as the mountain roads are pretty steep and a challenge for his Honda scooter to pull. He garnered me a mask, not for Covid virus, but for all the dirt. It was indeed a dirty ride (see, I'm not always a spoiled brat, I can deal with roughing it) that left me fairly well covered in local clay.
We stopped before the mountain to get the entrance pass, as this is not part of the archaeological park, and I needed a separate ticket.
The MountainThe mountain range is pretty long, and you have to traverse one range from the entrance to the far end on the east to get to the holy sites.
The road was quite rustic, heavily wooded, and with chauffeured cars and SUVs screaming by us on the massively rutted dirt road lead to a truly life-reflecting experience as we traversed to the peak.
The TempleThe Bhuddist temple, Pre Ang Thom, is an active prayer site that is part of a pilgrimage that can increase ones kharma on the journey towards a better next life. After 2020 so far, this seems quite desirable.
To get to the shrine you ascend a long staircase then up on the top of the highest rock promontory on the mountain, then up an additional staircase to the enclosure containing the Bhuddha.
Lucky is Buddhist, and he walked me through the process. First, I planted incense at the bottom of the stairs, allowing the smoke to carry a prayer up. Next we acquired offerings for the Buddha (I opted for the fresh flowers bracelet), and then donating to the priest on duty for a protective prayer as I began climbing the stairs.
At the top of the stairs, there is another small prayer area, but we went to the top portion to give offerings to the reclining Buddha statue.
The significance of a reclining Buddha is, at these particular shrines, your prayer is believed to reach heaven quicker. This representation of the Buddha on his side implies he is near death, and therefore himself closer to ascension.
The WaterfallsThe Phnom Kulen waterfalls are considered even more holy than the peak, as they carry life from the mountain continuously. The main entrance to them is a significant destination for locals, and you can buy a worship icon for whatever might ail you, if you are looking for assistance for it.
The higher portion of the waterfall is near an ancient site, and leads to a significant fall. At some times of the year, it has a very high flow of water. I wouldn't recommend messing around there.
The trails lead down farther to under the waterfall, which is a very holy place to bathe for additional blessings, and along the river where it continues with other cataracts, and more jungle type experience as it becomes less and less frequented.
SummaryThe mountain is thought to have been the origin point of the Khmer building culture around 800 AD. There are many smaller temples scattered throughout the mountain. Not many are open, and some, while not closed feels like an expedition to reach them.
Land mines can potentially still be found and king cobra snakes do exist in the wild, so this is an interesting choice for those untrained in such matters.
Despite all that, this is a beautiful area surrounded by nature and a very authentic local experience.