Plan for Angkor Day 2 was to explore Phnom Kulen National Park and Banteay Srei temple. This was going to be little different than Day 1 as today’s plan involved more of riding, which I was looking forward to.
Phnom Kulen is around 70km from Siem Reap. The sights that I had planned for today were the waterfalls, Kbal Spean (River of a thousand Lingas), Preah Ang Thom (reclining Buddha statue), Srah Damrei (Elephant statue), and Banteay Srei temple. Except Banteay Srei, all other sights were inside Phnom Kulen National Park. You need a $20 ticket to enter Phnom Kulen. Keep in mind that the entry to Phnom Kulen is allowed only till 12 noon.
Road to Phnom Kulen was pretty clear and even with a late start of 8.30 am, I reached there in quick time. Once you enter Phnom Kulen, it will be more of mountain roads.
It all looked peaceful until…
Batches of tour buses started appearing. And then I realized that it was Sunday today and the spot is popular with the locals. I prepared myself for another battle with selfie-wielding tourists.
The smaller waterfall at Phnom Kulen
I was already late. All the nearby attractions were packed with tourists. I visited the Preah Ang Thom temple and it was already crowded.
Reclining Buddha statue at Preah Ang Thom temple
I decided to head towards Srah Damrei with a hope of less crowd when I return. Srah Damrei was further 4 kms away and the roads were bad, which was a good sign as there will be less people.
The way to Srah Damrei is confusing and you need to keep asking people for directions. Finally reached a point, where I thought I had finally reached the temple. But the route split into two directions here. The first path was towards the Bat Cave.
Hoping to run into Batman 😉
The second path looked in a better condition but with no clear directions. I assumed that it must be towards Srah Damrei.
I decided to check the Bat Cave first. The path was all rocks, small stream, and wet soil. After some time, I was sure that I had lost my way and there wasn’t a single soul to inquire. Decided to return to the junction and visit Srah Damrei instead.
In the middle of nowhere
After heading in the other direction, series of temples started appearing but they all looked like new temples. One of the temples even had an elephant statue but it wasn’t like the ancient one that I had seen in pictures. Even the locals kept insisting that this was Srah Damrei but I was sure it wasn’t. Interestingly, most of these new temples had Hindu deities.
Looks like statue of Hindu goddess Durga
Statue of Lord Krishna
Finally a monk showed me the correct direction. He rode with me till the earlier junction and pointed towards the Bat Cave path to reach Srah Damrei. I felt like an idiot as I had just returned from there an hour ago. I was a little exhausted and was in two minds whether to try again or not. But then the prospect of facing those tourists at Phnom Kulen pushed me towards the direction of Srah Damrei.
There are no marked directions along the route. The little paths ofshooting in different directions didn’t help either. I just kept following the bigger looking path in a hope that I will eventually reach. But Srah Damrei kept eluding me. I had no clue where I was heading but I kept going. And finally I reached this spot, where magically a signpost appeared.
I think the authorities have deliberately kept few signposts to make this journey more adventurous. Well, they have done a great job of that.
With a renewed assurance of being on the right track, I rode further into a path that was constantly deteriorating. Felt like I was playing some sort of a video game trying to dodge rocks, wet soil, bushes and at most times I rode through them.
Still no sign of the Elephant Statue until…Another signpost appeared. Such a sweet gesture by the authorities 😛
The path from here was more like a trekking route
Finally reached this structure but still no sight of the elephant statue. The path beyond this was quite steep. It might have been possible but I was too exhausted to continue further. I parked the motorbike and just sat there for sometime preparing myself for a disappointing return journey. As I was about to start the motorbike, I thought of just walking down a little further just to see where the road leads to.
And there hiding through the bushes, I saw the butt of an elephant staring at my face. Ahh!! The joy of seeing this butt is very difficult to express. Never before in my life I had been so thrilled after seeing a butt 🙂
And there were other animal statues too
The majestic elephant that was worth all the trouble
Finally after the successful accomplishment, I started riding towards the touristy sights that I had skipped in the morning. First on the list was Kbal Spean (River of Thousand Lingas).
Popularly known as the River of Thousand Lingas, Kbal Spean consists of a series of Shiv Lingas that have been built on a river bed. The carvings are better visible during the non-monsoon seasons.
The popular waterfall of Phnom Kulen was still crowded. Difficult to get a good shot with so many selfie sticks blocking the view. Had to wait for almost 15 minutes for the gentleman above to finish his perfect selfie moment.
The view from Phnom Kulen
Finally the last site of the day – Banteay Srei. Banteay Srei is part of the Angkor temples and can be visited using the Angkor pass. At a distance of 35 kms from the main Angkor temples, it is the furthest of all the temples and also probably the most beautiful of them. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and there are lot of carvings that depict other Hindu Gods and many scenes from Hindu scriptures.
End of an adventurous and an exhausting day. Tomorrow will be the final day at Angkor with the grand Angkor Wat and Bayon temples to be explored.