Kbal Spean, Cambodia

Kbal Spean, Cambodia

Literally meaning ‘Bridge Head’ (Kbal: head) Kbal Spean is a picnic spot in mountains about 50 Km north of Siem Reap town of the Angkor fame. After visiting Banteay Srei – the most minutely carved small temple complex, the next tourist destination, about 18 Km away, is this one. The attraction of this place is the 11 – 12 century sand stone carvings on the river bed. They call it ‘Stung Kbal Spean river’ but given the waterway or flow, it is nothing more than a small stream. It runs as a tributary to one big river of Cambodia – Tonle Sap. They say the stream becomes a river during the rainy season. The Kbal Spean river is also called ‘the river of thousand lingas’ (sahasarlinga in the Sanskrit language). 

This is the rock representing a head (kbal).
It covers the span of the stream like a bridge
The Kbal Spean carvings discovered as recently as 1969 is associated with the Hindu mythology. The Trinty of the Hindu pantheon is represented on the rocks but the main attraction is the thousand or so lingas (The phallic representation of Lord Shiva – the destroyer). They say the river water flowing over these lingas becomes sacred like water of the Ganges. I found people drinking that water. The Khmer civilization is an ancient Vedic / Hindu civilization with the same gods and myths as Hinduism elsewhere.
Remaining distance 1100 m
It is a 2 Km trek of mild ascend, and the spot is reached in 25 minutes if one is good at walking. Every 100 metres they have a remaining distance mark. The forest is thick and walking in shade is comfortable. Generally Cambodia is very hot even in the month of February. It was touching 40 C the day I visited.

Cambodian tree roots have this peculiarity of
entwining everything that comes in the way.
(see my blog photos of Ta Prohm)
This tourist spot is covered under the Angkor Pass (A three day pass is $62). Carry a bottle of water or you’ll have to drink the ‘sacred’ water flowing over the Shiva’s phallus.

When I reached the spot I found a Latino couple (from Brazil) already sitting by the rocks. We struck a conversation and I explained to them the rock carved figures. I told them that the Bull was Lord Shiva’s vehicle. “That’s why the Indians worship the Bull” said the man. I corrected him that it was in fact the bull’s mate that was sacred to the Hindus. The Hindus in fact worship the cow, not her mate.

In the forest I could not see any animal or bird except for some parrots. There is a national park at the foot of the hill from where the trek starts. There some birds were apparently audible. When I asked a person at the gate where they check tickets if any wild animals could be encountered, he mentioned snakes. But I doubt if Cambodians would leave anything away from their kitchen. 

Lord Brahma - the Creator

The whole of Hindu (the Shaivite school)
mythology revolves around Linga-Yoni concept.

Reclining Lord Vishnu in a pool just above the waterfall.
The Lingas on the river bed