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Kbal Spean

If you are looking forward to witnessing something truly unique on your trip to Cambodia, then you should keep a day in your itinerary reserved for experiencing the enigma, Kbal Spean.

Part of the Angkor Archaeological Park, Kbal Spean or “Bridge Head” is a section of the river known as Stung Kbal Spean. Along this section, you can find numerous intricate carvings of Hindu Gods and symbols on the river bed itself and on the banks as well. If we have made you curious already about Kbal Spean, then you have come to the right page!

Where is Kbal Spean?

Kbal Spean is situated in the mountains, in the range known as the Kulen Hills. The site is located towards the northeast of Angkor, with the distance between it and the popular Angkor Wat temple complex being around 44 km (27.3 miles). From Siem Reap, the distance is almost 60 km (37.3 miles).

Things to See in Kbal Spean

The stretch of the riverbed that makes up the site of Kbal Spean is only 150 meters (492.1 feet) in length, but it is amazing how much there is to see within a 150-meter stretch. Some of the things to see at the site include:

• The 1,000 lingas, which are abstract representations of Lord Shiva, one of the most revered Hindu deities.
• Lord Vishnu’s carving where he is reclining on Ananta, the serpent God.
• The carving of Lord Brahma on a lotus.
• Variety of animal motifs.

History of the Carvings in Kbal Spean

The carvings that you can see in Kbal Spean date back to the days of the Angkor Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries. Most of the carvings were made during the reigns of two prominent rulers of the empire, King Suryavarman I and King Udayadityavarman II.

The 1,000 Shiva lingas have been traced back to the hermits who lived here during the rule of King Suryavarman I. Most of the other sculptures and carvings you can find at the site were made during King Udayadityavarman II’s reign.

The abandonment of Angkor and surrounding areas led to this site being lost and forgotten. However, explorers, restorers, and conservators in the 1930s slowly brought attention back to the abandoned monuments and sites of ancient Angkor.

See also Why Was Angkor Wat Abandoned?

It wasn’t until the 1960s that conservators began working at Kbal Spean site to restore the immaculate carvings. The site was discovered in 1969 by eminent French ethnologist Jean Boulbet. Even though the Cambodian Civil War saw restoration efforts come to a close for some time, the site was opened for visitors in the late 1980s.

Entry Ticket Cost

You can visit Kbal Spean using the pass that you buy at the ticket counter just before the premises of the Angkor Archaeological Park. There are one-day, three-day and seven-day passes available for the prices of $37, $62 and $72 respectively.

Best Time to Visit Kbal Spean

While the entry timings for the Angkor Archaeological Park are from 9 AM – 6 PM, visitors are only allowed entry to Kbal Spean till 3 PM. This has been done to ensure the safety of visitors as the site is also part of a national park that is teeming with wild animals.

There definitely is not a better choice than the monsoons. While the rainy season does make Cambodia a difficult place to travel in, it is the season during which Kbal Spean site truly comes to life. During the rainy season, the Stung Kbal Spean River swells, adding to the brilliance of the carvings and sculptures here.

While hiking up to the site can be a bit difficult due to the muddy and slippery trail, it is more worth it in winter than any other season. You can also visit the site during the summer and winter months. However, don’t expect the monsoon beauty as the river runs dry during these seasons. So, the period between July and October is ideal if you want to experience Kbal Spean at its finest.

How to reach Kbal Spean?

Tuk-tuks and taxis can be hired from Siem Reap and they typically charge $28 and $60 respectively for if you want to visit Kbal Spean along with the Angkor Group of temples. The journey from Siem Reap typically takes one and a half hours.

Take the right once you arrive in front of the Angkor Wat entrance and then left again. Take another left and then continue on the road crossing Pre Rup, after which take a right to reach Preah Dak. Take another left and continue straight. You will cross the Cambodia Landmine Museum and find the road diverging in two. Both roads meet later on, so take either road. The road on the left is recommended as you will pass the temple of Banteay Srei. Continue straight until the road ends.

You can cover part of the journey on the well-paved motorable road, which is around 5 km (3.1 miles) from the Banteay Srei temple. However, once that road ends, you need to complete the rest of the journey on foot. Hiking up to Kbal Spean is not a very difficult task. However, it is a little time-consuming as the path is quite steep and involves hiking through the dense Cambodian forests. You can complete the hike (only one way) in around 45 minutes.

Cafes or Restaurants in the Vicinity

There are a few food stalls that you can find at the point where the hike to Kbal Spean starts. Most of them serve local delicacies such as noodle soups and fried rice.

If you are looking for a high-quality restaurant, then you could try Borey Sovann Restaurant, which is located quite close to the entrance of the site.

Kbal Spean is waiting to be explored. Let the monsoon season bring you closer to the site that takes visitors back to the days when the Angkor Empire ruled supreme over South-East Asia.