Situated about 50km north of Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen National Park is one of the most revered destinations in Cambodia, as it features Kulen Mountain. Once referred to as the Mount Mahendraparvata – the Kulen Mountain is a cultural and historical resort that marked the origin of Khmer empire in the 9th century when King Jayavarman II announced independence from Java and declared himself as the ‘Chakravartin,’ meaning universal king.
Phnom Kulen is very important for the Cambodians. It is the place wherein 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.
How to get Kulen – the sacred land?
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 and 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 of the green forests and flora.
About the entrance fee in Phnom Kulen
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 negotiate 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.
What stunning views you can enjoy at Luken
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 wishes 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 of 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 swimming and playing in the cold refreshing water. There are a small trial and steep stairs 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.
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