Just like Tonle Sap, I’ve wanted to check out Kulen Mountain for some time. But it can be expensive, so I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity. And said opportunity finally came a’knockin’ on my front door this month when my friend’s sister was visiting. Gotta love visitors!
Kulen Mountain or Phnom Kulen (Mountain of the Lychees) is considered a sacred site, as well as the birthplace to the Khmer Empire. It’s most known though for its lovely waterfall and archaeological ruins, such as the River of One Thousand Lingas, and a 16th century Buddhist monastery, boasting the country’s largest reclining Buddha.
Located about 2 hours from Siem Reap, Kulen Mountain, in my opinion, can be worth the planning and the cost if you have both the money and the time. However, there’s conflicting information regarding the cost. Some claim the $20 entrance fee is a scam, others say you can get in the park at $12 if a Khmer purchases the tickets, and lastly, you can attempt to hike up the mountain to avoid any cost whatsoever.
Now, we did try our darndest to get out of the $20 fee by asking around, you know to sleuth out the truth, but in the end, we ended up purchasing our tickets in advance through one of the hotels. (I think most foreigners would feel better paying the $20 if it was actually going towards preservation, but alas, we all know how these things work.) Regardless, I’m sure you could purchase your tickets on the same day you are going depending on when the ticket office opens up, as you will drive by it.
You could also make it worth your dollar by spending more time and visiting more sites than we did. Anyway…
On weekends and holidays, Kulen is particularly crowded, but if you leave early you can avoid the crowds. We left at 7 am and returned around 3 pm. And let me tell you, after we got to enjoy the waterfall mostly to ourselves, it got waaaay crowded with tourists and locals alike. This probably happened around lunchtime. I was glad to get out of the water by then.
There were 9 of us so we split the cost of a van which was $70. We hadn’t bothered asking for a discount since we got the driver through a friend. But as you can already tell, this isn’t a budget trip (at least for English teachers, eh?!). In any case, if you are interested in using Ra, who speaks good English and is a safe driver, and as far as we could tell a reliable one, too, his number is: 095.585.885.
I should mention here that once we got to the waterfall, I changed cameras, to my waterproof one. It doesn’t take the best pics, and let’s face it, water photography is it’s own genre. I’m not going to pretend I’m any good at it.
OMG. The water was freezing. So shocking after walking around in the heat. And so.much.fun.
There are changing stalls at the bottom of the metal stairs (50 cents per person), although folks get real creative. Like the Chinese guy who sat on our rented footlocker with his girlfriend standing in front of him, as he wiggled off his underroos. Sure, he was wearing a modestly-sized scarf his gf had wrapped around his waist, but as his bare bottom sat on the footlocker as he tried to discreetly change into his swimming trunks, I tried not to think about his package resting on the cold metal and me having to touch it again in order to open up the locker.
Damn it. I should have taken a picture, would have been easier to explain.
By the way, how tall do you think this waterfall is? It’s 10-15 meters or 33-50 feet tall!
Did I miss anything?
When’s the last time you swam in a waterfall? Wooooweeee!