Kbal Spean literally meaning ‘Headwater Bridge’ is named after a natural stone formation resembling a bridge across the Kbal Spean river (a tributary of Siem Reap River that rises from the Kulen Mountain, through Siem Reap and into Tonle Sap Lake). It was discovered in 1968 and is located 50km from Siem Reap (18km north of Banteay Srei).
The highlight of Kbal Spean is the carvings of sculptures of hindu gods and creatures on the river bed. The sculptures dating from the eleventh to the thirteenth century were to sanctify the water of the river. The stretch of lingas carved from the bridge, downstream to a waterfall, is known as the river of a thousand lingas. The linga is the symbolic image of a phallus and a representation of God Shiva’s supreme essence. It is often in the form of a mounted pedestal or a pillar (as seen at Lolei); however at Kbal Spean its appearance is in the form of raised discs from the river bed. A group of linga around a yoni (the equivalent of the female organ) can also be spotted along the river.
Walking up hill to the highest rocks, stairs lead to a huge reclining Buddha, carved in stone. There are magnificent waterfalls to be discovered, too. The most beautiful waterfalls is Anlong Thom at 25 meters height, which forms a relaxing pool to bathe in.
Banteay Srei (or Banteay Srey) is the oldest temple of all Angkor temples. It is located about twenty kilometers north of Siem Reap, definitely well worth a visit!
Banteay Srei meaning ’Citadel of Women” is best known for its intricate carvings and is truly a temple displaying Khmer art at its finest. Situated 30km north of Siem Reap town (18km from Kbal Spean), this fairly small temple of pink sandstone is usually entered via the east entrance and there is a causeway and a few beautifully decorated gopuras (gateway) before reaching the inner enclosure.
Within the inner enclosure, there are three sanctuary towers. The central sanctuary is slightly taller that the other two, and is linked to a mandapa (ante-chamber). Both the north and central sanctuary are dedicated to Shiva while the south sanctuary is dedicated to Vishnu. Different guardian figures, usually of a human body with an animal head such as the lion, garuda or monkey, protect each of these sanctuaries. The statues here are replicas of the original which reside in the National Museum in Phnom Penh today.
At the end of the journey, you can enjoy spectacular view of the sun setting over fields of paddy and sugar palm trees, typical of Cambodia countryside.