Depart early in the morning for Phnom Kulen, a nature preserve atop the only hill in sight, high above the most distant of Angkor's temple treasures. We drive deep into the countryside for an intimate look at rural life in Cambodia. Your four-wheel-drive vehicle begins a climb into the rainforest on a distant plateau. Like Angkor below, everything here is in immense proportions. The road cuts through gigantic boulders of the same pink stone which was used to build the magnificent Banteay Srei (see below).
Continue your adventure on foot, following a narrow jungle path to a log bridge for your first glimpse of the River of 1000 Lingas, a powerful sacred site for Cambodians, even today. Close to two kilometers of the stone stream bed has been sculpted with hundreds of stone lingas (Hindu phallic carvings), a legacy of 9th century God-kings, and a reminder that this forest was an important spiritual center even before Angkor Wat. Downstream, the carvings culminate at the edge of a magnificent sacred waterfall. If you visit on a weekend, the place will be filled with Cambodians who come for picnics and ritual baths in the river, often taking some of its holy water home with them. This is still a holy place for Khmer.
A short distance away is Preah Ang Tho, a colorful shrine that attracts Buddhist pilgrims from throughout Cambodia. Long ago, a sleeping Buddha was carved here onto the side of a single, massive stone. Over the centuries, the sacred image has slowly risen above the eroding jungle floor so that it may now be viewed only by climbing a narrow ladder.
Adventurous travelers may opt to hire a village motorbike to delve deeper into the jungle. Remote wonders include the site of an ancient Chinese shipwreck (a reminder that Phnom Kulen was once an island), a hermit monk who guards giant carvings now partially obscured by wild orchids, or the magical waters of a stone basin that has not gone dry in a millennium. The forest is quite unspoiled and you will undoubtedly see wildlife of many kinds. Giant boulders along the stream are decorated with carvings of Vishnu, Shiva, Lakhsmi and Brahma.
In the afternoon, visit Banteay Srei, the "Temple of Women," only recently opened to visitors. Rediscovered in 1914, this jewel-like temple is the most distant from Angkor Wat and is unique in many respects. While most of Angkor's temples are of massive proportions, Banteay Srei is intimate, on a human scale. Its profuse and gloriously ornate architectural details, mythical beasts with human heads, are exceptionally well preserved.Includes personal tour guide, private car and driver, Phnom Kulen admission.. Not included: meals or Angkor Wat admission. (our Angkor packages already include a 3-day Angkor pass, so no additional admission may be necessary.)This tour requires about 2km of walking, although there is no hiking, climbing or steep inclines. The motorbike tour portion is not included, but highly recommended but at your own risk. The confirmation we send you for this tour will include more information to help you prepare for, and fully appreciate, this special place.
Where We Shine: Purple Dragon highlights unique and offbeat aspects of Cambodian life that most tourists overlook. We use only LGBT- friendly hotels, so couples never suffer embarrassing moments. Your tour is private, which gives you maximum flexibility and the undivided attention of our local guides. Our guests often tell us that the highlight of their holiday was the charming company of our trained guides and their superlative insights into Cambodian culture.