Date: 11th – 13th century. Hindu/Buddhist. King Suryavarman I.
Kbal Spean is known as the Valley of a 1000 lingas and is set deep in the jungle. A 45- minutes uphill walk through the wood takes you to the river and waterfall where innumerable stone phalluses are carved on the riverbed. These were fertility symbols designed to bless the water. Kbal Spean is a spectacularly carved riverbed, set deep in the jungle to the northeast of Angkor . More commonly referred to in English as the ‘River of a Thousand Lingas’, the name actually means ‘bridgehead’, a reference to the natural rock bridge at the site. Lingas have been elaborately carved into the riverbed, and images of Hindu deities are dotted about the area.
It is a 2km uphill walk to the carvings, along a pretty path that winds its way up into the jungle, passing by some interesting boulder formations along the way. Carry plenty of water up the hill, as there is none available beyond the parking area. The path eventually splits to the waterfall or the river carvings. There is an impressive carving of Vishnu on the upper section of the river, followed by a series of carvings at the bridgehead itself, many of which have been tragically hacked off in the past few years. This area is now roped off to protect the carvings from further damage.
Following the river down, there are several more impressive carvings of Vishnu, and Shiva with his consort Uma, and further downstream hundreds of linga appear on the riverbed. At the top of the waterfall, there are many animal images, including a cow and a frog, and a path winds around the boulders to a wooden staircase leading down to the base of the falls. Visitors between January and June will be disappointed to see very little water here. The best time to visit is between September and January.
Kbal Spean is about 50km northeast of Siem Reap or about 18km beyond the temple of Banteay Srei . The road is good now, but it should be surfaced in the near future because it continues north to Anlong Veng near the Thai border. Drivers will no doubt want a bit of extra money to take you here – a few extra dollars should do, including a trip to Banteay Srei. Admission to Kbal Spean is included in the general Angkor pass and the last entry to the site is at 15:30.