CAMBODIA – Tired of Angkor Wat? Go to Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei & East Mebon

Cambodia - East Mebom

The seventh day of my Siem Reap itinerary involved again a pretty long drive into the country side. It’s a perfect trip if you are tired of Angkor Wat or Siem Reap. The first stop is the farthest away at the Kulen Mountain range. After lunch, I continued to Banteay Srei, the Cambodian Landmine Museum and East Mebon temple. It’s a day with different kind of places of interest and leaves time in the afternoon to relax at the pool. Let’s check out these must-see places around Siem Reap.

Kulen Mountain Range

Kulen Mountain or Phnom Kulen is a holy mountain in Cambodia north of Siem Reap and a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an important site for Buddhist and Hinduist but also Cambodians in general as it’s the birthplace of the Khmer Empire. In 804 King Jayavarman II declared independence from Java, now Indonesia forming the Khmer Empire.

If you are visiting Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei or East Mebon then make sure to read also:
CAMBODIA – A 9 day Siem Reap itinerary including Angkor Wat

Start the day at the 16th century Preah Ang Thom temple which houses an 8-meter-long reclining Buddha statue reaching out to Nirvana. The statue is carved from a huge boulder which is quite unique. It’s a beautiful place between huge Cham Pa trees making the temperature a bit less which is great in the hot season. Don’t forget to have a look at the footprint of the Buddha before going to the next place of interest on Kulen Mountain.

Cambodia - Kulen Mountain

The other places to visit are the waterfalls and the river with stone carvings beneath the surface. These carvings are also known as the Valley of the Thousand Lingas or Kbal Spean. You’ll see many lingas but also figures of Yoni and Linga which sometimes can be hidden below the water during the wet season. The Terrace of Sdach Kamlung, once a beautiful small temple, is worth the short hike uphill. After exploring the archeological sites it’s time to dip in the cool holy waters of one of the waterfalls. It should be around lunch time now; which I took at the Kulen Mountain before heading towards Banteay Srei.

Cambodia - Kulen Mountain

Banteay Srei Temple

After visiting Banteay Srei (sometimes spelled Srey) I can honestly say this is a gem! It’s not a huge temple complex and the buildings are small compared to others but the decorates on the red sandstone are one of the best I have seen in Cambodia. It’s a true highlight between all the Khmer art I have seen during this 9 day Siem Reap itinerary.

If you are visiting Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei or East Mebon then make sure to read also:
CAMBODIA – A 9 day Siem Reap itinerary including Angkor Wat

The temple dates to the 10th century and is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva but a few buildings are dedicated to Vishnu. So why are those carvings like those of a Kala, a mythical creature, so well preserved? This is because this temple was built with red sandstone which is as hard as wood and is perfect to carve. The compound consists of three enclosures on an east to west axis and a visit takes 1 to 2 hours. I think Banteay Srei is one of my favorite places I visited as the carvings showing (religious) stories are so beautiful and well preserved.

Cambodia - Banteay Srei

Landmine Museum of Siem Reap

If you drive from Banteay Srei to East Mebon you’ll pass the Cambodian Landmine Museum which should be on your itinerary. Not only is it important that the remaining mines in Cambodia get cleared it’s also important to remember how they changed history and influenced culture. The Cambodian Landmine Museum explains and shows what the impact is of landmines on a culture. With at least 5000 landmines remaining in the fields this is a good cause. There is also a Relief Center for children who otherwise would not be able to have a normal life; as I wrote before poverty in Cambodia is everywhere. Entrance fees go to charity so by visiting you’ll support the local community!

Cambodia - Landmine Museum

East Mebon Temple

In the 10th century, when East Mebon temple was constructed, you would not be able to walk to it but rather take a boat and land on one of the four landing stages. It was built on an island in the middle of the East Baray water reservoir in Angkor. It was part of a bigger collection of temples including the state temple Pre Rub and West Mebon which I visited on one of the other days of my Siem Reap itinerary. The temple has three tiers on the pyramid and beautiful stone elephants on each corner of the top two tiers. East Mebon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The elephant statues and some beautiful carvings make the East Mebon temple a must-see in the Angkor area.

Cambodia - East Mebom

The Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei & East Mebon temples together with the Cambodian Landmine Museum make up a great day trip from Siem Reap. East Mebon is also often included in day trips more close to the Angkor Wat area but I suggest it to visit it on this day trip as this is more efficient.

Banteay Srei really surprised me as I visited it as one of the last temples in the area; it’s for sure my favorite near Siem Reap or maybe in all of Cambodia. Save it for last as otherwise carvings at other temples will disappoint. The Kulen Mountain is a must-see but do it in the morning so that before or after lunch you can cool down in the water. Start the day early morning so that you’ll have afternoon time in the pool of your hotel. For me it was again a great day during this Siem Reap itinerary.  

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Did you visit Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei or East Mebon too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srei & East Mebon

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