After seeing a few temples on day 1 (The north gate of Angkor Thom City and Preach Khan), we decided to do the 45 minute, 1.5 km uphill trek to see ‘the carvings’. The place was about a 45 min tuk tuk ride from the main temple area, so we were afforded a little rest. When we arrived it was around noon, so we had some lunch at a local touristy restaurant, then changed into our hiking shoes (not a well planned outfit on my part: clashing greens and a dress for hiking) and set off. The hike was almost entirely uphill and through some fairly rugged countryside, with vines and large rocks to climb or climb over.

By the time we reached the top – 45 minutes and 1.5 km later, we realized what they mean by ‘carvings’. I was expecting carvings in the trees. Nope. Instead, they are carvings into rock. Ok, not so unusual. What makes them special is that they are on the bottom of the river bed! It is dry season now, so some are exposed to air, but many are still at the bottom of the river. Amazing.

The carvings are called ‘lingas’ which means ‘phallic symbol’. This river is called the River of a Thousand Lingas. In Hindu, if water is poured over or touches a linga (essentially an icon) it is considered holy water. So this river, with a thousand icons carved into its bed, is incredibly holy and pure.

The north gate of Angkor Thom City

Preah Khan Temple

Kbal Spean: the trek

Banteay Srang at Sunset