Welcome to the Jungle
Phnom Kulen Travel Blog› entry 8 of 17 › view all entries
We were up early today at 6:30 AM. We were heading out for a trekking in order to get to know each other a bit better before we would start working on two houses of disabled families. But not before having breakfast at the Lotus Lodge! I opted for a very tasty noodle soup, which should be good fuel for today's 21 km of walking. Yes, you read that correctly. After driving for 1,5 hour we would be dropped off at the foot of Phnom Kulen (Kulen Mountain), north east of Siem Reap. We would have to climb up 470 meters and continue our way across the plateau. Some of my fellow trekkers were seriously worried about this task, but having done trekkings in Nepal, Ladakh and Laos I wasn't too daunted about it all.
After stocking up on water and snacks we left the hotel at 7:45. In the bus on the way to Phnom Kulen one of the two Rith's in our trekking staff told us some interesting details about Cambodia in general and the mountain specifically. Phnom Kulen is considered the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. In 802 Jayavarman II proclaimed himself a god-king here, declaring independence and thereby created modern-day Cambodia.
When we arrived at the mountain we were given a briefing by Dave before heading off. Besides the 15 volunteers (2 were arriving in Siem Reap after the trekking) there were also a doctor (Brett), MAG event manager (Steve) and three trekking guides (Rith (1), Rith (2) and Jam) present. The 20 of us walked up the the foot of the mountain and started climbing. Before long we were in the jungle making our way up rocks and sandy paths.
After the lunch break we continued our way for the second half of the trekking. We passed a village where Rith (2) let us sample some locally distilled rice wine and eventually we arrived at a temple that housed an enormous reclining Buddha which was carved from the sandstone upon which the temple that houses it was built. While we enjoyed the breathtaking views across the plateau from the temple a monk was kind enough to get the key to the door so we could admire the big Buddha. From here on it was a short walk to our camp for tonight, located next to the Kulen waterfall. Tents for each individual volunteer had been set up and we were welcomed with some refreshing fruit juice.