Who’s up for an adventure deep in the jungley mountains of Southeast Asia? While you’re touring around Siem Reap, come visit this hidden gem called Phnom Kulen … it’s totally worth exploring yourself.
If you’re heading to Cambodia, you probably already have a few things on your bucket list, like the amazing world wonder Angkor Wat (we’ve got some tips and tricks for seeing that place — don’t forget to wake up early and see the temple at sunrise!). But that’s not the only thing that should be on your list. You’ll also want to cool off from that hot and humid weather and take a swim in this secret waterfall … am I right?
Want to travel the world but worried about doing it alone? International Language Programs is a non-profit organization that sends volunteers abroad to teach English to kids in places like Asia. We’ve put together this free guide about how we’re here to help you out and get you traveling!
Mmkay, ready for the details so you can see this gem yourself? Here’s what you need to know for a day trip in Phnom Kulen:
- Get To The Jungle
- Pack Up A Swimming Suit
- Pay Your Respects
- + A Couple Other Tips
Get To The Jungle
Mapping things out, you’ll need to know that Angkor Wat is just outside the big city of Siem Reap — and Phnom Kulen is about a 2 hour drive from Siem Reap, making it an ideal day trip. You can also head to the incredible floating villages that are also close to Siem Reap if you’re looking for another day trip.
There will be lots of guides you can hire in Siem Reap to take you into the lush jungle; the road is bumpy and you’ll definitely want someone driving who knows where they are going. We’ve had volunteers use a cutie local man named Tra — volunteers said he really wanted them all to understand the history and significance of this country which is a total added bonus. Just ask your hostel if they can help you hire a driver.
Pack Up A Swimming Suit
Cambodia is hot and humid allllll year long, so you don’t need to worry about when you plan your visit because you’ll want to swim in the cool water and gawk at the gorgeous waterfalls all day long.
The water is really refreshing (some of you might think it’s a bit chilly, but it feels great). You can even stick your feet in the calmer parts and see little fish swim up to nibble on your toes! They do fish pedicures like this in the city, but here you get it done for free.
This place is still pretty secret for foreigners, but you’ll see lots of locals splashing in the water.
Pay Your Respects
Phnom Kulen is a very sacred spot for both Buddhist and Hindus. If you look carefully, you can see remnants of a huge temple and palace complex that researchers are just starting to check out … they’re not sure, but they think it’s even larger than Ankor Wat (which is ENORMOUS).
Keep an eye out for the brightly dressed monks that are wandering around the ruins of the temple. You might get a little blessing by one of the monks as you climb up the the stone carved temple at the top of this mountain. There’s even a reclining Buddha at the top — like the one in Bangkok, just smaller.
It’s a very spiritual (and super gorgeous) place.
+ A Couple Other Tips
- There are little metal boxes (sorta like lockers) you can pay a couple of dollars to use to stash your stuff in while you swim.
- Past visitors recommend bringing your own towel, but there are vendors you can buy snacks from (try the red bananas).
- The rocks are slippery so bring your good hiking (and waterproof) shoes to adventure in.
Ready to this place for yourself? I thought so …. but since you’re interested in Cambodia, I’m guessing you’ll also want to see Thailand, right?
Volunteers who serve abroad in Thailand with ILP love taking a vacation over to Cambodia — you’re also welcome to check out places like Bali, Laos, Singapore and those dreamy Thai beaches while you spend a semester living abroad here. Oh, and when you aren’t swimming in waterfalls on vacation or eating fresh pineapple at home, you spend your time teaching English to some of the cutest kids around. Sounds pretty perfect to me!
Get more details about volunteering in Thailand here, or click that button for the quick facts: