Phnom Kulen National Park covers a line of hills North of Siem Reap. The birthplace of the Angkorian Empire, Kulen predates Angkor Wat by 200 years. The rocky terrain of forest and hilltop villages hides temples, animal statues, rare animals and birds. A conservation initiative involving local villagers has cleared trails into the forest for visitors to see wildlife. This provides an income dependent on keeping not cutting down the trees and leaving the wildlife alone.
The liquid warbling of unseen birds rings through the forest and spectacular rarities such as the Greater Hornbill with it’s meter wide wings and flashy yellow stripes and the silent flying Wood Owl are known to be present though seldom seen.
Chomran’s disembodied head appeared out of a hole gouged over the centuries inside a large boulder. We moved onto a giant flat slab of rock, which gave us optimistic views of the forest. Recent runes or more exciting to believe pre-Angkorian petroglyphs had been carved into the surface. The site is a popular macaque and langur moot as evidenced by photos from a camera trap chained to a tree (see above).
Boulder forest sprouted between weird sandstone formations that we squeezed through. Peung Ro’nit is a bat cave. The smell told us we were not alone. Our eyes blinded from the brilliant sun didn’t see the bat but lucky for me the photo I fired caught it center-frame.
There’s not many big trees left in Cambodia outside Angkor Park. A few goliaths remain standing sentinel above the lowered tree line and it felt an honor to be in their presence.
Curious pitcher and sticky carnivorous plants grew where water seeped from the ground. It was the ideal place for a picnic and a swim.
We emerged onto the forest highway a few hundred meters on and walked back to Preah Ang Thom. Khmer New Year was well underway and busloads of Khmers had come to pay their respects to the giant Buddha reclining on top of an enormous boulder, which means stuffing hundred Riel notes into every orifice they could find. And if fertility is an issue there’s a giant linga you can lubricate with a pail of water, which spurts out of the surrounding yoni and fertilizes anything it splashes.
We were waiting to say our goodbyes to the rangers at the MoE station when we spied a fat grub crawling across the earth beneath where we sat. A bejeweled blue bottle wasp landed beside and arched the sting on its abdomen into the grub’s neck making it shudder and convulse. Death was not quick enough for the wasp so it stung again until the grub remained lifeless. The wasp then straddled the corpse and walked it half a meter to a small hole dragging it down to feed it’s poisonous brood.
Indochine Exploration contributes to the cost of patrolling the Community Protected Area and has expert lead hikes along the Langur Trail described, as well as mountain bike and longer hiking adventures in the national park.