What if that life isn’t for you? What if one year you’ve “been there, done that” and you find the tourist ridden illusion of paradise more irritating than exciting? Maybe you’re sick of traveling so far and not really feeling like you actually left home? Well, I have some advice. Amateur adventurers be wary.
For the first several months of 2017, my wife and I traveled to and lived in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s the home of the magnificent and ancient Angkor Wat temples, the Pub Street district, and a severely different kind of getaway.
Where should I go?
Bring your boots, or a rugged pair of sandals, because for a day or two you must experience Kulen Mountain National Park (or Phnom Kulen to the locals). You can’t miss it because it is the only piece of elevation for miles near the city.
There are numerous waterfalls where you can cool off in the tropical heat and ruins of small temples throughout the mountain, especially since this was the birthplace of the Khmer Empire over 1200 years ago. Some carvings are visible just below the water’s surface and use the stream for mesmerizing optical effects.
But how do I get there?
That’s part of the challenge there are dozens of sites with essential advice on traveling to and getting around Siem Reap itself, but Kulen Mountain is a bit trickier. Do you know how to ride a motorbike? Then you’ve got no problem. Motorbike is the way to go for the budget traveler.
If you don’t (like me) then I advise a day of practice before you try and go up the mountain roads, or better yet, take a class back here in the states before the trip, then you can get around anywhere in Cambodia in a flash. There are dozens of motorbike rental spots throughout the city for as little as $10 a day.
Take National Highway 6 (it’s the biggest road cutting through town) east about 3 miles (5km) from the center of town to Road 67 near the Siem Reap Stadium. There will be signs in English as well as Khmer. Make a left and follow that road for about 20 miles. This will get you to the entrance to the park. Make sure to arrive before 11 am, because the mountain road becomes a one-way road (coming off the mountain) after that.
What do I need?
A bathing suit, a backpack full of giant 50c water bottles, a small first aid kit with band-aids, a Cambodian SIM card (super cheap), $18 per person for entry to the park (sadly recent, used to be free), and a serious sense of adventure.
Also, don’t forget Phnom Kulen is a pilgrimage site for Cambodia’s Buddhists and SE Asia’s Hindus. So be sure to enjoy yourself, but also remain respectful. We all like sites important to our culture and parks to be honored and treated well.
Some giant tour groups may come through on occasion (especially from China and Japan) and take over the area. The locals do not like them, but smaller groups who do not leave garbage, respect the ancient sites, and remain well-mannered will be welcomed and greeted as a new friend with the most infectious smiles you have ever seen in your life.
It truly is a different kind of getaway for a different kind of adventurer. Stay safe!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.