Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kbal Spean--river of a thousand lingas

When the hotel gave us a list of places to see, we read of the river of a thousand lingas and both asked in unison: what is a linga?

Neither of the hotel staff at the front desk could tell us what a linga is. They pulled out a book and showed us a photo of what looked like stone disks in a shallow stream of water, so we assumed a linga was maybe a kind of stepping stone across a river and that this particular river had a lot of stepping stones. Couldn't be farther from the truth.
A linga, it turns out, is a Hindu phallic symbol. Man, were we way off on that definition!

When the driver arrived at the hotel this morning he asked me to change my sandals for hiking boots or walking shoes. He said we would be walking around the temples on uneven stones a lot today and sandals would be dangerous. Well, we were to soon find out that there was more to that story than just stone temples.

The second stop on today's tour was the River of a Thousand Lingas...a/k/a Kbal Spean. It was about 30 minute's drive from the Banteay Shrei Temple. No one had told me that this river involved hiking up a small mountain! If I had known that we would have brought my walking stick. Oh well, here we go anyway. The photo on the left is the view of the hills was taken half-way up.

The sign stated that it was 1500 meters up to the river. Surely I could manage only 1500 meters...even it if was going uphill. My friends know that I can't do uphill inclines easily because of mytral valve prolapse. This means my heart kind of backwases each time it pumps. This usually is no big deal, but on inclines it feels like my heart is about to pound out of my chest. Not like it is a serious problem; not going to have a heart attack or anything. Just causes me to huff and puff when going uphill.

The driver acted as our guide up to the river. We could have followed the well-trod path by ourselves, but it was nice to have someone who knew exactly where to place your feet between the boulders and tree roots and crap along that path. He also brought along several cold drinks and small cold towells which were lifesavers. We stopped several times along the way to rest a few minutes and put cold cloths on our faces and necks. We had not been bothered by the heat at all on our first 2 days in Cambodia, but today was a scorcher. There were markers every couple hundred meters to let us know how much farther. Bill did not think I was going to make it up that hill, but eventually we arrived at the shallow river.

It was worth the hot climb. There are stone carvings both around and in the shallow river. During the wet season the guide said the water gets pretty deep and it is not safe to go up there. But this day the water trickled along.

There was enough water flowing for both the waterfalls to cascade down. Lots of tourists from the big tour buses walking all around, up and down the entire time we were there. The carvings were worth the effort of the walk uphill. The driver/guide said that no one knows for sure when these lingas were carved or by whom. We didn't do any research on our own to find out more information. It didn't really matter to us. I was a bit surprised that the carvings had survived the flowing water for any length of time. Click on the photos to see a larger image and more detail.

The photo on the left is of a linga formation under water. It is a square or rectangle with circles inside. The square has a border around it with an open point that is supposed to represent a spout of some kind. All the circles around this square are also lingas. Each one is supposed to represent a phallic symbol. Kinda lost on me.

The walk back down the small mountain was a breeze. You just have to be careful in a few places because it gets very slippery. We enjoyed this day. Even enjoyed the exercise part of it.

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