Sculptures in the Riverbed

A Memory of Kbal Spean


Thinking back, or really, dreaming back, to Kep, and our travels in Cambodia, reminded me of another part of that trip that has really stuck with me. We saw quite a few temples, including Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm — awe inspiring, to say the least.

But the historical site that really drew me in and hit me to my core in terms of years, and past, and artistic, religious, and cultural resonance, was Kbal Spean — The River of a Thousand Lingas. This isn’t a temple in the traditional sense — but it has the same impact — or more so. It’s a hidden away stretch along the Stung Kbal Spean River that features countless sculptures carved into the sandstone riverbed and riverbanks

To get to the sculptures, you walk about a mile or so — maybe ¾ of a mile — from an entry point. It’s a gorgeous hike — just a slight incline as you make your way up. And without much signage, or crowds to guide you, all of the sudden you come upon the stonework. And it’s all over the place — you can find yourself unintentionally walking right on top of it, which is quite alarming, given its historical age, artistic beauty and religious significance.

We didn’t really see other people up there, unlike the major temples, which are descended upon by tourist buses galore. We just took it all in, taking photos, meandering about underneath the green of the trees, kicking it on the rocks in the shade.

Reminiscing about it right now really brings me back. I’d like to see that riverbed again. I’d like to just sit there on the rocks and… that’s about it. Just let the hours slip by and think about how all that work was done a thousand years ago, and there it all still is, beautiful stone carvings on the riverbed.