In the know destinations – Cambodia
You have seen the highlights of Cambodia and you are ready for more. Destinations like Kampong Cham might not be as popular as Angkor Wat. They do however, still receive their share of domestic and foreign tourists in the know. These destinations will take you to the real Cambodia. Not completely off the beaten path, but interesting and exciting yet less crowded and with an adequate tourism infrastructure in place.
Provincial riverside town. Kind of sleepy and laid back, but also an important trade hub. For some, Kampong Cham is nothing more than a stopover on their way to Kratie or Mondulkiri. They’re missing out I say. Stay here for a day or two and unwind while bicycling in the beautiful surroundings of Kampong Cham. Visit a few interesting temples. I admit, they are not Angkor Wat, but they are also free of the mass tourist frenzy. Finally, enjoy a relaxing sunset on the Mekong riverfront beer in hand.
How to get to Kampong Cham
Kampong Cham is easily accessible by road from all over Cambodia. Multiple busses and minivans leave from Phnom Penh on a daily basis. The journey shouldn’t take more than 3h. Likewise, from the town of Kratie, 120 km to the North East, it’s a 3 h bus ride as well.
For bus/ferry/train schedules and tickets within Cambodia I always use the transport planning tool below from BookmeBus.com to book online. Especially during high season and public holidays it makes sense to book ahead to secure your seat(s). The tool is incredibly easy to use, just fill out your place of departure, your destination and travel date. It will show the complete schedule and ticket price of all related transport. Make your choice and book instantly.
If you’re in Kampong Cham just as a stopover, then there’s no reason for you to venture far from the riverside. In that case you’re well off on foot to explore the promenade and its immediate surroundings. The area along the river is very inviting and certainly some pleasant strolls are possible. However, most of the interesting attractions are actually just outside of Kampong Cham. To venture out of town is easy. Either use taxi’s or hire a tuk-tuk to take you.
Better yet, rent a motorbike or bicycle. Note that proper document requirements for foreigners riding a motorbike in Cambodia are very confusing. Not having the right documents will most likely invalidate all insurance you might have. Check out this link for some explanation on regulations.
Things to see/do in Kampong Cham
Take that motorbike or bicycle outside of town and explore the surroundings of Kampong Cham. The gorgeous routes and sceneries are the main attraction.
There’s a neat 1900’s French watchtower on the Eastern bank of the Mekong just North of the Kizuna bridge. You can even climb up to admire the views. On the Western bank app. 1km South of the Kizuna bridge is the longest bamboo bridge in the world (app. 900m) connecting Kampong Cham with the Mekong Island Koh Paen. The bridge is strong enough to hold small trucks, but every year in rainy season it washes away only to be rebuild again. Koh Paen itself is a joy to explore by bike with trails lined by palm trees, stilted villages and even a small beach.
Approximately 1.5 km out of town on route 7 towards Phnom Penh (turn left on the roundabout with the 4 naga’s) is the Nokor Bachey Pagoda. An Angkorian temple enclosure with a modern pagoda inside. App 6 km further on the same route 7 are Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, two hills facing each other and both with a pagoda on top.
Furthermore, there’s my favorite, Phnom Hanchey. This ancient pre-Angkor hilltop pagoda is interesting enough, but even more so is the incredibly scenic route along the Mekong that leads to it. Go North for 20 km along the West bank of the river. Once there, the superbe views from the hill are a wonderful bonus.
If you like to indulge in adventurous activities, then always make sure to travel with the right travel insurance. One that also covers your medical care abroad and includes evacuations and repatriation. I use World Nomads, because they are the true specialist in travel insurance and their price for the service is unbeatable. They cover a range of adventure sports and activities like scuba diving and even your motor bike rental adventures (if you follow the rules). You can buy cover online, even if you’re already in the middle of traveling.
Knowing they had my back has always given me great piece of mind. Fortunately I never had to claim anything, but fellow travelers I met on the road told me that the online claims process went very smooth.
Where to stay in Kampong Cham
Monorom VIP 2 Hotel
Budget = from $10 to $30
Clean and large aircon rooms that come with good wifi and a refrigerator. Riverfront and close to the Kampong Cham night market. Right next door from Smile restaurant where you can have an excellent breakfast.
KC River Hotel
Budget = from $10 to $30
Real value for money hotel with a good location directly on the riverside offering easy access to nearby restaurants. Great views over the Mekong and the Kizuna bridge from the rooftop bar.
To compare prices and read reviews check out Agoda.com.
Where to eat in Kampong Cham
Smile Restaurant targets expats and tourists. Nevertheless, it’s a breath of fresh air in a rather dull food scene. Food is ok, though a bit pricier than elsewhere. The atmosphere and staff make it all worthwhile. #6 Sihanouk Road on the riverfront.
Samnang Sophat BBQ Restaurant We ended up in this restaurant by accident, but had a wonderful evening. Very friendly, family oriented BBQ restaurant. Lot’s of stuff you should try and some I’m sure you don’t want to try. Reasonably priced. Side street of route 7, app 200 meters West from the three entangled naga’s roundabout (Kizuna roundabout.)