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Kampong Cham – Chillin’ in the province

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Last update: August 2023

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Is visiting Kampong Cham worth it?

Yes, it’s totally worth it, here’s why:

So you’re traveling in Cambodia, you have seen Angkor Wat and other highlights and now you are ready for more. There are plenty of interesting and beautiful destinations in Cambodia that are still relatively untouched by mass tourism. Just a 2-3 hour drive from Phnom Penh you’ll find Kampong Cham with a population of 62,000 in the top ten of the country’s largest cities. Maybe not as popular as Angkor Wat, it does however, still receive its share of domestic and foreign tourists in the know.

A visit to Kampong Cham will take you to the real Cambodia. To a provincial town and the vast rural lands that surround it. Not completely off the beaten path, but still exciting yet less crowded and with an adequate tourism infrastructure in place.

Kampong Cham riverside
Kampong Cham riverside

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Kampong Cham – General Info

The town of Kampot Cham is kind of sleepy and laid back. Nevertheless, it’s an important trade hub in Cambodia with the Vietnam border only 60km away. For most travelers, Kampong Cham is nothing more than a drive thru town on their way to Kratie or Mondulkiri. Well, they’re missing out I say.

Stay for a day or two in the riverside town and unwind while bicycling the beautiful surroundings of Kampong Cham. Maybe visit a few interesting temples. I admit, they lack the grandeur of Angkor Wat, but they are also free of the mass tourist frenzy. Finally, enjoy a relaxing sunset on the Mekong riverfront, beer in hand.

Kampong Cham sunset
Kampong Cham sunset

Things to do in Kampong Cham

Take that rental motorbike or bicycle to explore the surroundings of Kampong Cham. Adventurous routes, interesting landmarks and gorgeous scenery will compete for your attention. If you don’t want to self drive, hire a tuk-tuk for the day or ask your hotel to arrange one for you.

Kampong Cham Market

1 to 2 hour activity

Having visited the Central Market in Phnom Penh, the Kampot Cham market building looks quite familiar. Albeit not as large as her counterpart in the Cambodian capital, the architecture has the same Art Deco style. It’s more intimate though and therefore has a much friendlier vibe, but still buzzing with activity and full of chaotic charm. No hard sales tactics by the vendors. Instead they all seem a lot more patient and in for a good laugh.

Inside, the market reveals grubby ceilings, scruffy floors and a bustling maze of colorful stalls where anything is up for sale. More or less, exactly how a Southeast Asian market should be. Of course there’s the obvious t-shirts, trinkets and household stuff. Less souvenirs since, as one vendor put it, “tourists don’t come to Kampong Cham”. The market therefore managed to preserve a very local and authentic feel including a good old Asian wet market.

Opening hours are everyday from 7am to 6pm. Around 5pm more and more food vendors arrive and set up their makeshift food stalls in the market surroundings. The sun setting over the Mekong marks the start of a Kampong Cham street food frenzy.

Kampong Cham market
At the Kampong Cham wet market

Riverside Promenade

1 hour to whole evening activity

We loved our strolls on the riverside promenade of Kampong Cham. First of all, the view over the Mekong river with the Kizuna bridge backdrop is stunning. The best thing however, was seeing the locals’ daily social routines. They would gather on the promenade to catch the late afternoon and evening breeze. Children playing by the riverbank, teenagers playing shuttlecock football, dancing grannies and uncles discussing global politics whilst smoking their cigarettes.

Along the promenade, you will find an array of food stalls, cafes and restaurants, each offering drinks and a variety of food options. Choose from Chinese, Korean, Italian pizza and of course Khmer cuisine. Maybe go for after dinner drinks at the Taurus rooftop bar. All in all, the river promenade is ideal for a fun night out.

Kampong Cham river promenade
Kampong Cham river promenade

French Tower

Half to 1 hour activity

There’s a neat ancient French watchtower on the Eastern bank of the Mekong right next to the Kizuna bridge. Apparently, the tower was built around the 1920’s to keep an eye on bandits that would bring their cargo boats when stealing from the rubber plantations. If there was any imminent danger a fire was lit in the tower to alert the villagers.

You can climb up to admire the views over the river towards the city. Doors are always open and there is no fee. Be careful though, it’s a pretty steep climb and it didn’t look well maintained.

Watch tower at Kampong Cham
French Watch Tower

Phnom Hanchey

2 hour to half day activity (including the trip)

Furthermore, there’s my favorite landmark in Kampong Cham, Phnom Hanchey. Not so much for the ancient pre-Angkor hilltop temple itself, which is interesting enough. However, the incredibly scenic route along the Mekong that leads to it is the real showstopper here.

To reach Hanchey drive North on provincial road 222 for about 20 km along the Mekong. It’s not difficult to find, just keep the river to your right. After crossing the Hanchey bridge take a left at the roundabout with the small Buddha statue and continue for about 500m. Try to dodge all the free roaming cattle.

Alternatively, continue straight at the Buddha roundabout for 1km to find a giant stairway up the hill. Conquer all 303 steps, pay up the $2 entrance fee and after all the spectacular scenery on the road, the superb views from the hill are a wonderful bonus.

Phnom Hanchey in Kampong Cham
View from Phnom Hanchey in Kampong Cham

Koh Paen

2 hour to half day activity

Just 1km to the South of Kampong Cham, Koh Paen Island is situated right in the middle of the Mekong. On Koh Paen Island you’ll find gorgeous Cambodian countryside, offering a unique peek into traditional village life. It’s a joy to explore the Island by bike on trails that are lined with palm trees and stilted villages. There’s even a small beach.

You could of course reach the Island by crossing the new concrete Koh Paen bridge, but there’s another, much more charming bridge that will get you there as well. The longest bamboo bridge in the world, between 700m and 1000m long, depending on how the bridge was built this year around. Every year in rainy season the bridge washes away only to be rebuild again by the Koh Paen villagers.

In the past the bridge was built strong enough to hold small trucks, but ever since the concrete bridge appeared there’s no need for that anymore. Instead, the villagers decided to build a light version to at least keep the tradition alive. Of course there is a financial motive as well. Crossing the bridge now involves a fee of 2,000 riel ($0.50) for cyclists or 5,000 riel ($1.25) for a motorbike.

Koh Paen Bamboo Bridge
Bamboo bridge at Koh Paen, Kampong Cham

Wat Moha Leap

1 hour activity

Keep on going after Koh Paen and cross the Mekong from the South of the Island by ferry (2000 Riel). A small winding road along a sidearm of the river will take you straight to Wat Moha Leap in under 10 minutes. Amidst lush greenery this temple compound is a mix of old and new buildings with great importance to Buddhism in Cambodia.

Wat Moha Leap is Cambodia’s last wooden pagoda that’s still operational. Truth be told, the pagoda’s appearance might not be spectacular, but certainly is very special inside and out. The compound is home to a community of Buddhist monks who dedicate their lives to prayer, meditation, and self-reflection. You can (respectfully) observe their daily rituals and they are open to engage in conversations about Buddhism.

Wat Moha Leap in Kampong Cham, Cambodia
Wat Moha Leap in Kampong Cham, Cambodia

Wat Nokor Bachey Pagoda

1 to 2 hour activity

About 1.5 km North of Kampong Cham is the Nokor Bachey Pagoda. Follow road 7 towards Phnom Penh and turn left at the roundabout with the 4 naga statue (mythical serpents). This unique temple enclosure was built during the same time as Angkor Wat in the 11th Century. Later, a modern Buddhist pagoda was added.

While the temple isn’t as impressive as Angkor Wat (but then again what is), it still holds great historical and cultural significance. Sure, the $10 entrance fee is outrageous, but the peaceful ambiance amidst lush greenery and tranquil countryside allows for an almost meditative experience. Well, at least that’s how we felt. It sure is a far cry from the Angkor Wat crowds.

Wat Nokor Bachey in Kamong Cham
Wat Nokor Bachey

Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey

2 hour activity for both hills together

Continue on the same road 7 for about 6km to find Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey, two hills facing each other and both with a pagoda on top.

These hills are special, not only for their natural beauty, but also for the local legends and stories attached to them. According to local folklore, Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey were named after a young man and woman who fell in love but were tragically separated by their families. Their spirits are said to reside on the hills and bless lovers who visit with devotion and happiness. For this reason, locals often come to these hills to make offerings at the shrines and to seek blessings for love.

Next to finding romance, Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey are also ideal to catch stunning views of the surrounding nature and the countryside all the way up to Kampong Cham.

Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey inKampong Cham
View from Phnom Srey with Phnom Pros in the distance

Cheung Kok Village

Half day to multiple day activity

If you’re looking for a wow factor activity in Kampong Cham than Cheung Kok village needs to be first on your list. An authentic experience through Community Based Tourism. Add scenic landscapes and lot’s of interaction with the locals and you’ve got a winner.

For decades the villagers of Cheung Kok have been working the rice fields, but they understood the need for additional sources of income. The village partnered with French NGO Amica to offer immersive experiences for visitors, thus empowering the local community while keeping their traditional Khmer culture alive.

Cheung Kok in Kampong Cham, Cambodia
Making palm sugar

Learn about sustainable farming methods through a guided tour of the village farmlands. You can join in organic farming activities, such as planting and harvesting crops. Truly engage with the locals and experience their way of life.

Witness cultural performances such as traditional Khmer dance and music, and observe the craftsmanship of local artisans practice their handicrafts like silk weaving. For the ultimate experience you can stay with a local family and immerse yourself completely in the daily activities of village life. Take part in a cooking class and learn about herbal medicine.

Cheung Kok in Kampong Cham, Cambodia
Cheung Kok village life

Travel Insurance

Always make sure to travel with the right travel insurance. One that also covers your medical care abroad and includes evacuations and repatriation, as well as adventurous activities like hiking and even your motor bike rental adventures (if you follow the rules). Don’t just assume it’s included in your normal health care policy, because it’s not. Did you know you can even buy cover online, even if you’re already in the middle of traveling?

Read more about travel insurance, or at least get a non committal instant quote.

Where to stay in Kampong Cham

There are plenty of accommodations in Kampong Cham, but most of them lack atmosphere and charm. That might be ok if you’re here just for a stopover, but still the quality is often mediocre at best. From experience we recommend the LBN Asian Hotel as the only comfortable option near the city center. For more charm and service we suggest to look beyond the center. Actually, directly outside of Kampong Cham town to the North along the river is where you’ll find the better options.

Phalla Riverside
Budget = from $10 to $30

Small, basic, but lovely guesthouse a little outside of town. Splendid Mekong view, peace and quiet and friendly owners. Best to have your own transport as the city center is at 2.5 km. Or, rent a motorbike at the guesthouse for $5 per day. They serve breakfast, but there’s also a small market and other food options nearby.

LBN Asian Hotel
Budget = from $10 to $30
Midrange = $30 to $75

Real value for money hotel with a good location directly on the riverside. All the town amenities are nearby and tuk-tuks are available just outside the hotel. Great views over the Mekong and the lively rooftop sky bar serves nice drinks.

LBN Asian Hotel in Kampong Cham

Where to eat in Kampong Cham

Well, what can I say, Kampong Cham never was a foodie heaven and it still isn’t. To make things worse a lot of restaurants didn’t survive the pandemic aftermath. We did notice quite a few new restaurants since our last visit though, so we were excited to try them out. Alas, somehow they don’t seem to get it right. Fortunately there are always exceptions, so here we go.

Lazy Mekong Daze Pizzeria

Lazy Mekong Daze has been a bar & restaurant for tourists and expats since forever. A few years ago they decided to become a pizzeria. It’s the Cambodian take on pizza so don’t expect high quality Italian style cooking. Limited choice in toppings, but I have to say it’s all pretty tasty.

They serve Western breakfast as well and there’s a pool table to pass the time with friends and beers. The owner is a walking tourist guide on all things to do in the area. For your convenience, he also rents out motorbikes. The restaurant is located right on the Kampong Cham riverfront and opens everyday from 6am to 10pm.


We ended up at LyLy BBQ by accident, but had a wonderful evening. Very friendly, family oriented typical Khmer BBQ restaurant, which means cooking your own food on a charcoal fired table grill.

There wasn’t an English menu and we communicated with the very friendly staff using our hands and feet, which was great fun. Lot’s of stuff you should try and some exotic items I’m sure you don’t want to try. Opens everyday from 5pm to 10pm at the riverside close to the Kampong Cham Night Market.

Pizza in Kampong Cham
Blasphemous topping I know
Khmer BBQ restaurant in Kampong Cham
Ly Ly BBQ in Kampong Cham

Smile Restaurant

Smile Restaurant targets expats and tourists and is a breath of fresh air in a rather dull food scene. Food is a mix of Western and Asian and a bit pricier than elsewhere. The atmosphere and bubbly staff make it all worthwhile though. Asian breakfast is outstanding and very reasonably priced, chicken thigh with rice for $2.5, wow! The restaurant is located at the Northern part of the river promenade and opens from 6am to 10pm.

Kampong Cham Night Market

Talking about the Kampong Cham Night Market, that’s another excellent food venue. Whether for snacking or a full dinner, anything goes here. There are several, mostly Khmer food outlets, serving tasty dishes and drinks. Locals also love to come here as there is plenty of choice and the price levels are low. Although it’s a night market, some of the food stands also open during the day.

Smile Restaurant Chicken Burger
Chicken Burger at Smile Restaurant
Street food stall in Kampong Cham
Street food stall at the Kampong Cham Night Market

How to get to Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is easily to reach by road from all over Cambodia.

  • Multiple buses and minivans leave from Phnom Penh on a daily basis. The journey shouldn’t take more than 3h and tickets are between $8 and $10.
  • Buses and minivans come in from Kratie to the Norteast on a 3h trip for $10-$11.
  • Mondulkiri buses take about 5h from Sen Monorom to Kampong Cham. Tickets are $10-$13.

For bus/ferry/train schedules and tickets within Cambodia I always use the transport planning tool below from to book online. During high season and public holidays it makes sense to book ahead to secure your seat(s). Skip the lines at the bus station!

Getting Around in Kampong Cham

If you’re in Kampong Cham on a layover, 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 city center, the promenade and its surroundings. The area along the river is very inviting for pleasant strolls.

However, most important attractions are just outside of Kampong Cham and you will need to arrange transportation. Either use a taxi or a tuk-tuk, both of which you can negotiate on the street, but bargain hard. Or, ask your hotel/guesthouse to arrange it or 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 cancel all insurance you might have. Check out this link for explanation on regulations on riding a motorbike in Cambodia.

motorbike in Southeast Asia
Rent a motorbike in Kampong Cham for ultimate freedom

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You might also like…

Link to "Where to eat in Phnom Penh" blog post
Link to "Angkor Wat - overrated" blog post
Link to "11 Best things to do in Siem Reap" blog post
Link to "11 Most wonderful things to do in Kratie" blog post
Link to "Kampot, Cambodia" Travel Guide
Link to "Kampong Thom, Cambodia" Travel Guide

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Kampong Cham, Cambodia Travel Guide
Kampong Cham, Cambodia Travel Guide

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