On your way from Battambang to Phnom Penh or vice versa, why not make a stop at Kampong Chhnang? The capital city of the province with the same name provides a good base to see some of the Tonle Sap floating villages. I promise you a much better and way more authentic experience than the Chong Khneas floating village near Siem Reap. Furthermore, Kampong Chhnang also has a wide array of other interesting sights to offer.
How to get to Kampong Chhnang
Kampong Chhnang is situated along national road 5 between Battambang in the North (200 km) and Phnom Penh in the South (90km). Several busses leave from Phnom Penh every day for the 2h-3h journey. Going from Battambang to Kampong Chhnang you will have to buy a ticket to Phnom Penh and tell the driver to let you off at Kampong Chhnang.
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.
Things to see/do in Kampong Chhnang
Start your exploration of the city with a stroll along the riverside to Phsar Krom, the riverside market that is laid out on the muddy riverbank. The market stalls move up the promenade when the water rises in the rainy season. The wooden stilts houses, which are more like shacks on sometimes meters high stilts, remind us of how high the waters can actually rise. The waterfront is a seemingly disorganized frenzy of ferries, cargo and taxi boats. This is the real center of Kampong Chhnang.
It’s possible to do boat rides from here to see more wooden stilts houses. The boats can also takes you to the floating fishing villages on the Tonle Sap river inhabited by the Muslim Cham people. A ferry from the pier crosses the river to the far shore. From there treks can be made on the slopes of the Neang Kong Rey mountain and the Kampong Leang wetlands.
The town itself has a nice park in front of the Provincial Hall. This is where the locals come to hang out starting from afternoon. They usually come to exercise and to snack on street food. It a great opportunity to see local life up close. Beware of the monkey troop that lives here, they love to get there hands on your food!
Take your rented bicycle or motorbike and spend a day touring in the countryside surrounded by hills, sugar palm trees and endless rice fields. There’s a particular scenic 4 km route to the West that leads to the Andong Russei pottery village. If you feel up to it this is also where you can do a 1 hour hike up the 250 meter high Krang Dei Meas hill for some wonderful panoramic views.
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 Chhnang
Budget = from $10 to $30
Situated in a good location and the garden is really cozy. The rooms are clean and you can choose fans or aircon. They’ll arrange a free tuk-tuk transfer from the bus stop if you let them know you’re coming.
Chanthea Borint Hotel
Budget = from $10 to $30
Nice outside area to hang out on afternoons and evenings. The interior might be a bit tired, but the terraced rooms are comfortable enough. Location is excellent and wifi is included
Where to eat in Kampong Chhnang
If I’m honest I’d have to say that food options in Kampong Chhnang are a bit disappointing. Restaurants are plenty, but most of them offer pretty much the same uninteresting and poor quality food. Fortunately there are a few exceptions.
First of all there are the street food vendors at Phsar Krom (riverside), Phsar Leu (central market) and the park (from afternoon). The food is fresh, authentic and usually delicious for a small price. The food stalls are always good for a local breakfast or lunch experience. As a venue for dinner I find them less suitable, but this is personal I guess.
Sok San restaurant along route 5 near the bus station. Many travel bloggers write about this restaurant being their favorite pick. I found it just so so and nothing special. Maybe it’s slightly above local average, but that says more about the low quality of Kampong Chhnang restaurants. Prices are ok with $2.50 for most dishes.
Mekong restaurant is another and better option, just opposite the bus station. Simple Khmer, Chinese and Western food options for very reasonable prices. They don’t have an English menu, but the staff is very friendly and patient, so you should be ok.
Gold Elephant’s Fish restaurant Finally, just 200 meters South of the Garden Guesthouse in Phsar Dam Rong Street is this family restaurant. They serve authentic Khmer food for $2 per dish. Also no English menu here, but some of the staff speak some English or else you can finger point to dishes. When we were there we did some animal imitations and everything went just fine.