Last Update: January 2023
Kampong Chhnang is a small provincial town in Central Cambodia. It’s also the capital of the province with the same name. Tonle Sap (Great Lake), just a few clicks to the West, practically guarantees the area of fertile soil. Therefor, it should come as no surprise that, next to fishing, rice production is the main industry. Unfortunately, the proximity of Tonle Sap also makes the area prone to floods.
Most interesting about Kampong Chhnang are the floating villages, but that’s not the only reason why you should visit here.
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On your way from Battambang to Phnom Penh or vice versa, why not make a stop at Kampong Chhnang? It provides an excellent opportunity to see some of the . I promise you a much better and way more authentic experience than the Chong Khneas floating village near Siem Reap.
Life in Kampong Chhnang tends to ripple along at a tranquil pace. Although metropolitan Phnom Penh is less than 80 km to the South, the rural countryside presents itself as a completely different world. A mostly fluvial landscape, alternated with green rice fields and small settlements offering a peek into everyday village life.
Why (not) to visit Kampong Chhnang
Reasons to visit Kampong Chang
- Floating villages, not (yet) touched by commerce, meaning raw and authentic.
- Surely come here for the laid-back atmosphere. I know it sounds cliche to say that time seems to have stood still here, but it’s true anyway.
- The landscape around Kampong Chhnang is picture perfect. Breathtaking views over the lake and forested hills with temples on top. What to think of endless green rice fields dotted with tall and slender, waving sugar palms.
Reasons not to visit Kampong Chhnang
- If your Cambodia itinerary is tightly packed, then maybe skip Kampong Chhnang. It’s a detour from the usual routes and will take out at least 2 days of your trip. Although not as authentic, you can always go to see floating villages at Siem Reap, which will cost you less extra time.
- As said before, the rain season often brings floods to this area, which is not a good time to be in Kampong Chhnang. Even if you manage to stay safe, flooded roads could get you stuck there for a long time. So, best to stay away from May throughout October.
- Kampong Chhnang is not a tourist destination. Hence, there is no real tourist infrastructure in place. If you expect to find the usual amenities normally found along the Banana Pancake Trail, you’ll be disappointed.
Explore the town and stroll along the riverside to Phsar Krom at the harbor. This small, but lively riverside market that is laid out on the muddy riverbank. The market moves up the promenade when the water rises in the rainy season. The waterfront is a seemingly disorganized frenzy of ferries, cargo and taxi boats.
Half day activity
To make due with the floods that occur every rain season, many villagers along the banks of Tonle Sap built their houses on wooden stilts. Actually, they are more like shacks on sometimes meters high stilts that remind us of how high the waters can actually rise. The actual “floating villages” are a bit further out on the river towards the lake.
Charter a boat at the Kampong Chhnang harbor to see more of the wooden stilted houses and the floating village on the Tonle Sap river. There’s one larger boat for tourists, but the smaller boats can get closer and navigate in between the raft houses.
The floating village is inhabited by ethnic Cham people that originate from Vietnam. Cambodia does not officially recognize them as residents and as a result they can not own land. Their solution is to build their houses on a floating rafts.
Whole day activity
Also from the harbor, a ferry crosses the river to the far shore at Kampong Laem. From there treks can be made on the slopes of the Phnom Neang Kang Rey mountain and the Kampong Leang wetlands.
Half to whole day activity
I am always up for touring rural Cambodia by motorbike or even bicycle. The motorbike in this case being a 125cc scooter. There’s just nothing better than spending a day touring in the countryside surrounded by beautiful rural landscape. There’s a particular scenic 4 km route to the West that leads to the Andong Russey pottery village (not a tourist trap). 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 wonderful panoramic views.
If you’d rather stay in town, think about visiting the central market. As a warning I should mention that this is a not a tourist market. You will see stuff that you would never have thought to be hygienically possible (in fact they are not) and the smells can be quite overwhelming. Still, it’s the real thing and we love it.
You can recover from the market in the city park just 100m down the road. The locals come here to hang out in the afternoon and evenings to do some exercising and 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!
No, no, no, don’t skip this part, even if you think that travel insurance is boring. Health care in Cambodia is hopelessly underdeveloped. Any serious ailments or injuries will almost certainly require costly medical transport to Bangkok or Singapore. Payable upfront if you lack proper insurance.
Always make sure to travel with the right travel insurance. One that also covers your medical care abroad and includes evacuations and repatriation.
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Unless you have business here, Kampong Chhnang isn’t the place for long stays. In a way that’s a good thing, since the quality of accommodations isn’t exactly stellar. Fortunately there are a few exceptions.
Borey Phkay Proeuk Hotel
Dirt Cheap = from $5 to $10
Budget = from $10 to $30
Reasonable 2 star hotel near the National Road and within walking distance of the bus station and the town center. Rooms are comfortable and clean, but there can be some roadside noise. The small cafe across the street serves a decent coffee and pastry breakfast.
Garden Guest House
Dirt Cheap = from $5 to $10
Budget = from $10 to $30
What’s in a name! Indeed, the tropical garden is lovely, like an oasis in the city. Rooms are basic, but sufficient for the price. Central market is just a 10min stroll away and for further outings they have their own tuk-tuk service. Above all, the owners are kind and friendly and do their best to make you feel at home.
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. The same as with Kampong Chhnang accommodations, there are always exceptions.
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.
First of all there are the street food vendors at Phsar Leu (central market) and the city park (from afternoon). The food is normally fresh, authentic and usually delicious for a small price. Kampong Chhnang 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.
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.
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 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). Make your choice and book instantly.
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