Central Cambodia


Global Mark : 12.13

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Market Relax Fiesta 


4 3 3 2 3 2 4 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
4 100% 25% (1) 75% (3) 10 to 15 12.25

Description : A small town by the Mekong with a little colonial atmosphere and a few nearby attractions.

Comments : This place is certainly worth stopping in on your way to Kratie but it may not justify a full trip in itself if short of time.

What to do ? Wander around the market and the few streets / Spot charming colonial houses along the river in the north part of town / Put your room in perspective by visiting a R5000 room / See a modern ugly temple inside charming Wat Nokor Bayon, an 11th century Temple (4km toward Phnom Penh, R500 motorbike) / Get up Woman Hill for a panoramic view of the countryside (a further 5 km) / Watch monkeys at nearby Man Hill / In between, search for a destroyed house with some skulls inside (but keep to the road) / Watch the bridge being constructed / Visit a rubber trees plantation (10km on the other side of the river, crossing for R200) / Sip a drink by the Mekong / Get a black belt in Karaoke (more if affinity) / Buy medicine as the place look like the central Pharmacy of Cambodia / Relax & watch TV / Meet Chinese people (large settlement)

What you may not like ? The motorbike noise & pushy drivers / The horny boats in the morning / The big mosquitoes / Not being able to pay more for a better room / Not being able to rent a bicycle / The number of taxi-girls without any taxi / Not having much to do in town / The lack of good snacks / The very limited English of the locals / The locked rooms at Wat Nokor Bayon and the rather ugly Buddha inside, incl. a 5m reclining Buddha / 

How long ? One full day for the surroundings' attractions

Where to stay ?
This place may have the highest rate of rooms per western visitors in Cambodia but the rates are fairly identical : $3 for a room w. shower or $4-5 with satellite TV. Except when specified, all the below rooms have shower attached. The riverfront places may offer a nice view but they come also with very unpleasant alarm clocks from 6am onward : the boats' horn...

  • Just north-west of the bus station (straight on the left if leaving the market), Preah Bat Sihanouk has a couple of GH with rooms without shower for R5000. Those are places for adventurers only as you will have to fight your way up steep stairs and narrow dirty corridors to finish in a very basic room from which you should be able to ear the activities of your hourly & horny neighbors. If you stay there, try at least to get a room w. window.
  • Nava GH (012 420039), No 457 Preah Bat Sihanouk, just before the above / Small & basic rooms $4, better w. TV & noisy balcony $5
  • Monorom Karaoke & Hotel (042 941441), rue Kramounsor, exit the bus station, turn right, and right again at the International Resort / Nice rooms w. TV & HW $5, w. AC $10 / Poor English / Go there for the best rooms in that price category
  • Bopea GH, rue Pasteur, south-east of the market, between National 7 & river / Correct rooms w. shower $3 but no English 
  • Pounleu Rasmei II GH (012 824908), rue Preahbat Sihanouk (the riverfront street), opp. the speedboats / A bit grotty rooms w. TV $5, better w. AC & window $10 / Helpful owner speaking some English & French
  • Kim Sprung GH, just after the above / Small, basic & not so clean rooms w. window $3, better w. TV at $5 / English
  • Chumnor Tunle GH, just after the above / Small correct room $3, w. TV $4, w. window on river $5 / Limited English / Go there for the cheapest room w. TV and for possible bigger rooms at $3 (was full). 
  • Seng Ly Thmey GH (012 822283), continuing toward the bridge / Small yet correct rooms $3, w TV $4 / Free water bottle / English spoken
  • Seng Ly GH in the west, the adjacent Lucky GH & the further Hakly GH were rather bad quality-price ratio.
  • Tbong Pich GH (042 941472), route Nationale 7, 100m south of the round intersection / Nice bright room w. big window $5 but could be noisy.
  • Trachakchith GH (042 941632), the street west of Nationale 7, from the round intersection, turn left after the Foster sign / Big clean rooms w. high ceiling but no shower $3, w. shower $4 / TV in lobby / Limited English / Go there to try to get a discount (smaller rooms as well) and therefore the best deal in town

Where to eat ? The market lack good snacks but not food stalls. Some in the south section offer clean sitting areas. The first one coming from the east is highly recommended as the R500 portions are huge and tasty and the staff friendly. But then, I did not try the other...

Bike ? Officially, there aren't any place to rent a bicycle in town but the owner of Pounleu Rasmei II GH may be able to find you one if you are pitiful enough...

Backpacker's Tips : Helle-Mai and Jarek, Estonia & Poland (March 04)
 Great sunset
from the Kampong Cham new Japanese bridge. Great bridge, perfect colours, many locals on motorbikes, local photographers in action, real happy "local experience". 

Leaving Kompong Cham ?

To Kratie : Slow boat daily at 6:30 & 12, R10000, 5.5 hours, in front of the Mekong Hotel / Express boat at 7-7:30, 9 & 14, R20000, 3 to 4 hours / The express boat from Phnom Penh should also pass at 9:30

To Phnom Penh : The daily express boat from Kratie should pass at around 9:30 or 10am, cost R10000 and take around 2 hours. There is a small risk of it being full. / Most people however use the road. Ho Wah Genting has AC buses from the market for R5000 at 6:45, 7:45, 9:30, 12:30, 13:30 & 15:30. GST Express' buses leaves from Preah Monivong (west market) at 6:30, 7:30, 9:30, 12:30, 13:30 & 15:30. Recommended to book a seat in advance. Minibus cost K4000 but leave only when packed.

To Kompong Thong : shared taxi from a station further north for around R10000, 3 hours.

The trip to Kratie : SSSS / All around / R10000 / 5.5 hrs / Roof of a slow boat
Difficult to miss the boat in the morning, even for blind people, as the horn are audible from the other side of town. At 6am and for half an hour, we enjoyed a duo composed by a big very slow boat and our smaller one, more timid in its vacarn. 
I had headed straight to the roof and it proved to be an excellent idea : more room, more view, more air and less noise. But even there, earplugs were interesting accessories...
The speed was perfect : not boringly slow nor scarily fast, it allowed for a good view of the great Mekong's sceneries. Taking the right time to cruise along the banks of the river, we were logically caught up by the speed boat at 9am. I felt sorry for the packed passengers who had paid R25000 to see so little of the river. Indeed, this rocket boat seemed to navigate only in the middle...
We stopped along the way in a couple of villages, to get or let off passengers as well as to support the business of the snack sellers. There was no need to be shy about eating or drinking as the boat was equipped with rudimentary toilets.
Communication with the local passengers was naturally limited by linguistic differences but body languages worked wonders. One smiling passenger tried for example to demonstrate by pulling my leg's hair that I was born physiological different. I responded, by pulling his black hair, that his education was also different. A few others sent me smoke and cigarettes ashes' signals into the face but, not smoking myself, I could not really respond...
And so we went, for nearly 6 hours. It would be dishonest to say that I was not happy to arrive as it was getting really hot and I had a town to explore as well but, as a whole, it was an enjoyable relaxed experience that I would be happy to do again downstream a few days later.

 << Discover the roof of the boat

The trip back to Phnom Penh : SSS / R / R5000 / 2.5 hrs / AC Bus
This time, I decided to test the other company, GST Express, as it had the first bus of the day (6:30) and I was heading toward Kampot.
It left 10mn late and wasn't full but it is still a good idea to book in advance in order to guarantee a seat on the right : you will be able to spot the two hills again and will avoid most of the sun.
Entertainment on board was rather interesting. The first activity was to flatten as many mosquitoes as possible. The second challenge was to watch the video (a recording of a TV singing contest) without laughing at all. This was particularly difficult when some contestant started to dance...
The horn was slightly less disturbing than with the other company but earplugs were still an interesting option if near the driver. 
We arrived in Phnom Penh's Central Market at 8:50 as there was strangely no breaks along the way. Motorbike drivers jumped on us as usual but, for the first time, I was a potential customer : minibus to Kampot were indeed leaving at Dangkor Market, too far away for a walk. The 10mn ride cost R1000. 

See also the trip from Phnom Penh