I hadn’t expected to go to Kampong Cham on my journey around Cambodia but I couldn’t get a direct bus from Banlung in Ratanakiri to Siem Reap. I had no choice but to change buses at Kampong Cham so after a 7 hour bus ride, I arrived.
Being the only foreigner, I was surrounded by moto drivers as I got off the bus. It was all too much for me so I just walked off. With no guidebook (yes, not very sensible) I walked around for a while before I reached the river. To my relief, this is where I found guesthouses.
As I was there to change buses, I was only expecting to stay one night. That was until I found out it was election day the next day, which meant no transport. With no other choice, I had to stay in Kampong Cham for an extra night. What on earth was I going to do to fill my time? I had no idea what there was in Kampong Cham because it was an unexpected stop and I didn’t have a guidebook.
One of the restaurants along the riverbank came to my rescue. There were guidebooks and local information so I discovered some things I could do for the day. As it turns out Kampong Cham, which is Cambodia’s third largest city located in the Kampong Cham province, has a few things to see and do. I hired a moto driver for part of the day to check some of them out and this is what I discovered:
Cheungkok, an ecotourism village, is an AMICA project. Villagers produce and sell handicrafts. It is possible to watch them in action but, as it was election day, everyone was chilling out. Who can blame them!
Phnom Proh and Phnom Srey
Phnom Proh and Phnom Srey, the Man and Woman Hills, which are close to each other. There are some interesting temples and statues. It is a popular place to visit but watch out for the monkeys. I developed a bit of phobia to them after one scratched me in India. There are ALOT of them!
Wat Nokor Bachey
I then visited Wat Nokor Bachey. This is an 11th Century temple located just outside the city. It’s worth taking a bit of time to wander around.
While waiting for the ferry to go to an island called Kaoh Pen, I popped into another temple complex. As you’ve guessed, there are a few temples in Kampong Cham!
If you’re there in the rainy season, be prepared for the ferry; I wasn’t! It’s basically two wooden boats side by side with a wooden board laid over them and a diesel engine. It is still the most unusual ferry I have ever seen. To my surprise, it was quickly loaded up with motorbikes and foot passengers, of which I was one. It doesn’t have a cover or sides so, as a passenger, you are exposed to the elements and there is a risk of falling into the river. On the return journey, I sat on the floor because it was very windy, which made it a rough crossing – better to be safe than sorry! I think it’s fair to say that it is very basic but it does the job.
Kaoh Pen Island
When I alighted the ‘ferry’, I started walking and came across a group of children who were skipping. On closer inspection, I realised the rope wasn’t a proper skipping rope but a string of stems from the plants around them. I sat with the local women who were watching the children. It was interesting watching the children who weren’t fazed when their ‘skipping rope’ broke. When it happened, one of them would just break off another stem, remove the leaves and tie it to the existing ‘rope’ so they could continue skipping. It just shows how resourceful children can be. It was great having the time to sit there and enjoy the moment.
After a while, I moved on but one of the locals told me it was too muddy to go any further and invited me to their house. I joined the family under their house, which was on stilts. They were very curious about me so those that could speak English asked me lots of questions. After a while, all the questions became overwhelming. It was getting late by that point and I didn’t want to miss my journey back across the Mekong so I thanked them and said goodbye before heading back to the ferry terminal.
Dine by the river
There are a few places along the riverfront where you can sit and relax. It’s a beautiful setting at night with the lights from Kizuna Bridge mirrored in the Mekong.
What did I think?
Although it was an enforced stop, I had a great time in Kampong Cham because I had the chance to meet some local people and spend time being there and not rushing from one place to the next. That’s part of the joy of independent travel; your journey might not go to plan but that’s OK because it gives you the opportunity to discover places you might never have otherwise visited and have interesting experiences. I’m so glad it was election day so I had the time to discover Kampong Cham. It would have been a shame to miss out on the experience.
You can check out the location on the map below:
Have your say
Have you been to Kampong Cham or are you thinking of going? Let us know.