Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is the seventh largest city in Cambodia and the capital of the province of the same name.

Understand

This relatively small city has yet to be heavily visited like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. It carries with it plenty of colonial French charm, and has a genuine "wild west" feel to it. Most travellers who do find themselves in Kampong Cham are in transit to elsewhere in the country, but those who choose to spend at least a couple of days in the provincial capital will enjoy the laid back atmosphere and quaint charm.

Most people in Kampong Cham are ethnic Khmer, but there is a sizeable Cham minority in the province's towns, including a disproportionately high number of Muslims and Christians.

Because there is little foreign investment and no large scale tourism, this city is very poor, with few modern buildings, though not lacking in French architecture from the colonial period. However, with the completion of a modern two-lane bridge across the Mekong, the city has begun a slow recovery from decades of decline. The people of Kampong Cham are, like all Cambodians, very friendly and open to engaging with tourists.

If recent projects seem to be improving the state of things here (relative to other Cambodian cities), it may be because both Prime Minister Hun Sen and former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara are originally from this province and the current governor is the PM's brother.

Get in

Kampong Cham has road links to major Cambodian cities, including Phnom Penh. The highway between Kampong Cham city and the capital Phnom Penh runs along the Mekong, and buses frequent this route daily, so you should have no trouble getting between the two cities.

By car

Hwy 7 from Kampong Cham to Skun is in excellent condition and one of the best in Cambodia. Shortly after Skun however, the quality declines dramatically with frequent potholes and unpaved stretches. There is an alternative route to Phnom Penh east of the Mekong.

When travelling to/from Siem Reap, it may be worth going via Skun due to the better quality of the road instead of the Rte 71 short-cut.

By bus

To get from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, there are several bus options. The standard rules for buses apply here. Try taking an early bus, to avoid arriving close to or after dusk, when your choice of accommodation will be limited. The telephone numbers listed here are for locations in Phnom Penh.

When departing from Kampong Cham, bus stations tend to be found near the roundabout on the main road in the city centre. One is southwest of the roundabout, on the right side. You buy your ticket at the counter.

Most minibuses and other non-bus transport leaves from or stops for a short time at the petrol station at the roadside of Hwy 7 close to the Mekong bridge roundabout.

Taxis are a less popular and more expensive method, costing about USD10-15 one way. These do, however, offer more comfort and speed than a bus usually does, but make sure the vehicle's air conditioning is functional before getting in.

Trucks are also an option, but with much less comfort than buses or taxis, and are not advised.

By boat

Beware that boat services may have been discontinued completely.

As for all of Cambodia, there used to be also two types of boats in Kampong Cham: the slow boats and the fast boats. The slow boats are obviously slower than the other option, but are safer.

Get around

The city centre is easily walkable and is found north of the highway. A couple of hotels and Western-style restaurants cluster around the river front and couple of streets further east, is the central market area.

Most of the sites worth seeing are however outside the city itself, so you're going to need some form of motorized transport.

By motorcycle

An increasing number of visitors to Cambodia are buying their own motorcycles and then reselling them when they leave the country (or return home), and this is a great way to see Kampong Cham. Smaller 110 cc bikes are the ones seen driven by practically every Khmer in the city, while the larger 250 cc bikes are more often driven by foreigners or expats. The smaller bikes are cheaper, but less suited for long distance travel and are more susceptible to theft. It's your call, though most travellers end up buying 250 ccs. If you choose to buy a 250 cc, expect to pay anywhere from USD500-2,500, depending on the age of the bike. Note that Vietnam currently does not admit anything larger than 150 cc, but this will likely change in the near future. There are very few places to rent a motorcycle in Kampong Cham. A few are available from the Mekong Hotel (USD6) or Lazy Mekong Daze (USD5). Both are on the river front to the north of the bridge.

By taxi

There are plenty of motodops offering their service for travel not only within the city, but to outlying areas of the province. For a scant USD4, you can be shown the temples at Nokor Wat, the endless jackfruit fields, and other attractions near the city. Be warned though, if your driver takes you to stalls or shops to purchase souvenirs, he will be receiving commission off of whatever you choose to buy. As usual, bargain with your driver. It's okay to set a price beforehand, but sometimes best to agree on the price afterwards.

There are tuk-tuks in Kampong Cham, but as the city is not nearly as heavily visited as others in Cambodia, such as Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, there won't be many of these, but if you arrive by bus there will be plenty waiting at the bus station.

By bicycle

Some of the larger hotels and guesthouses (such as the Mekong Hotel and Mekong Sunrise) have bicycles for hire. They're a good way to get to Wat Nokor and Phnom Pros/Phnom Srey as well as around the city, or for making a day tour to Wat Hanchey. Be sure to always lock your bike to a tree or leave it with someone trustworthy.

See

Kampong Cham isn't chock full of tourist attractions, but its colonial charm and atmosphere will endear itself to you. There are a few temples to see in the area, and one of the country's mass graves.

Traditional dances in Nokor Wat

Do

Kampong Cham is a sleepy provincial capital, and as such there isn't a whole lot to actually do, and those seeking plenty of activities to keep themselves occupied will become bored within a day.

The Bamboo Bridge


Buy

Kampong Cham features a few markets, but the best is the one the locals use. It features all sorts of food, ranging from standard mangoes and other fruits, to pig heads and live fish. As with all other food places in the area, use common sense when buying here, as there are health hazards to the unsuspecting Westerner. It's just down the road from the Mekong Crossing restaurant, but stalls only open during daylight hours. Some food and juice stalls stay open until late, around 21:00.

Eat

The Western-style restaurants cluster at the river front. Budget travellers can get a variety of local foods in the food market just south of Psar Thom. At the north end of Psar Thom are a couple of local restaurants. Beware of hygienic conditions though. Self-caterers find fresh fruit and vegetables at the market, other ingredients can often be found in the surrounding shops. Flour is hard to get.

Drink

All the Western restaurants on the river front also serve beer and often cocktails, have happy hours, and often offer discounts.

Sleep

There are hotels and guesthouses offering decent accommodation options. Although a large number of guesthouses can be found around town, the decent places are concentrated at or close to the riverside. For USD5 you can get a fan room of a comfortable size with TV and private bathroom with water. There are many more guesthouses than mentioned here, especially near the market. They are sometimes, but by no means always, cheaper than a fan room in a hotel but offer tiny and dull rooms in some cases more often rented out by the hour than by night. They are rather a last resort if everything else is fully booked or if you are really on the cheap of the cheap.

Go next

Since many travellers who pass through here are on their way north to Kratie and other areas, the best thing to do is to simply hop on a bus to wherever it is you are going. If you have your own transportation, just get out and drive. Hwy 7 is in good condition all the way up to the border with Laos.

Two Wheels

Border Crossing to Vietnam

The border from Trapeang Phlong in Cambodia to Xa Mat in Vietnam is open to international tourists. On the Cambodian side you have to organise your own transport either all the way from Kampong Cham or take first a Kratie bound bus to Krek and then a motorbike for the remaining 14 km to the border. On the Vietnamese side there are regular public buses running to Tay Ninh a few hundred metres from the border. Visas are not available at the border and the formalities may take a while. People in Kampong Cham may tell you that this is not an international border.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.