Not far from Phnom Penh is Tonle Bati, which is a lake popular with locals who go there to enjoy a day out by the water and for a couple of twelfth century Angkorian temples in the area. This adventure can be achieved on a day trip from the capital by bike, Cambodian bus, or taxi.
Getting to Tonle Bati By Bus
To get there is straightforward. There are buses that depart for Takeo every hour from the Phnom Penh Sorya bus station, which is near Central Market. Get off at Tonlé Bati at the 35km road marker then take a motodup to the base of the temples. Getting back, well, be patient as you try to hail a passing bus. Or, with your own transport, take National Highway 2 from Phnom Penh and follow the signs to Phnom Chisor: the way is well sign-posted.
The Tonlé Bati countryside is a lively area that attracts Cambodians to fish, relax and, of course, visit the Khmer temples of Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau. Both temples were built under Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century during the same period that Siem Reap’s Bayon and Angkor Thom were constructed. The area has been occupied and temples present since the pre-Angkorian Funan period.
Ta Prohm is the more extensive and impressive of the two, displaying a number of very well-preserved carvings. Ta Prohm was built on the site of a 6th century Khmer shrine, and the main sanctuary consists of five chambers, each with a lingam inside, and there are trees that grow on and around the temple. The temple was modified and extended as late as the 16th century.
The temple is very well preserved and covered with beautiful bas-reliefs. It is one of the best preserved and most intricate temples between Siem Reap and the Vietnam border to the south.
Worshipping at Tonle Bati
Tonlé Bati is also a place of worship and, apart from the two ancient temples, also has a pagoda, Wat Tonlé Bati, which was built in 1576.
Yeay Peau is a single sandstone tower situated next to the pagoda and has a display of carvings. It is behind Wat Tonle Bati, about 100 meters from Ta Prohm temple. Constructed of sandstone in the twelfth century, it is seven metres square and faces east. Apart from the temple is a house on the bank of Tonle Bati, about 200 metres from the temple, that once was used by the royal family as a residence during holidays.
The small Yeay Peau temple has been integrated into the modern pagoda that now stands in it’s place. Look for the Buddhist lintel on the eastern door, and the beautiful pediment depicting the Hindu god Vishnu in the rear.
Yeay Peau temple has a legend attached, and is named after King Ta Prohm’s mother. Legend has it that Peau gave birth to a son, Prohm. When Prohm discovered his father was King Preah Ket Mealea, he set off to live with the king. After a few years, he returned to his mother but did not recognise her. The King was taken by her beauty, and asked her to become his wife. He refused to believe Peau’s protests that she was in fact his mother. To fend off his advances, she suggested a contest to avoid the impending marriage.
Cambodian Silk Weaving
After you have seen these temples, visit a silk weaving village where you can see how silk is produced. A bit further down the track, where the turn off to Phnom Chisor is found. There is the temple of Prasat Neang Khmao, the temple of the Black Virgin, which you can visit.
Apart from the temples; you can hang out by Tonlé Bati where there are bamboo picnic stands with mats and small floating wooden pavilions. The lake is a great place to escape the city for a day and go for a swim and relax. At weekends and holidays the lake is popular with locals. So it is best to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Rent a Cottage Near Tonle Bati
Renting a water cottage is $3 for the whole day but more on holidays. There is also food for sale. A pleasant place to go with your friends and family. Bring along small amounts of Riel and dollars and check the prices beforehand on everything. The touts here are notorious for dishing out outrageously high checks when you depart. And, of course, enjoy a swim in the lake.
You can order food from the sampan ladies floating by or a waiter will come to you. There are also pedal boats and boat rides. The floating pavilions are a relaxing way to spend an afternoon where you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and great food. However, beggars can be a problem; they just will not go away, and the salespeople tend to be very pushy.
Takeo and Phnom Chisor
If after a visit to Tonlé Bati you feel like visiting some other places, then head to Takeo town or Phnom Chisor, which are both just down the road. These out-of-the-way places are rarely visited by tourists, but both are surprising, you know, those little gems everybody mentions when talking about their overseas adventure: fascinating hill-top temple with unbelievable views, Ta Mok of Khmer Rouge infamy’s prison, Phnom Da and you can try the delicious freshwater prawns in Takeo town. Check it out.
Cycling in Cambodia is on the rise and it is a great way to learn about Cambodia and the Khmer people. If you cycle around Phnom Penh in the early morning, you will see many groups of cyclists hitting the road and enjoying the early day with friends. Cycling has advanced from a simple and cheap form of transport into a popular sport and there are plenty of cycling destinations you can try.
One such ride is along the Mekong to Kampong Cham. When cycling in Cambodia, it is best to head out early. You want to finish the ride before midday as the weather will start to get unpleasant for cycling. I hit the road about 5am and plan to finish where I want to go between 11am and midday.
The way to Kampong Cham
The ride to Kampong Cham is straight forward. You head up Monivong to the Chroy Changvar bridge, also known as the Japanese bridge, but the Chinese have built a bridge next to it which causes confusion at times. Once you cross over and cut across the Prohm Bayan Circle head to the Mekong. You need to cross the Mekong at some stage. There are a couple of ways to do this. There are two convenient ways to cross the river. At the circle, turn right down Keo Chenda St. This will take you to a ferry terminal. Another way is to cycle up highway 6 until you get to the Prek Tamak Bridge, cross over and on the other side, turn left and head north.
One thing you will notice about cycling in Cambodia is you draw attention. The road to Kampong Cham is dotted with villages. The road is a mixture of asphalt, concrete, crushed rock and sand, and lots of curious onlookers. And take plenty of water, as you start to perspire a lot and can get dehydrated, especially as the sun comes up.
The road is flat and easy to cycle. For drinking water, just drop into a local shop. One place I stopped at was a family affair. When I pulled up there were a lot of stares. I asked for some water and drank about two litres and stuffed my bag with bottles of water. A young man in the shop, a son I believe, looked at me and asked, “Phnom Penh.” I nodded then he asked, “Kampong Cham.” I nodded again, and he broke into laughter, as did some of his relatives. They thought I was mad to want to ride a bicycle in the heat all that way. Cycling in Cambodia can be hot
The road continues until a T-intersection. Turn left and here there is a ferry crossing in the neighbourhood. It takes a bit of searching to find. I tried to ask a bewildered farmer who was with his son. Waving and gesticulating what I thought would clearly mean ferry: he just smiled at me and made some comment to his son. Then I saw the ferry on the river. The ferry pulled into is a simple concrete ramp leading into the water. Again, locals stared.
Mixing it with the locals
The ferry does not leave until it is full. While I waited, a group of Cambodians started a cock fight. Some Cambodian men tried to find out how much my bike cost, which made me slightly apprehensive, and a young Cambodian girl leaned on my leg and stared at me with a stern look on her face. Some children were swimming in the Mekong when the ferry captain sound the departure horn. Everyone piled on board.
The ferry goes to Kang Meas on the other side of the river, and it is some twenty kilometres from Kampong Cham. However, the afternoon had crept in while I waited for the ferry, so it was a hot ride into town.
Back to Phnom Penh
Getting back to Phnom Penh, you can go back the way you came. There is also the inland route, which is like riding across a hot iron plate. The first stage is the 50kms or so to Skun. Cycling that section is in the early morning. Further up the road, you hit highway 6. Down this road is a Y-intersection: one road, highway 6, leads back to the Mekong and eventually past the Prek Tamak Bridge and onto Phnom Penh. The other road is highway 61 and takes you to the bridge near Oudong, the ancient capital, and over the Ton Le Sap. However, you can also throw you bike on a bus and return that way.
I tried the Oudong direction and was exhausted by the time I had crossed the bridge. There was still more than 30kms to go. I rode into a service station, much to the surprise of the family who owned it. I needed water and sat down on a Cambodian deckchair. A man, the owner, brought over a fan and let it cool me down. His daughter, who spoken quite good English, started the questions: “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, Where are you going?”, and of course, “It’s too hot to ride.”
Exhausted I fell asleep.
I woke up and the afternoon had moved on. I jumped on the bike and humped it to Phnom Penh, arriving just before dark.
What a ride and a lot of fun and interesting encounters with the locals. Try it and you will not regret it.
When you cycle in Cambodia, two bike shops for all your bike needs are
Giant Bicycle shop 169 Czech Republic Blvd (Across the road from Bak Touk High School) Phnom Penh +855 67 770 446 Huge range of Giant bicycles. You will find friendly English-speaking staff. They have a extensive range of parts and accessories.
Flying Bikes 2 No.131 BEO Street 51 Sangkat Psar Thmey 3 Phnom Penh +855 12 727 717 Lots of Cannondale bikes. Extensive range of parts and accessories. English-speaking staff. Great location.
There is a huge selection of new and second-hand bicycles and repair shops near the Oreussey market.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Som
Where is that you say? Well, Kampong Som is better known as Sihanoukville, or the new Macao. Any way you look at it, the town is worth a look. Although the Chinese are busily turning it into the casino capital of Southeast Asia, it still has places to escape to. And as a cycling destination, it is a great and challenging trip.
A cyclist can either go the shorter route along highway 4, or the longer route along highway 3. The former is about 230 kilometres, and the latter is about 250 kilometres; not a great difference. However, the longer route takes you by Kampot, and a stopover there is a fantastic break in one of Cambodia’s most delightful places.
Mad, the Bad and Crazy Drivers
Cycling along both these routes can be perilous at the best of times. Both routes are heavily used by all types of vehicles, especially crazy drivers of private taxis and mini buses. Surprisingly, truck drivers tend to be quite courteous and generally honk horns when bearing down on a cyclist. However, keep an eye out for all drivers on a death mission.
As with all long-distance cycling in Cambodia, it is best to head off early. If for no other reason, you avoid a lot of traffic in Phnom Penh – if that is you’re starting point – and the trucks full of workers delivering their human cargo to factories on the outskirts of the capital.
To start your journey, head out from Central Market and find Charles de Gaulle Boulevard. If you head to Monivong Road, you will see it. The road takes you by the Olympic Stadium. Actually, the road changes names before you leave town. It is Street 217 until the turn off for Veng Sreng Boulevard. Its other name is Monireth Boulevard. Eventually you get to Chaom Chau Circle, which is near the airport. Here, highways 3 and 4 split off. From here, turn left and go south to Kampot along highway 3. If you make good time, you will be way out of town before the traffic kicks in.
Cycling Perils in Cambodia
One of the perils of cycling on roads in Cambodia is overtaking … on the other side of the road. It is common to see a slow-moving rice tractor being overtaken by a faster mini-bus which is being overtaken by a speeding private taxi. This leaves little room on your side of road. The best decision for the cyclist is to hit the dirt on the side of the road and let this tangle of vehicles pass you by.
Early in the morning, there is a fleet of trucks hauling workers to factories. They usually come in the opposite direction to you. One rule about the traffic pecking order in Cambodia is that cyclists are way down the list, in fact, they are one above pedestrians. Expect to be cut off, run off the road and invisible to most other vehicles. These worker trucks will happily turn in front of you if the factory gate is in front of you. So long as you understand the rules, you will be fine. And the golden rule, start early to avoid the traffic snarl.
Kampot and Detours
The road is quite flat, and you can make good time. Some cyclists like to detour to Takeo, if for no other reason but to enjoy the freshwater shrimp available there. Along the road to Kampot there are lots of roadside restaurants and café joints. About halfway to Kampot there is a large service station that is a pitstop for mini buses coming up from Kampot and Sihanoukville. It is a great place for a break and watch the tourists taking the less enjoyable mode of travel.
Destination Kampot and Beyond
If you make good bike time, you can get into Kampot before midday. Cycle down to the river where there are plenty of places to stay. Near the Big Durian roundabout, there are a couple of good guesthouses to stay.
A lot a people like to stay in the town for a couple of days or more, and I do not blame them; it is a relaxing place. It is nice to get off the bike for a while. But for this journey, it is an over-nighter and forging ahead to Sihanoukville.
To cross the river, you have to take the new bridge. The old French colonial-era bridge needs much repair and has been closed off. However, pedestrians still use it and use it if you dare.
The Road to Kampong Som
The road from Kampot to Sihanoukville is a delight. It runs parallel to the sea, and in the morning, it is a fantastic to cycle along. As you head out of Kampot you pass Bokor Mountain, which you can visit on your next trip to Kampot. There is little traffic on the road, and its proximity to the sea makes it cooler than riding inland. However, this comes to an abrupt end at the Prey Nob intersection. The heavily trafficked highway 4 joins the tour.
Nonetheless, this road is good to ride on as it is generally well-made, and the traffic tend to leave you alone. About 20 kilometres outside of Sihanoukville is the airport. After the airport are the hills leading into town.
The Road to Sihanoukville
Renamed after the late King Sihanouk, the town is a bustling seaport and becoming exceedingly popular with Chinese tourists.
The road into town is a hill. The road is a gut-busting three-stage haul after the pleasant flat-terrain cycling of the last two days. Once you get to the top it is all downhill. Actually, there are two ways into Sihanoukville. If you go straight, you arrive into the busy downtown area. However, just after the top of the hill, you can turn left and take the back way into town.
The back road takes you to Otres beach. A great place to stop and jump into the sea to cool off. You can also visit the retired colonel who owns a restaurant on the corner of the road to the beach and the main beach road. Spends hours listening to him, his tales of army life and enjoy a few beers.
From here and the colonel, it is a short ride into Kampong Som: more on that town later.
When you start early Phnom Penh is quiet: not much traffic, the city is waking up, and an army of street sweepers come into play. Lots of Phnom Penhers like to exercise in the cool of early morning: joggers, walkers, and other cyclists.
By the time the sun rises you are out of town and on the open road, ready to take on whatever is thrown your way. The ride to Battambang will take you along the south-western side of the Ton Le Sap.
The Road to Kampong Chhnang
Getting out of Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is best achieved with a 5am start. Eventually, you hit National Highway 5, and this is the road you use to get to Battambang. The road is reasonably good for the most part (by Cambodian standards). However, on the outskirts of the capital there are some rough patches prone to flooding. If you are on a mountain bike, then you glide through these obstacles. We suggest you do not cycle or drive through flooded potholes for obvious reasons – they might be deeper than you think.
To begin with, riding up Monivong road takes you past the Chrouy Changva Bridge and along the Ton Le Sap River. This part of town has a Muslim flavour. You cycle past Mosques and Masjids with bearded men wearing kufis and thobes while many of the women wear hijabs and abayas. Another fascinating side of Cambodia.
After a while you pass the second Ton Le Sap bridge.
About 40kms out of town you see Oudong on your left. It is easy to spot as the remnants of the former centre of power are perched on one of the few mountains in the area. Oudong was the royal residence and Cambodia’s capital for more than 250 years until 1866. It is also known as the “City of Past Kings”. You could stop here and look around, but it is better to visit Oudong on a day trip from Phnom Penh.
After Oudong the ride takes you through some twists and turns before you arrive in Kampong Chhnang. The journey from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is light on traffic and the hazards it presents. There are plenty of places to take a break and top up on water. As usual the inquisitive locals will want to know what you are up to and smile with disbelief.
By now you are in one of the central provinces of Cambodia, and its capital is, what else, Kampong Chhnang. It is amazing how tidy the town is. Most Cambodian towns are dusty and littered but not this one. As you ride in there are several guesthouses to choose from but continue to the centre of town which is nearer the Ton Le Sap.
Kampong Chhnang is about 100 kilometres from Phnom Penh. It is next to the Ton Le Sap. The town’s name literally means Clay Pot Port.
Take a ride to the bustling dock on the Tonlé Sap River. This is the jumping-off point for boat rides to floating villages. Ferries leave here and ply the lake to the other side or further afield. Near the port are many Chinese shops. There is also a large Vietnamese community.
Outside of town you can visit the areas where the area’s distinctive pottery is crafted underneath stilted homes.
Kampong Chhnang Province
Kampong Chhnang Province centuries ago was a main trading route between China and India. The Kampong Chhnang museum has the archaeological record of its history.
There is a Khmer Rouge-era airbase in the area. This base was built, but not completed, to handle Chinese aircraft. During its construction there were many Chinese advisors overseeing the works.
The military airport was the product of forced labour under the Khmer Rouge. Construction on this military airbase began in 1977, but it was abandoned in 1979 when Vietnamese forces invaded and occupied Cambodia.
Though never used for any actual aviation, the land holds several abandoned roadways leading to old buildings, water tanks, and the huge airstrips themselves.
There is also a guard posted at the runway. Typically, visitors have to pay a “fee” to look around.
Pursat is located between the Tonle Sap and the northern end of the Cardamom Mountains. The Pursat River bisects the province, running from the Cardamoms in the west to the Tonle Sap in the east.
First impressions of Pursat is another dusty Khmer town. However, it is home to Wat Bakan, considered to be among the oldest active pagodas in Cambodia and revered as one of the most holy sites of Cambodian Buddhism. The province also hosts the annual River Run Race, an event for men and women, including those in wheelchairs, has five- and ten-kilometre races that follow the path of the Pursat River. Since its inaugural race in 2007, the event has grown to the second largest of its kind in Cambodia.
Cycling Pursat to Battambang
The Pursat to Battambang road is unusually quiet in the early morning. There is an odd line of streetlights lining the road as you leave town. They seem to go on forever. Once past them, there are rice fields on either side of you for the next 100 kilometres or so.
The ride to Battambang, or city of the lost stick, is quite uneventful. However, when you enter city you first encounter the Battambang statue. A short ride from this and you are in the city centre.
Battambang is the leading rice-producing province of the country. It was also part of Thailand for some time before the French ceded it in 1907, and French Colonial architecture is a notable aspect of the city and an excellent opportunity for picture taking.
The city is situated on the Sangkae River. This is a small river that winds its way through Battambang Province to the Ton Le Sap. Battambang has several Angkorian temples in the area, and it is definitely worth staying in the town for several days.
Cycling in Cambodia Destinations
If you have enjoyed this Cambodian cycling adventure, there are plenty of other Cambodian destinations to keep you busy and fit. Try Anlong Veng or Kampong Cham or Ratanakiri and never missing out on Angkor Wat in Krong Siem Reap.
Cambodia Is Safe For Travelers | How To Be Careful
This is not to say that there are obvious dangers to avoid on a trip. However, most agree that Cambodia is entirely safe to visit.
What you can do TODAY is book an online tour so that you can have a furst hand experience of Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Put your mind at peace.
Is Cambodia Safe For Travelers
The big question many have on their minds, is Cambodia safe for travelers. This is what we know.
Everyone we have welcomed to Cambodia has never been involved in anything remotely dangerous. Nor have we, or the people we know. Notwithstanding that, some trips are not to the standard of our health and safety homelands. They can be breathtaking and dangerous on an adrenalin level!
Is Cambodia Safe for Cyclists
Some would say in the cities, villages, and towns, it is probably safer than driving. However, it will come as no surprise that some of Cambodia’s roads are “in need of attention”. The obvious precautions should be fine:
Spares. Though every village will have someone to repair a bike. However, the village might not be so near.
Water. Take and drink your own water.
Medical kit. Attend to minor cuts and abrasions immediately.
Take a Khmer guide. The cost will be well worth it.
Join an organised tour. There are plenty – from value for money to more money than sense.
Is Cambodia Safe To Visit
In general, we would say that Cambodia is safe to visit, if you take simple precautions. Do not forget the obvious; however, we will remind you. Here are our top 10 suggestions:
Do not wear expensive jewelry unless you are at the Governor’s ball. Showing off that you are wealthy is a sure way to attract attention.
Do not flash the cash anywhere. Keep smaller denominations handy and in separate pockets. A pickpocket generally has time to pick one pocket. Even if you have a money belt, keep cash in different pockets.
Take the minimum amount of cash you need for your days spending. In addition, take a debit or credit card with a small balance. Say; $100.
Wear sunscreen. Cambodia can be disastrous on your skin. The last thing you need is to be in pain for several days on a short stay. Take special care of children and those with fair skin. And like this message – after sun in the evening should never be an afterthought.
Drink water and rehydrate, especially on tours. Ensure you take the water with you and avoid using bottles that have been opened. You can but rehydration salts in most pharmacies and shops. Add this into your water.
First aid kit. We supply all our clients with a kit that covers most small incidents. Remember that a graze or a cut can become infected. Better to be safe than sorry.
Make sure you know the area the hotel is in. Try to go for a walk and take 1st rights until your back. Gradually increase by taking the 2nd turnings until back at hotel. Do this in daylight.
“locate my car App”. Use this at the entrance to the hotel on the main road. You will be able to easily find the hotel. Practice at home before you go on your trip to Cambodia or anywhere.
Hotels cards in your trouser pockets, your bag, and your purse/wallet. You are highly unlikely to lose all 3! Hotels will have their number and their address in Khmer. Be mindful that not all drivers can read.
If you are going on a all day trip; inform your hotel or us where you are going and when you expect to return.
Is Cambodia safe to visit? – we passionately believe so.
Is Siem Reap Safe to Visit
All our team and clients have been very safe in Siem Reap. You can walk about freely in most places – if you have the energy. A stroll beside the river to and from either end of Siem Reap is safe.
The only trouble you might have is negotiating the streets around pub street and the old market. Everyone gets a bit “confused or lost”. Just keep walking and you will soon understand your location. 1st right, until you are back to where you started. Then 2nd right and repeat.
Keep an eye out for the largest tree in Siem Reap and make your way towards it. It is in hospital street at the children’s hospital. The tree can be seen from most places. Head for the tree and start all over again.
Is Siem Reap safe to visit – resounding YES
Is Phnom Penh Safe to Visit
Like any large city Phnom Penh has its darker places. Avoid them! We suggest that you use tuk tuks; or even rent a tuk tuk and driver for the day. It is very reasonable. When I first visited Phnom Penh, I hired a motorbike driver for 3 weeks. It was awesome. You should consider this – guaranteed to take your adventure to a new level.
Stick to the main commercial areas like Sisowath quay. The promenade along the river is great to absorb the atmosphere of Phnom Penh.
Is Cambodia Safe For Cyclists | Part 2
There are a few things you have to be aware of whilst cycling in Cambodia and some factors that are common sense. But as we all know common sense is not that common. The old maxim holds good; if it does not feel right – avoid.
The roads in Cambodia are a lot better than they were 10 or 20 years ago for the adventure cyclist. However, that is not saying a lot. The 2 major factors are potholes (which can be huge) and drivers of fancy cars. These drivers might not be totally aware of the rights of other road users. Another element to consider is medical attention. If you are out in the country an ambulance will not be on call.
At least the roads are not as busy as they are in the West. However, the driving can leave a lot to be desired.
Essential Safety Tips
This is what we believe to be essential to ensure that Cambodia is safe for cyclists. Some of these are standard in our meet and greet packages.
Are you fit enough to complete the journey? You are going to have to complete the journey. There might not be suitable alternative transport handy.
Is you bike fit enough for the journey? Give it a pedal around town for a day or so before going on any larger trip. Or take one of our supported group trips.
Have a hard copy map. If you cannot find one in a shop simply print of a google map. You can also print the directions. GPS is not always available.
Be part of a group. It is always safer to have someone to lend support when required.
Let someone know where you are going and when you will return. Hotels at either end of the trip.
Take a medical kit for you and your bike. If you or the bike have any problems, ensure you attend to them immediately. As in right now.
Take out or have proper accident insurance for any collisions. If you are in a collision with a local, it is invariably you who will have tom pay. It does not matter who caused the accident.
GPS locator. Additionally, you can download apps to locate your hotel. We suggest a parked car locator. It might help get you back to where you started.
Money. As in cash. Both USD and Riel. Keep to “stashes” in case one is lost. You are not going to find cash machines in rural Cambodia.
Do we believe that Cambodia is safe for cyclists? If you take the right precautions you will love it – safely.
CycleBodia Meet and Greet
CycleBodia offers a meet and greet service that does what many do not. Other than the safety aspect. We are a group who can offer unrivalled service. Here are our unique service offerings
Expats and Khmers who can resolve issues quickly. We all have authority to incur any expense to resolve anything that pops up.
All of our income remains in Cambodia. Every single riel, cent, penny or whatever.
Everyone of our team live in Cambodia. It is not a term being served for an international company.
We actively support local communities. Not simply the occasional donation.
How We Take Extra Care of Our Clients
Assuming you have followed our do’s and don’ts you are going to be safe in Cambodia, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and travelling throughout the country. However, we provide some extra security for all our clients. Especially for younger, fist timers and more mature guests.
Personal Alarm. Simple yet effective. However, it is not a shield with superpowers.
First Aid kit. Attend to cuts and grazes immediately. Buy before you go on your trip.
Preprogrammed emergency numbers in a mobile phone.
Pepper spray – on request. Be careful, the last thing is to be charged with an offence.
Cutting edge personal tracking devices. To include bags and rented transport. We go into details on your arrival in Cambodia.
Koh Rong Samloem island is off the grid. It has not been affected by the party culture of its big brother Koh Rong or the town of Sihanoukville, but it is a place to enjoy a laid-back atmosphere. This means floating around in the calm water, laying in a hammock, or quiet days of doing nothing. So, be prepared for quiet days and even quieter nights under a starry sky.
You can hear the full story here
Koh Rong Samloem is one of those places that you want to run out and tell the world about, but at the same time keep it a secret.
Also, be prepared for rustic living, as it is still very underdeveloped. This is an island where electricity runs on generators at certain times of the day and don’t even think about Wi-Fi.
On arrival, you’ll be surprised at the sheer lack of people. It takes time to transition to the quiet pace of island living.
It’s a tiny island and is situated eighteen kilometres due west of Sihanoukville and is south of Koh Rong. It has beaches on the west and east coasts. Marine life around Koh Rong Samloem is remarkably diverse, as such, there are many diving spots and is a popular choice for snorkelling and diving. There are a few diving shops on the island.
Non Divers To Koh Rong Samloem
For non-divers, the island does not have much to offer in terms of activities. You can walk across the island, through the jungle and explore the beaches.
The island is covered in dense forest and is generally flatter than some other islands, although there are some sizable hills. A great draw card is the amazing bio-luminescent plankton that makes the warm waters glow at night.
Its beaches are extraordinary. The wide sweep of sheltered Saracen Bay just might be the perfect beach with its white sand and dense jungle that hugs the shore. Further north is Sunset Beach and M’Pai Bay on the island’s northern tip which has a friendly fishing village. All have different levels of accommodation.
There is a well-functioning ferry network between Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Samloem. It is reachable in about fifty minutes by fast ferry or two hours using one of the slower converted fishing boats depending on the conditions.
Have you ever thought about island hopping Cambodian style? You may come to the country for the world-famous Angkor, but what is a surprising alternative is its less known offshore islands. The country has many, and quite a few offer a pleasant destination for a visitor to the Kingdom.
There are some 60 islands in Cambodia’s coastal waters. They include 23 in Koh Kong province, 2 in Kampot province, 22 in Sihanoukville and 13 in Kep city. Most islands are, apart from the two small groups of outer islands, close to the coast and readily accessible.
And there are extremes on the offer from idyllic white sandy beaches and aqua water to all night parties of drinking, music, and carousing. Some of the best snorkelling and diving in the region are also available. For the best visibility, corals, and fish, then the best diving and snorkelling are at the further out islands. Also, mountain biking and hiking are options.
And the appeal? the islands are off the well-worn tourist track and offer another side to why this country called Cambodia.
Let us dive in and take a peek at Cambodia’s offshore islands.
This island is a real gem. It’s Cambodia’s largest and towers over seas so crystal-clear you can make out the grains of sand in a few metres of water. On Koh Kong’s eastern side, half a dozen forested hills, the highest more than 400 metres above the sea, drop steeply to the coast. There are rugged rock formations that create waterfalls and rivers that drain the mountains then end in freshwater estuaries and countless lagoons, all flanked by scenic beaches. There, the small streams are lined with coconut palms and lush vegetation. At one beach, a narrow channel leads to a hidden lagoon. The island has seven beaches, all of them along the western coast.
The island is situated about 20 kilometres southwest of Koh Kong town, or a 2.5-hour boat trip on one of the local’s longtail boats. On the way, you travel past the floating village, the Bak Klang fishing village, and the mangroves of Paem Krasaop Sanctuary. As you head to the island you might spot a school of Irrawaddy dolphins.
The island is only accessible during the dry season. It’s forbidden to explore the island’s thickly forested interior at any time of year. However, when you visit, it is possible to have a 700-metre long beach all to yourself, and the snorkelling is lively with plenty of fish to be seen. The sand on the beach squeaks when you walk on it.
And rubbish. Unfortunately, the beaches are becoming increasingly polluted as irresponsible tour operators fail to dispose of waste properly.
The only settlements are small fishing villages. Alatang is on the southeast corner, which is a Venice-like fishing village with stilted houses and colourful fishing boats and faces the Botum Sakor National Park. There is also Phumi Koh Kong on the west coast and Phumi Thmei on the east coast.
A strong military presence on the island means access is tightly controlled. You must visit on a guided boat tour out of Koh Kong or Tatai. There were two hotels on the island, but one is now closed. However, camping is possible on a tour.
The fabled party island for backpackers travelling Southeast Asia is definitely a place not to kick back. If you’ re in search of partying until the sun comes up, buckets of beer and gallons of Mekong whisky then this is the place for you. Having said that, the island does have its quieter side.
The island is situated 26 kilometres west of Sihanoukville. Koh Rong is the biggest of the islands of Sihanoukville province, but despite its size it is only home to about 1,000 residents. Keep in mind that there is a $2 environment tax levied on all visitors.
It is well worth the 2.5-hour boat trip from Sihanoukville. There is now a good ferry service between the mainland and Koh Rong. Most of the bungalows are built on Sunrise Beach.
The first thing you notice when the ferry docks at Koh Rong’s pier is how undeveloped the island is. Koh Rong has undergone years of individually undertaken development. Unfortunately, during recent years rapid development has wiped away some of Koh Rong’s idyllic charm. Despite the very moderate infrastructure, visitor numbers have risen quickly, and Koh Rong has also been declared a stop on the “Banana Pancake Trail”.
Often described as an “island paradise”, it is known for its sandy coves and coral reefs, like those around Koh Rong pier. It is a predominantly hilly island with an interior that has a dense jungle terrain dotted with coconut palms and waterfalls. The hills provide water for creeks, lagoons and estuaries. In the south are Jewel Orchids; a small zoo home to butterflies, snakes, and birds; and lively Police Beach, a party spot. High Point Rope Park has suspension bridges, rope walks and zip lines.
The main tourist beach is Koh Tuich and with lots of hotels, bars and night clubs creates a vibrant party atmosphere. The quiet, less-busier beaches, such as Long Set Beach, Lonely Beach, and Palm Beach beckon more relaxing destinations.
And the beaches really are as picture perfect as everyone says.
But Long Beach is really something special. Long Beach is located across the island from Koh Tuich Village. You can take a boat there or walk through the lush jungle. When you emerge from the forest before you is a flawless strip of meandering white sand and turquoise water that stretch for seven kilometres.
Beware of sand flies which plague Koh Rong and seem to enjoy feasting on people. Koh Rong, particularly Koh Tuich Beach, is a must stop on any Southeast Asia itinerary.
After visiting Koh Kong, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem you could drop by some other islands. There are many in this region. One or two are better known while most are not. So, let’s continue island hopping down Cambodia’s coast and explore some of the Kingdom’s other offshore gems.
Koh S’dach (King Island)
This island is most definitely off the radar. Located in the Gulf of Thailand about 1.5 kilometres off the coast of Botum Sakor national park is Koh S’dach with its bustling fishing and farming community. And, getting there is half the adventure: from Koh Kong town you can take a two-hour minibus, car, or motorcycle ride and once at the coast you can reach the island by a 10-minute boat ride. Or, from Sihanoukville catch a boat direct.
It is not a big island, and once there you will find a little fishing village centred around the rickety wooden dock the ferry uses. The people are mostly Khmer and Vietnamese but there are also people of Chinese and Thai descent. The village is along the east side of the island.
If you want, you can wander around the ramshackle village made up of huts on stilts perched on the water or sit and watch the fishermen head out to sea in their longtail boats then later on return with their catch. You can also try their catch at local eateries.
Koh S’dach belongs to a small archipelago of 12 islands, all in relative proximity to each other and the mainland; mostly uninhabited. From Koh S’dach, you can explore the other islands, some of which have isolated beaches and good snorkelling and diving.
Koh S’dach’s coast is mainly rocky with only a few beaches, but Coconut Beach, Australia Beach and the beach at Belinda’s Resort will give you the island-paradise vibe. On the west of the island, there is also a guesthouse.
The island is rather flat and forested. Natural jungle has mostly been replaced by coconut trees and forest crops. Settlements are mainly in the north while the southern third is mostly unpopulated. Tiny Koh Khmauch lies about 250 metres to the west of Koh S’dach’s southern end.
And the island’s name: legend has it the island had a king who commanded an army. However, there was no fresh water, and the king searched for some. Eventually, he found a rock near the sea which he split open with his sword, releasing water that locals still use today at the village well.
The area is also changing markedly as a huge Chinese “resort city” development has taken root nearby on the mainland.
Blink and you will miss Koh Totang. It is midway between the Thai border and Sihanoukville, approximately 60 kilometres in either direction in the Koh Kong Archipelago. The island has a solo resort, Nomads Land. With five bungalows strung with hammocks, it sits on the shore and runs on a bundle of eco-friendly systems: solar power provides electricity, drinking water comes from stored rainwater, and bathrooms have composting toilets and bucket showers. There is telephone coverage. However, there are no roads, no restaurants, no banks, and no ATMs.
Few tourists have heard of it and even fewer come to visit it.
Koh Totang and Koh S’Dach are the only islands in the area that provide accommodation and on Koh Totang the accommodation is not cheap.
Coral reef and Snorkelling
Coral reef gardens surround Koh Totang, so the island has plenty of snorkelling and dive sites. The island has a sandy main beach, and the water itself is a beautiful turquoise. Or, take a stroll from the bungalows for about 20 minutes across the jungle until you reach Sunset Beach, a deserted stretch of sand that you can have all to yourself. While walking through the jungle you’ll encounter all kinds of wildlife: elusive Iguanas, grasshoppers, praying mantis, crabs, and an incredible variety of butterflies fly through the coastline meadow.
At night, the sea glows spectacularly due to the phosphorescent plankton.
To get to the island there is a Chinese-built four-lane road on the mainland from Andoung Teuk leading to Poi Yopon village, the village being the pick-up point for the 15-minute boat ride to Koh Totang.
Koh Bong Po-oun/Song Saa (Siblings/Lovers Islands)
Also known as Les Frères, these are two tiny islets situated amongst a lush cluster of mostly untouched islands in the Koh Rong Archipelago off Koh Rong’s northeast coast. It is also home to the exclusive Song Saa Resort.
The islets’ environment is pristine with untouched stretches of white sands surrounded by clear calm waters teeming with tropical fish.
The remote private island resort of Song Saa offers ultra-luxurious villas built into the jungle or perched on stilts over the sea.
Rooms start at about $1000, so this place is not for the feint hearted. And at that price you might think that the place is empty most of the time, wrong, it is extremely popular with the rich and famous and probably one or two dodgy types.
The best time to go to Koh Bong Po-oun/Song Saa is from January until March and December when the weather is warm. To get to the islands, there are boats from Sihanoukville.
Koh Kaong Kang/Thass (Mangrove Island, Ile des Paletuviers)
It is one of the inner islands and just off the coast from Sihanoukville, or 45 minutes by boat; perfect for day trips. Koh Kaong Kang is an uninhabited island and ideal for that castaway feeling.
This island has two beautiful beaches with one named after Elvis. There is the added attraction of shallow rocky reefs teeming with marine life, which has made it a popular place for snorkellers.
It is very flat, so freshwater is scarce, and one of the reasons why nobody lives there permanently.
Koh Koun (Child Island, Ile de Cone)
This is a small forested island in the Koh Rong archipelago sandwiched between Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. This uninhabited and undeveloped island is 22 kilometres from Sihanoukville or about 1½ to 2 hours by boat.
The pyramid-shaped island has two tiny beaches on the east side, the rest being rock that goes down to the sea. It is a popular dive and snorkelling spot, and all dive companies from Sihanoukville go there.
The north and west side of the island have more coral and rocky outcrops, the south and east have shallow corals with sandy areas. There is a proliferation of dazzling coral and marine life such as seahorses, octopus, pipefish, stone fish and scorpion fish.
If you are interested in going there, talk to someone at a local dive shop on the mainland, or you can organise a boat from Koh Rong. However, it would be better to travel to the island from Koh Rong Samloem, as it is just off the coast.
Koh Tuich (Small island)
Another tiny island off Koh Rong island’s Koh Tuich village. There is a little pagoda on it that has been there since around 2010. Shallow waters provide good snorkelling spots around the whole island.
Koh Puos (Snake Island or Morakot Island).
This island lies 800 metres off Sihanoukville’s Victory Beach. Russian developers have been converting it into a luxury holiday destination and exclusive residential area. Snake Island is linked to the mainland by a bridge and road. The bridge is currently not open to the public and has a padlocked steel gate at the entrance to the bridge. Maybe in the future you can visit this Russian stronghold.
Koh Dek Koul (Nail Island)
This is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand located about 7 kilometres off the coast of Sihanoukville’s Victory Beach. The Russian Mirax Luxury Resort corporation operates a hotel business on this predominantly rocky island. The 5-star resort is the only infrastructure.
This island is a preserve for the wealthy. If you want to visit, you must rent a room and the prices start at $350 a night.
The Russians have supported the Cambodian regime for years, so it’s no wonder that there are islands, such as Koh Russei, or markets, like Russian Market in Phnom Penh, named after Russia.
If you do visit, then there is not a lot to do apart from laze about. There are a few walkways, a pool, spa, and there are various water sports. The island is also covered in lush greenery.
After visiting Koh S’dach or Koh Totang, there are still some great islands you could drop by. One or two are well-known while most are not. So, let’s continue island hopping down Cambodia’s coast and explore the tail-end of this extraordinary island chain.
Koh Russei (Bamboo Island)
The island, also known as Koh Russey and Koh Ru, is one of a group of small islands in the Gulf of Thailand about 20 kilometres east of Sihanoukville. It is about 4.5 kilometres offshore and a 45-minute boat trip from Sihanoukville. It is also remarkably close to Koh Ta Kiev.
The ferry for Koh Russei departs from Sihanoukville’s Serendipity pier. On the island, there are no banks or ATMs, so take enough money with you.
The long gold beaches of Koh Ru are breathtaking. It was one of the first islands to capitalise on tourism. There are two beaches, and a small path through the middle of the island connects them the so you can walk between the two in ten minutes. In fact, you will find footpaths throughout the island, so you can explore the interior.
There is also warm, blue, crystal-clear water, which is perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and fishing.
The Koh Ru side has the best beach on the island with spectacular sunsets. This place is also much quieter than the other side of the island.
If you decide you would rather not leave at sundown, there are bungalows on both sides of the island. However, it is best to book in advance as accommodation fills quickly. Come nightfall the island is deserted.
For many years, the island served exclusively as a small outpost of the Cambodian Navy. However, rising tourist numbers in Sihanoukville brought increasing numbers of travellers to the island.
Tired of hearing about the good old days of southeast Asia’s island living, then put Koh Ta Kiev on your bucket list. Only a handful of budget resorts straddle the west and southwest shorelines, with opportunities to sleep in hammocks or under canvas, as well as dorm and basic hut options.
Another breathtaking island that’s yet to be destroyed by foreign investment, Koh Ta Kiev is just one hour away from Sihanoukville by boat and close to Ream National Park. Even though it’s the closest Cambodian island to the mainland it retains that castaway island feel. Make sure you stock up on cash before you leave the mainland if you want to spend the night here.
The fingerprints of big development are fast appearing here with a road sliced through the thick jungle interior to service a planned luxury resort on the north shore.
Koh Thmei (New Island)
Also known as Ile du Milieu, the island is immediately southeast of the Sihanoukville headland and inside Ream National Park. It is located about 300 metres off the coast of Cambodia and next to Phu Quoc.
The boat trip from Sihanoukville will take 45 minutes to Koh Kchhang fishing village on the mainland.
When you get there, you will find pristine beaches, clear waters, and breathtaking landscape. The waters that surround Koh Thmei are some of the clearest and pure that you will find anywhere, and the beaches are never crowded.
Only 200 people live on the island with most living in the small fishing village of Koh K’chhang.
The electricity on the island is generated by solar panels and generators. Electricity is only available from 6:30am to 11:00pm each day. Phone service is accessible on the island through Metfone and Smart, but there is no WiFi.
Pristine and Unspoilt
Due to the unspoiled, pristine state, dense, lush jungle, its remoteness and small population, Koh Thmei is considered one of the most ecologically esteemed Cambodian islands. The highest point on the island is roughly at its centre with two main peaks. The peaks are separated by the Prek Koh Krabei River. The peaks rise to more than 100 metres and drain in all directions, lending the island the shape of a gentle mountain. The island’s moderate elevation enables it to retain enough water for a few little rivers, creeks, and estuaries.
On the island, there are seaside bungalows with some other accommodation also available. You can camp out as well.
There is great scuba diving and snorkelling around the coral reefs. You can either do this right along the shore of Koh Thmei Island or, if you wish, you can go out on a tour boat or rent a boat for the day and go out further into the Gulf of Thailand. The beaches are piled with exotic seashells for those who do not want to go underwater. Athletic types can kayak and when the weather’s right, even surf.
Koh Thmei also offers the best surfing in Cambodia. There are incredible waves, and a large area of open water that allows for some of the best surfing you will experience.
The island offers a bus system that will take you anywhere you want to go. The roads are small, but the buses are few so be prepared for a short wait of 30-45 minutes.
You can also rent a bike for the day. There are trails and paths all over the island. Bikes allow you to get around to any location as quickly as your legs will get you there.
Nearly deserted tropical paradise. This is the best of the nearby islands, just one kilometre away, home to a small fishing community and with some sandy beaches.
Koh Tang and Koh Prins, which are only reachable by boat, a trip that can take as much as eight hours. These islands offer what are said to be the best diving opportunities in Cambodia, but visits must be chartered or arranged through a diving outfit. Large pelagic are seen regularly and visibility is double what you will find at the closer sites.
Overnight trips are necessary in order to reach Koh Tang.
Koh Seh (Horse Island)
It’s former French name is Ile a L’eau and is located inside Ream National Park. It lies 1.5 kilometre south of Koh Thmei and around 9 kilometre south of the mainland of Sihanoukville’s Ream commune. A 4.3 km (3 mi) wide sound separates it from Phu Quoc. Less than 400 meters south-west of Koh Seh lies the tiny islet of Koh Ky.
Koh Seh is uninhabited while most of its shores are fringed with mangroves. The island constitutes the south-easternmost part of Ream National Park.
At just 2.9 square miles, Koh Seh is one of the smallest islands off the coast of Cambodia but is it still an immensely popular resort island to go to. It is not surprising that so many would want to come to this beautiful land, as Cambodia is quickly becoming a hot bed for those looking to find the perfect tropical getaway. Cambodia not only has beautiful waters, island paradises, and an amazing climate that allows for nice warm temperatures year round, but the fact that this area is just new to tourism is making it a perfect place to go to because the islands to not have hundreds of years, or even decades of tourists traipsing over them ruining the beauty of the land. It is just beautiful here and a lot of it remains looking totally natural.
Pristine and Scuba
Right now, it is completely undeveloped, but there are plans to change that. There is a project that began late last year to add a large resort hotel here.
The primary reason that people come here is because they can enjoy the water like few other places on earth. The island has had a small number of tourists to it, so the island is quite pristine.
Besides swimming and laying on the beach, the most popular activity on Koh Seh is scuba diving. As the island is protected, the coral reefs around it are pristine, and you will see sea life that will astound you.
Koh Tres/Kteah (Pan Island)
Formerly known to the French as Ile Ronde, the island is off Otres beach and easy to reach by boat. There are plenty of boat owners in the area who are willing to offer their services. If you are game, then it is only a 15-minute Kayaking trip to Koh Tres. The island has a small beach, which is submerged at high tide. Only one Cambodian family, or government officials, live there. Thinking about a morning, or even a day trip, then try this island.
Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)
Just a 25-minute boat ride from the old colonial beach town of Kep is Koh Tonsay, the sight of it as your longtail boat approaches – all fringed with palm trees swaying in the breeze and speckled with hammocks on the shoreline – is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Cambodia. Picture-perfect with warm, gentle waters, Koh Tonsay is usually secluded.
Koh Poh (Coral Island)
This place has clean white sands, turquoise water, coral reefs and great snorkelling. The huge island that dominates the horizon is Phu Quoc, which is in Vietnamese waters, is called Koh Kut by locals from when it belonged to Cambodia.
And that is it. I hope you have enjoyed Cambodia Offshore Islands. They are extraordinary places to visit with their pristine beauty, lush jungles, white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Many of them are teeming with wildlife and offer a break from the mainstream. Unfortunately, the Cambodian government is quickly selling off permits to develop many of the islands. My advice if you want to visit these islands then go now before it is too late. All you have to do is look at what happened to the islands in Thailand to understand where Cambodia is heading.
Koh Rong Samloem
Where it all started. If you have seen and experienced some of Cambodia’s offshore islands. Share it with your friends and the world. We hope that you have enjoyed the information we have shared with you. Come back again.
The Cardamom Mountains, or Krâvanh Mountains, is a mountain range in the southwest of Cambodia and Eastern Thailand. The country’s Cardamom Mountains are extraordinary. A vast blanket of tropical rainforest which remains one of Southeast Asia’s most pristine expanses of wilderness.
Isolated by their remoteness and rugged terrain and forgotten during years of conflict in Cambodia. The Cardamoms have at their core a virtually undisturbed rainforest covering over 10,000 square kilometres. Which is more than 4.4 million hectares. The Cardamoms are mainland Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest and wilderness area. It is also claimed to be the most pristine wilderness area remaining in Southeast Asia.
It is inhabited by many endangered flora and fauna. The expansive woodland is also home to about 25,000 people, many of whom are ethnic minorities.
The highest peak of the Cardamom Mountains is Phnom Aural in the northeast at 1,813 metres. This is also Cambodia’s highest mountain
Cardamom Mountains Cambodia
The Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia are known to contain almost all of Cambodia’s known mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. This is partly due to the very high diversity of habitats, some of which occur nowhere else in Cambodia. Such as the large expanses of fire-regulated ferns, upper montane forest, high elevation marshes and blackwater rivers. The rivers are home to both Irrawaddy and humpback dolphins. The last populations the rare Siamese crocodiles and the nearly extinct northern river terrapin, or royal turtle remaining in Cambodia.
People have identified 30 large mammal species, 30 small mammal species, more than 450 birds, 64 reptiles, 30 amphibians. Plus many other plants and insects. To name just a few of the animals indigenous to this area would include elephants, tigers, clouded leopards and a variety of other mammals. The Malaysian sun bear and pleated gibbons all of which are high on the endangered species list and some represent the only significant population thought to exist anywhere.
Thanks to this vast array of rare animals and tropical flora, there has been a recent upgrade of roads, resulting in a more community-based tourism. Projects are cropping up, tourism is starting to trickle into this remote area.
Once an inaccessible part of Cambodia either through environmental conditions or by human activity, it is now more accessible. Recent improvements to access and the development of community-led projects has seen visiting the area vastly improved.
The area has a rugged landscape, which takes in mountains, marshes, plains and gushing rivers making it perfect for the vast collection of rare and endangered species that call it home.
Cardamon Wildlife Sancturies
There are two wildlife sanctuaries in the Cardamoms, both of which were decreed by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1993. Mt. Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary is in the western part of the range, and Mt. Aural Wildlife Sanctuary is in the east. These are “paper” parks only, as they exist only by law, with none of the active management necessary for a wildlife preserve.
Conservation and sustainability are often among the lowest priorities in Cambodia. All around the country, stories of illegal logging, mining, overfishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture are common: literally, a rapping and pillaging of the country by self-serving individuals making quick money at Cambodia’s expense. Essentially, the selling off of Cambodian’s heritage and future.
And Cambodia’s endangered flora and fauna in the Cardamoms may well be under threat from these illegal activities. There have been attempts in the recent past by developers to exploit resources in the area.
Being home to such a swathe of endangered animals, hunters commonly prowl the forest to find rare catches and lay snares. Their prizes are often sold on for hefty sums – often to be used in Chinese medicine.
While poaching remains a serious threat, recent years have seen it slow down, thanks to the tireless efforts of a series of organisations. Several initiatives have equipped former poachers with new skills and ways to make money so they can leave their past behind.
Volunteering In The Cardamom Mountains
If you want to get up close and personal with some of these incredible animals, then nature organisation Wildlife Alliance (WA) offers a special experience.
Working in the Cardamoms, WA rescues animals from poachers and traffickers, and rehabilitates them at Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre, outside Phnom Penh.
Activities include accompanying a ranger on his patrols of the forest, checking camera traps for animal sightings, kayaking and hiking.
Former poachers now act as guides to lead guests through the jungle and families can make their cash through guesthouses and other businesses tapping into visiting tourists.
Education has also dramatically helped. With many organisations visiting schools and villages to explain the importance of keeping the Cardamoms intact. Patrol stations have also been set up in areas that are rife with hunters, with rangers trained to patrol the areas.
For decades, the area’s precious woods, including rosewood, have been targeted, with vast expanses of the forest cleared.
Efforts are being made to stamp out the large-scale logging and other illegal operations by campaigners and environmental NGOs. But it continues to be a problem today.
Best Known Of Cambodia Mountains
Tourism is relatively new to the area. In 2008, WA launched a community-based ecotourism program in the village of Chi-Phat, marketed as the “gateway to the Cardamoms”. Visitors to Chi-Phat continue to grow and the community is regarded as a model for community-based ecotourism. Eco tourism has approximately 3,000 visitors a year.
The Cardamoms are the most populart of all cambodia’s mountains. Get there for the adventure of a life time – NOW. Cyclebodia would be an awesome way trekking in Cambodia.
If you do decide to visit, keep in mind there is no luxury, no wifi, no hot showers or hospitals. There is scarce generator-powered electricity and in many places, no phone reception. There are insects, malaria-riddled mosquitoes in some areas, a range of strange creepy crawlies, and other odd-looking creatures. But at the end of the day it is well worth a visit.
It might be a bit strange to have an article on Cambodian Bus Travel on a cycle Cambodia website. However, we aim to make your Cambodian Holiday as exciting as it can be. Lets get the adventure bug.
There is an art to Cambodian bus travel. Getting about Cambodia can be daunting and is best achieved by bus. Cambodian buses access nearly all destinations in the country; they’re cheap and regular. There are, of course, draw backs to add to the adventure. Cambodian buses aren’t truly regulated, so most buses bump and grind about the Cambodian countryside with little concern for anyone’s safety. Break downs happen too regularly, and theft is a problem on the buses. However, there are some bus companies considered better than others. And, at the end of the day, if you want to get somewhere then a bus will get you there.
Cambodian Bus Travel Needs Patience
Some people look at a map of Cambodia and think they can get from this town to this place in no time: think again. Bus travel is slow, bumpy and often bone-rattling. There is ongoing road construction and other delays, but, the truth is, the roads will get you there despite their problems. So, bring a cushion and be on your way.
It seems that buses will always stop along the way. This is usually a bus-company restaurant and hopefully the bus will stop at your destination; at some point. On longer trips, there seems to be an awful lot of these stops – remember you are on an a Cambodian adventure. A Khmer friend said: “The stops are a chance to use the conveniences, okay.” Most buses don’t have toilets.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham
Even on regular short trips, Cambodian buses stop with alarming frequency. One such trip is the three-hour Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham route, a 120-kilometre trip. The bus stops at Skun, which is only 50km from Kampong Cham. You’ll wait there for 30 to 40 minutes while people scoff food and use the toilet. I know, you’re thinking “We could get to our destination in that time”. You’re right, but this is Cambodian bus travel and people like to eat, as well as other things. Oh yeah, the Skun stop has vendors selling fried tarantulas, apparently Skun is famous for this delicacy. So, sit down and relax.
There are a slew of bus companies operating in Cambodia. The two best known and biggest are Capitol and Sorya bus services. Between these two companies you can get to most destinations in Cambodia and further afield. Sorya is the lesser of two evils. Having travelled with them many times, it is the preferred company. In Phnom Penh, the Sorya terminal is conveniently located next to the Central Market. From this location, buses get out on the road quickly. Sorya appears to have ticket desks easy to find in even the most remote places.
The other outfit, Capitol, is next to Orussey Market. This is a bustling place and when buses are coming and going they get stuck in the traffic and crowds. Security is a problem with Capitol Bus Company.
There are several other companies near the Olympic Stadium. One is famous for whisking you off to Vietnam while another is notorious for whisking you off the road! Be careful in your choice.
Next to the Night Market on Riverside, there are several bus companies. Of these, Giant Ibis is the best followed by Mekong Express. Lots of good reports about these companies and they have good and speedy services to Cambodian destinations and abroad.
Most Cambodian buses are the coach variety with no toilet, so take precautions. These services offer the best value for money and perhaps some discomfort.
There are also minibuses which are faster. They are faster because the driver thinks he is formula one driver and he is crash invulnerable. However, minibuses are good alternative if you want less travel time.
Phnom Penh to Bangkok Night Bus
There are night sleeper buses plying the route from Phnom Penh to Thailand via Poipet. The Cambodian night buses rarely stop, unless they break down. Ensure that you are prepared for overnight travel. Check out our essential items for things you might need.
Another popular night route is Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and vice versa.
Cambodian Bus Travel Etiquette
Many passengers unfamiliar with Cambodian bus travel become unspooled by what to do at the reservation’s desk: know your place inside the bus. An important part of travelling by bus is choosing the right seat. This is where booking a seat in advance comes in handy. You might be lucky and get a good seat on the day, but unlikely.
Plan for the time of day and how long you will travel. If your seat winds up in the blazing sunlight, then the journey could be like sitting in a microwave oven.
So, you need to know where the sun will be during your journey and plan your seat for the opposite side of the bus. The Cambodians are right onto this, so when you make a booking look at the reservation sheet behind the counter. The side that is quickly filling up with these passengers will be wily Cambodians, and that is the side of the bus you want to be on.
Ask the booking agent to allocate a seat in the shadow side of the bus – and smile!
Leg room in Cambodian buses
Another downside is that Cambodian buses and minibus seats are often foreigner-unfriendly. However, the seats at the very front have a bit more leg room: grab them if you can and on the non-sun side. The seats at the very back also have more leg room, but there is also a downside to the rear seats on buses – difficult to get off in an emergency. Maybe an extra dollar or 2 can help reserve the best seat for you. By the by, most hotels will be able to book for you; ask the hotel receptionist what they can arrange for you.
Babies throwing up, people snacking on Prahok, and garbage rolling around the aisle can bring some nasty experiences your way. Try not to get stuck in a rear seat because everything comes from the front to the rear: smells, empty bottles, and seats. Some busy bus routes plonk people on stools down the middle of the bus. A bit awkward if a hasty exit is required or even just getting on and off at stops for the conveniences. It is what it is.
Don’t arrive late, as your seat could be sold to another passenger who is chaffing at the bit to get home to relatives or escape them.
CamboTicket is the cheapest, most convenient way to book bus tickets online in Cambodia.
Bus Stations in Cambodia
It is often baffling why a bus will stop where it does. This can make it confusing when trying to find your bus stop, especially outside the bigger places. Usually, there will be sign with a bus company promo on it, and in some places, there will be a ticket desk next to the sign.
Other towns have sheds for bus stops and the only way to tell that it is a bus stop is if a bus is in it. Sometimes by just waiting by the side of a road you can catch a bus, especially on busier routes.
A bit of a nuisance is the Tuk-Tuk scrum at your destination. These eager fellows will swarm about you and shout “Where you go?” or simply “Tuk Tuk”. This can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first timers. If you must choose one, negotiate a price and go. Some hotels and guesthouses will organise a Tuk Tuk driver to meet you. This should be a courtesy Tuk Tuk but beware of these chaps as they sometimes try to charge you.
Ot Teh (ot-tei)/ No
Learning how to say no will come in very handy for turning down the heckling tuk tuk drivers visitors face. Smile and walk away.
Watch Your Wallet
We hear lots of stories about things going missing on a bus trip. Unfortunately, the perpetrators could be the people working for the bus company, and some companies are worse than others.
Baggage handlers rifle through bags and take anything of value. Bags on buses are gone through when it stops for a break. Sometimes, the bolder thieves will nick something while the bus is on the road. One person we spoke with had his camera stolen, and the camera bag replaced with bottles of water, so the weight appeared to be the same. Laptops, cameras, mobiles are all lifted from bags in the bus’s storage compartments. Be smart, always keep valuables on you. Travel with a friend to share the risk.
If something does get pinched, don’t expect much assistance from the bus company. Company employees will simply point to a disclaimer. The police aren’t interested either. If you want them to file a report then expect to pay a fee. No money, no report and most insurance companies will want a report translated into English, and the police won’t do this.
Final Word on Cambodian Bus Travel
After reading this article you may be scared off Cambodian buses for good. However, at the end of the day, bus travel is typically unproblematic and adventurous. You will meet locals and enjoy the true Cambodia. Booking tickets is straightforward. Most journeys will cost you between $5 and $10 to any destination in Cambodia, plus a charge for any large luggage you have, such as a motorcycle. Just remember to be patient, be safe, and enjoy the ride.
Do you have any Cambodian Bus Travel stories? We would love to share them with other travellers coming to visit Cambodia.
Cambodian Festivals are a joy to be a part of. Smiles, laughter, and food are essential components. JOIN IN. No matter the size of a village, they are bound to join in any festival without much persuasion.
One international list that Cambodia tops is the country with the most holidays. The Kingdom has 28 public holidays per year. Many of these public holidays are Buddhist occasions, but there are also celebrations for Independence from France, Human Rights Day or International Labour Day to name a few. Many of the latter often pass by without much ado. Yet, there are others where cities and towns either empty or fill up, the countryside comes alive with festivities and there are fireworks. It is also a good time to be in-country and experience the Cambodian way of life.
Cambodia has not one, NOT TWO but three New Years: Khmer New Year, Chinese New Year and International New Year. The traditional calendar in Cambodia is the Khmer calendar, which is a lunar one, and this means that the many holidays are subject to change every year.
Chaul Chhnam Thmey
Khmer New Year
Usually the Khmer New Year, or Chaul Chhnam Thmey starts on either April 14th, 15th or 16th. The Khmer New Year is, along with Ph’chum Benh and the Water Festival, one of the most important and popular holidays of the year. The holiday lasts for at least three days, which is the end of the harvest, so farmers can enjoy the bounty of their work, and it is also before the rainy season begins.
The event is festive with parties and visits to the pagoda. In the days and weeks leading up to the holiday, children play special holiday games in the streets.
Come New Year’s Eve offerings of food, drink and incense are set on tables bedecked with palm leaves in front of homes. The New Year happens at an hour set by the lunar calendar, which is not necessarily when the clock strikes midnight. New Year is also traditionally accompanied by throwing water and powder on friends and passers-by. Although this is frowned upon in Phnom Pehn, the area around Wat Phnom still sees a lot of aqua-vivre on New Year’s.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not an official holiday in Cambodia; however, it is widely celebrated because of Cambodians with Chinese descent and ethnic Vietnamese. Depending on the lunar calendar, the celebration is held sometime between January and February. During this time, the lucky and auspicious red and yellow colours are on display.
Walking around Phnom Penh or other towns and villages, you will see homes and businesses decorated with red banners with gold Chinese characters and tables full of offerings such as red pig, drinks, fruits, cigarettes and other treats. “Lion dancers” can be seen performing at homes and businesses, accepting a wad of cash after performing at an establishment. On the night of New Year’s Eve people crowd pagodas to make offerings. Wat Phnom is a busy place during this time.
International New Year
Party Time! the first and last celebration. Be thankful for what has been asn what is to come. Phnom Penh is the place to be for this joyous event.
Meak Bochea (Magha Puja Day)
This celebration falls on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month, and it commemorates a meeting between Buddha and some monks in which there were four significant events. It is where Buddha gave a speech laying out the principles of his teachings. Meak Bochea is an important Buddhist holiday though it is not as conspicuously celebrated as other holidays. As you can imagine, the pagodas are very busy and colourful on this day.
Visaka Bochea Day
This day, which falls on April 29th, is often referred to as ‘Buddha’s birthday’. The occasion is actually the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha; the complete life cycle. It is a time when Cambodians go to the pagoda, make offerings and perform kind, generous and charitable acts, and reverent behaviour to earn merit.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
This event, or the Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal, marks the beginning of the rainy season and the planting season. In a ceremony led by the King or other high official, highly adorned sacred cows plough a furrow and then are led to trays containing rice, corn, beans and other food. Predictions about the next crops are made based on the how much and in what order the cows eat the food. Traditionally, ceremonies were held next to the Royal Palace. However, the ceremony is now held at different locations.
Bonn Pchum Ben
One of the biggies, Pchum Ben closes the country down and is a great time to enjoy places such as Phnom Penh when it is quiet and traffic-free. There is also an air of spiritual reverence and holiday expectation throughout the country. One of the most important Khmer holidays of the year, it is a time to honour and care for ancestors, whose spirits are said to return to earth during this time. People travel far and wide to visit pagodas and make offerings of food, incense and money. All government offices and many businesses close for the holiday.
Water and Moon Cambodian Festivals
Bonn Om Touk, also known as the Water Festival and the Boat Race Festival, celebrates the reversing of the current in the Tonle Sap River and marks the beginning of the fishing season. Traditional long-boat races are held on the Tonle Sap River centred in front of the Royal Palace. Dozens of colourful boats compete for prizes and honours. Fireworks and a water-borne parade of festooned barges cap events in the early evening. People and vendors pack Riverside to watch the races and the whole area takes on a carnival atmosphere. The best views are from hotel balconies and the restaurants such as the FCC overlooking the river. Another great spot is the Phnom Penh Port.
The King’s Holidays
The monarchy is held in high regard by many Cambodians and, as such, there are many commemorative days celebrating the royal family.
From May 13th to 15th, Khmers celebrate the birthday of the King. This is followed by the birthday of former Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. Cambodians also remember the late King Norodom Sihanouk’s birthday on October 15th. And finally, on October 29, it is the anniversary of Coronation Day for the current King. At this time, the Palace is lit up at night and looks spectacular.
More Cambodian Festivals
There is also a slew of other holidays, which can be a raucous affair or pass by without much ado. A festival in Cambidoa is a joy to behold. Check your calendar before you arrice in Cambodia.
January 7th is Victory Day over Genocide Day, or liberation day. This day commemorates the fall of the Khmer Rouge on January and remembers those who were killed in the genocide and those who lost their lives in retaking the country. There are ceremonies held at Independence Monument.
There are also several Cambodian festivals that pass without much fanfare and they are International Women’s Day on March 8th, International Labour Day on March 1st, International Children’s Day on June 1st, Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia on October 23rd, Independence Day on November 9th. On this day, ceremonies are held at Independence Monument in the morning and fireworks by Riverside in the evening. Finally, there is Human Rights Day on December 10th.
Always remember that whenever travelling to Cambodia or within the Kingdom, take note of any public holidays; it will make your time in the country more enjoyable.
List Of Cambodian Festivals
International New Year
Victory Day over Genocide Day (Liberation Day)
Meak Bochea Day
Date depends on lunar cycle
International Women’s Day
Khmer New Year
Date depends on lunar cycle
Visaka Bochea Day
International Labour Day
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Birthday of the King (KING NORODOM SIHAMONI)
May 13th to 15th
Day of Remembrance
International Children’s Day
Former Queen’s Birthday (HER MAJESTY NORODOM MONINEATH SIHANOUK)
Bonn P’chum Ben
October 8th to 10th
King Sihanouk Commemoration Day
Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia
Coronation Day Anniversary (KING NORODOM SIHAMONI)
Banteay Chhmar: One of The Lessor Known Angkorian Temple
Once you make it to Siem Reap, then you are in the heart of Angkor. However, not so far from the ancient capital are many less visited Angkorian temples. There is Beng Mealea and Preah Srey, perhaps Phnom Koulen; one much over-looked place is Banteay Chhmar.
As all roads led to Rome, so did all roads lead to Angkor. Along one of these ancient roads is the temple complex of Banteay Chhmar, and from there it went to the outer reaches of empire via Phanum Rong, Phimai and what was to become the Khmer civilisation’s nemesis, and perhaps its descendants a more recent thorn, Sukhothai.
Banteay Chhmar is off the beaten track.
It is about mid-point between the towns of Samraong and Sisophon. Not only is it off the beaten track but to get there also means using a very beaten track and alternate modes of transport are needed. However, the government has promised a paved road; probably the next election. Getting to Sisophon is the easier option, as many buses ply National Highway 6 to the town. You can also access Sisophon from the Battambang direction as Sisophon is at the junction leading to the town of Poipet on the Cambodia-Thai border and going the other way the junction sends roads off to the northern and southern sides of Ton Le Sap.
No Buses or Mini-Buses
Sisophon to Banteay Chhmar is another story. No buses or mini-buses go there, so a traveller has to resort to a private taxi, bycle or a mototup. Be wary of local groups running taxi cartels. They overcharge and spout rules such as “Three passengers in the back and one passenger in front only as per Cambodian taxi law,” perhaps, but a regulation ignored by most taxi drivers. In addition, anyone who has used private taxis in Cambodia knows they are more stuffed than a Christmas turkey.
Taxis to Banteay Chhmar can be caught at the Phasa Chamkako Market (Phasa Thmei – New Market) on National Road 56 just north of town.
Or you could try what an elderly Dutch couple did while cycling around Cambodia. When sunset arrived, they would stop and set up camp in a road-side field. The Khmers didn’t seem to mind, and I suppose the reason for that is Cambodians seem to kip whenever and wherever they like.
It seems that the bumpier the road the faster and more erratic the taxi driver is. My driver roared along the pot-holed road with one passenger, an irate mother, yelling at him. A baby in her arms was not happy either. As the driver off loaded her at a dusty village, she continued her deluge of insults even as we drove off. As for the driver, he looked at me and smiled and said something in Khmer.
“At least it isn’t the rainy season,” I thought.
Temple Bridges And Moats
As the taxi rattles into Banteay Chhmar, you set sight on one of the entrances to the temple where a bridge crosses a moat. The bridge’s Naga-styled balustrades are stone statues of gigantic warriors. They are the Devas and Asuras who used the Naga King Vasuki to the churn the Ocean of Milk in the quest of amrita or elixir of immortality. The stern looks of exertion define their struggle. On the other side of the bridge the road passes under a massive sandstone gateway and disappears into the jungle. The taxi turns right and moves parallel to the moat and temple wall, which goes on forever; this place is huge. We pull up in front of a restaurant and in I go.
Inside was a large group of Cambodian men. I sat down and ordered a coffee. One man lent over and asked where I was from. He introduced everyone and told me that they were part of an Italian archaeological dig that was excavating a 2,500-year-old burial site just outside of town. I told him that I planned to visit the temple in the morning. He offered to give me a lift to the front entrance, which was a bit of walk from here.
PLaces To Stay
I stayed at a nearby homestay, and it was interesting. However, the town shuts down by 9pm and gets up at 4am with a blistering loud speaker outside my room blaring out music and, I assume, some kind of propaganda: Good Morning!
When I returned to the restaurant in the early morning, my new friend was waiting and after breakfast we headed off to the entrance. When we arrived, he said it was $5 to get in. He then said that he operated the entry point, apparently. He took my $5 then strung up a hammock and went to sleep.
The temple was mine, literally, there was no one inside.
It is a majestic place now, so it is hard to imagine what it was like in its heyday. There are all sorts of carvings on the buildings: Apsaras, buddhas and other deities. You can walk through corridors and galleries and explore the central temple site. There is a lot of sandstone piles about as time has taken its toll on the place.
King Jayavarman VII
Banteay Chhmar and its satellite temples are one the great temple complexes of Angkor. The temples was constructed by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. It is one of the largest temples from the era and is one of only two sites outside of Bayon Temple with the enigmatic Bayon-style face towers. Bayon is also one of Cambodia’s most important and least understood temples from the era. The temple is similar in style to Bayon and may have originally had over 50 towers within its main enclosure. There are some stunning bas-reliefs of Khmer domestic and military life from the Angkorian era.
The most important and spectacular bas-reliefs are the two remaining images of the Avalokitesvara on the west gallery.
Just outside the complex are four satellite temples, and three are worth visiting: Ta Prohm Temple is a short walk just south of the main temple. Ta Prohm has an excellent four-sided, Bayon-syle face tower.
Samnang Tasok Temple is about one kilometre west of the main temple and can be reached by walking or bicycle. This rather large satellite temple also bears Bayon-style face towers. Chinchem Trey Temple is a bit over one kilometre to the north of Banteay Chhmar Temple. Use a bicycle or motorbike to get there.
Near the main temple is Meborn Baray. This is a large reservoir constructed during the construction of Banteay Chhmar. The baray stretches nearly 1,000 metres by 1,500 metres. There is a temple on the island in the middle of the baray, which can be reached during the dry season: negotiate a ride with a local.
The most popular half-day trip is to Banteay Torp Temple. This temple is nine kilometres south of Banteay Chhmar and off Highway 56. The temple has three soaring and precarious looking towers on the verge of collapse. The nearby pagoda has some beautiful wall paintings. It is best reached by motorbike or taxi.
There is also a silk factory not far from town. Here, women produce amazing products. It is part of the town’s efforts to reinvigorate local industry.
Back in the 90s a bunch of Cambodian soldiers pillaged Banteay Chhmar. They made off with about 30 tons of sandstone including a 30-metre section of the temple’s wall that had a 32-armed Avalokitesvara carved on it. The loot was loaded onto six trucks and hauled off to Thailand. Thai border police nabbed one truck. The stolen artefacts were returned to Cambodia and the wall can be seen in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The other trucks, well, the cargo can be found in illegal collections around the globe.
When I returned to the restaurant, I bumped into an American volunteer who was working at the local school. He told me it was enjoyable, and you quickly become known by the locals who are friendly, appreciative and curious about this foreigner wanting to work in this remote place. Thinking of volunteering then try Banteay Chhmar.
There are many day trips by bicycle from Phnom Penh. One place northeast of the capital is Koh Dach; known as “Silk Island” by foreigners. It is a pair of islands in the Mekong River about five kilometres from the Japanese Friendship Bridge. So, leave the hustle and bustle of the capital for the day and take a ride into the countryside and explore Koh Dach where you can enjoy a peaceful rural retreat, the chance to pick up some beautiful silks and cottons, and take a swim in the Mekong.
The way to Koh Dach is straightforward: Cycle over the Japanese Friendship Bridge onto the Chroy Changvar Peninsula then follow National Highway six to the ferry crossing. In fact, there are a couple of points to cross by ferry to the islands, it depends on what you want to see first.
You can also cross to the other side of the Mekong if you want to explore that side of the river. However, for the main silk village use the first ferry crossing. On the way there, you can also cycle along the road running parallel to the highway as the traffic on the main road gets a bit hectic. It is also easier to spot the ferry crossing from this road. The ferry costs about 700 riels for a bicycle.
Road To Koh Dach
The road around the islands is about 30km, and passes through sleepy villages, pagodas, paddies and silk weavers. You can also cycle to the northern tip of the island where there is a beach complete with huts and vendors selling food and drink. And if Cambodian roads fill you with dread, have no fear, apart from a few motorcycles and cars the islands’ roads are quiet and safe.
Silk Island gets its name from the many silk weavers who live on the islands. You’ll meet them as soon as you arrive by ferry. They’ll want you to visit their house and see the weavers in action. They will also want you to buy a scarf or other silk item. If interested, then take a look and if you see something you like buy it. On the other hand, if you are not interested continue on your journey; there is no obligation to buy.
Cambodian Silk History
Cambodia has a lengthy silk-weaving history that stretches back to pre-Angkorian times. Early records of the silk industry date from the 13th century. Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan visited what was then the Khmer Empire and reported on silk production. Bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat and Bayon reveal Apsara costumes displaying geometrical patterns similar to the Indian Ikat style named Patola.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, the weaving style developed. As the skills had evolved, Cambodian Ikat, the dyeing technique to produce unique patterns, gained universal recognition.
Khmer Rouge Destruction
In the 1970s, The Khmer Rouge destroyed the mulberry tree population which are the exclusive food of silkworms. The regime also restricted the colour of clothing to the black pyjamas. This destroyed the silk industry. Even the Vietnamese occupation in the 1980s didn’t see a revival of the industry. A slow recovery started after the 1993 transitional government.
The two major silk-fabric styles are Ikat and uneven twill. This is also Pidan, used as tapestry during religious ceremonies, and one of the most refined fabrics is Hôl Lboeuk, Chorebap used for weddings, and Sarong and Krama using cotton.
While the craft is dwindling, efforts are being made to rekindle the craft. To this end, Koh Dach has become a centre for silk production and has many weaving communities.
Visitors to Koh Dach can learn more about the silk process from the silkworms and mulberry leaves, spinning and weaving, and dyeing techniques to seeing the final product at the Silk Centre and a visit to the silk weaving village.
Silk Weaving Village
The main silk weaving centre is only a one-kilometre cyclebodia ride from the ferry terminal and is home to beautifully constructed stilted houses under which weavers sit with their handmade wooden looms turning out silk fabrics. You actually hear the weavers before you see them as the shuffling of the weaving looms turning out simple but finely crafted silks scarves and skirts can be heard from a distance.
There is a small shop at the end of the row of houses where you can buy the silk scarves and skirts, as well as cotton scarves and kramas. If you feel like staying the night then the houses are available for homestays for just $5, though they are totally unfurnished. There are other options as over the years a few guesthouses have popped up. In fact, the island’s oasis of calm has people staying for more than just a few days.
To visit the picturesque silk weaving village, as you come out of the silk centre, turn right to go back towards the ferry, and then take the first left to follow the road on a long arc around which takes you past typical Cambodian wooden in which some have looms set up; you can step in to watch the process and buy their wares. Prices will vary and be prepared to bargain.
Koh Dach Pagoda
Just past the village is the bright yellow Koh Dach Pagoda. Here, the locals keep some of the island’s Water Festival boats. You can continue along in a circular route to bring you back to the bridge. Continue around the big island and drop by the beach at the northern end. Once you’ve had a dip and relaxed you can cycle back to the ferry then onto busy Phnom Penh.
Volunteering does not get much better than when it is hands on with nature. Become an eco-volunteer and really make a difference. Help a local community by working on projects that protect endangered wildlife or focus on repairing and managing an overexploited environment. Help locals put skills and money where they are needed and not to those who don’t need them.
Eco-volunteers are involved in a variety of work from protecting wildlife to developing the local habitat to helping farmers and villagers improve food production and quality of life while protecting the environment. Creating awareness about the benefits of local conservation work and wildlife protection is always an objective.
While many of these projects are at a community level and involve work that develops that environment, there are other projects that develop sustainable ecotourism. Successful conservation work, wildlife protection and community-based ecotourism have proven they work well together.
Helping Locals Help Themselves
Work on projects that are finding ways for local people to better protect and manage the environment while providing opportunities for tourists to visit and experience unique places. Train local people to take care of tourists, teach local residents English, and how to be a good guide. Help them understand what tourists are looking for.
Volunteers can not only improve tourist services and activities and offer trekking advice but also help build trails and show survival tricks in the jungle, like extracting water from a vine and how to spot wildlife.
Teaching English is important. Village guides and host families who speak some English are more successful. A guided tour in English adds more value to the trek.
By helping locals, you will make them less dependent on exploitative businesses such as tour operators and big business who reap the profits of tourism to these places but little or no money goes to the people let alone for developing the community and protecting the environment. Some tour operators who claim to offer genuine eco-tourism only provide fake villages with hired locals, like a zoo. In fact, to develop fake projects these operators destroy the environment by clearing the jungle to build roads and make fake villages and other projects.
Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia
You could volunteer to work with elephants, then an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia could be for you. For this type of project, you observe elephants interacting and foraging in the forest. Take regular walks with the elephants through the jungle and help reforest the area by collecting seeds and planting saplings.
You also take care of injured and orphaned animals until their release back into the wild. The work can also involve taking care of domestic animals at a sanctuary. At most of these types of projects, there is also the need to teach English to locals and develop educational programs. In the daily operations of this type of program, English is very important.
Eco-volunteers work to help local villagers and farmers earn extra income while they develop their community and protect the environment. Community based eco-tourism is the best way to create local awareness about the benefits of conservation work and wildlife protection.
The goal of most projects is to help villagers by providing them with education and resources which enable them to develop their communities themselves, in a way that is sustainable. Volunteers generally help with the organisation, monitoring and evaluation of projects. Particularly if volunteers have experience in development work or in any of the project areas. They may be able to implement new ideas and have a greater involvement in project planning. However, the Khmer people do most of the work within the communities, as a key objective of all projects is to empower the village residents.
Cambodia Eco Tourism Project Types
Projects typically involve well digging, which provide resources to villagers to allow them to dig and maintain water-wells in their communities. There is also water distribution for irrigation that involves pump building and canal construction. Providing biosand filters so that drinking water is safe is another activity. Improving health care through health education and helping to provide nutritious food, a healthy environment and care for the sick is a major focus. Other projects include microloans to help families set up small business and generate income; animal pass-on projects, which involve passing on breeding animals among villages for food and income generation; and gardening and fish-pond projects so that villagers can provide their own sources of food. Finally, there is bee and honey production, which generates money through the sale of honey. Fair trade projects or selling clothing and crafts to local and overseas markets is also important.
Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuaries
An eco-volunteer could also work at one of the many wildlife sanctuaries where you work with locals to manage many endangered species including tigers, elephants, banteng, Eld’s deer, sarus crane, crocodile, and several turtle species. Many of these areas were once densely forested and rich in biodiversity. However, these areas have been significantly impacted by illegal logging and poaching. Projects are focused on protecting and restoring tens of thousands of hectares of jungle.
Volunteers work alongside locals, helping to reforest areas by keeping records of identified species, collecting seeds, and planting saplings. You also have the chance to care for injured and orphaned animals who have been rescued so that they can be rehabilitated and returned to their jungle home. Lending a hand with the sustainable farming of vegetables and fruit is also available. The ongoing support of volunteers is vital to ensuring a project’s continued success in protecting and regenerating important natural habitat so that it can sustain a diverse range of wildlife for generations to come.
Become an eco-volunteer and make a difference.
Want to try your hand at some environmentally friendly projects then take a look at these projects.