“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Truer words have never been spoken. There is perhaps no greater service than spending our lives on alleviating the suffering of the most unfortunate among us. Volunteering, especially abroad, is more than just a typical travel experience. It is one of the most transformative experiences in life. It changes people. It leaves the volunteers with an everlasting impression and a profound sense of perspective about life. For some volunteers, the changes are easily definable, while for others, their experiences lay the foundation for a journey that can easily last with them for life.
Volunteering in a country like Cambodia exposes you to the awesome transformative power and resilience of Cambodians. Cambodia has set itself a target of reducing poverty in the country by half between 2004 and 2015, as part of United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It achieved the target in 2011.
Cambodians are writing a new future for themselves. Being a Volunteer in Cambodia helps you become a part of this revolutionary change story.
Volunteer In Cambodia and Find Your Heart
In order to experience the full transformative power of volunteering abroad, you must understand something about it. This is your experience. You are doing this because, you owe it to yourself. You desire to connect with humanity in a way that you never have before. Ravaged by poverty, squalor, illiteracy, superstition, war, disease, and suffering, there is at least one soul somewhere waiting to be saved by you.
Only you can save him or her in your own way. Why should you? Because, in this vast expanse of nothingness that stretches in every direction called space, we only have each other to save, protect, and love. You need to do this because You Can Love. Volunteering will just amaze you with how much love you have to give others.
Cambodia has a thriving community of volunteers and expats who have found their own ways to contribute to its growth and development. Here, you will find many people who share the same dreams of service as you, but completely different inspirations. Understanding their selflessness and their underlying motivations can help you learn more about yourself and life.
You end up forging friendships with the most considerate and generous people. After all, what more do you need in life than the company of the best that humanity has to offer?
As an added advantage, you will now have an international network of friends in every corner of the world.
Pass On Life Skills As A Volunteer in Cambodia
The old adage goes – give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Many of the skills that we take for granted or are just a hobby to us are treasured in other parts of the world. It can be fluent English language skills, math, agricultural practices, or something else. When you pass on your knowledge, you leave a part of you with them forever. That knowledge will continue even when we leave this world. You leave a lasting legacy.
Who knows? You might even pick up one or two skills yourself while you are teaching them.
Save The World; Save Yourself
You don’t need a superpower to be a superhero. Save one life and you are a superhero in that individual’s life forever. Help save a community and you become a superhero for generations of that community. You might be a doctor, nurse, political activist, advocate of eradication of superstitions, or have found some other way of saving humanity. But, when you save a life, you create happiness and touch all the lives that are connected to that one soul.
In your heart, you will also learn a greater truth about life – the world isn’t perfect. Once you come to terms with it, you’ll divert your energies from the pursuit of perfection to changing things for the better. Not perfect, but better.
Development, whether it is uplifting a community from poverty or evolving yourself into a better human being, takes a tremendous amount of work and time. By saving others, you learn the art of becoming better, of saving yourself.
Mahatma Gandhi said it best – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Volunteering abroad is a transformative experience for everyone – whether you are a youngster, a retiree, a professional taking a sabbatical, students in their gap years, or travellers whose bucket list includes doing something that truly matters. Cambodia welcomes every one of you with open arms. Volunteer and transform life for each other. After all, each other is all we have on this little planet
Siem Reap Cambodia
We are based in Siem Reap and if you intend to volunteer in Cambodia this is as good as any place to start. We offer a fabulous meet and great service for those who are young, those who need a bit of help and anyone who wants to be met with a smiling face. We can introduce you to some awesome people and charties.
If you are thinking about a detour from Phnom Penh, or perhaps you have decided to travel north along the Mekong, then more than likely you will find yourself in Kampong Cham. The name in English means “Port of the Chams”, the Chams being an ethnic people who have lived in the area for centuries and were an ongoing thorn in the side of the Khmers. In fact, when you ask Cambodians living in Phnom Penh where they are from, more often than not they say Kampong Cham. The town rests besides the Mekong and a bridge crosses the river to form the main route to the north of Cambodia and beyond.
Getting To Kampong Cham
Should be no more than a two-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. It could be, but the obligatory stop at a restaurant adds half an hour or so to the journey. This stop is Skun the hub for buses going north to Siem Reap or in the direction of Kampong Cham. From what I have experienced, most bus companies in Cambodia have buses going to Kampong Cham throughout the day and you normally don’t need to buy a ticket in advance. There used to be a boat from Phnom Penh, perhaps one day it will start again. The more adventurous could try their hand at travelling to Phnom Penh along the east bank of the Mekong. However, this would require a car or motorcycle, or changing from Tuk Tuk to trucks to ferries and back again to get to the town. Or, you could cycle to Kampong Cham, but more on that later.
Most buses will drop you off in the centre of town near the bridge traffic circle. The latter is a handy landmark to get your bearings in town. As far as accommodation goes you have a lot of choices. I stay at the Leap Viraksa Hotel because I stumbled upon it years ago and haven’t bothered with anywhere else. There are a bunch of guesthouses along the waterfront, and the town has a lot of reasonably priced hotels. Anyway, you won’t be left short if you need a roof over your head.
At first glance Kampong Cham is an unassuming town, but there is a lot going on in this place. For example, Cambodia’s first son, Prime Minister Hun Sen, is from Kampong Cham Province. He has a house in town, which is next to his brother’s; who would have thought. Also, the monarchy has a house in town, which is an interesting trip through history. It has been abandoned for some time, but it is possible to get inside and have a look around. The last I heard, it was going to be demolished, which means be quick if you want to see it.
Nokor Bachey Temple
The most famous place in the neighbourhood is the thousand-year-old or so Angkorian Nokor Bachey temple. It is on the outskirts of town. If you visit, go in the back way and avoid the questionable ticket guy hovering outside the front of the temple.
Built in the middle of the 11th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II and King Ouphey, it was dedicated to Brahmanism. Inside you’ll see lions, dragons and devils carved in sandstone, and the sandstone and laterite walls have intricate carvings indicative of the period. Just remember to leave the way you entered, or you’ll have to deal with the devil outside.
Actually, there are a couple of ruins in the area. Another temple within striking distance of the town is Prasat Han Chey. It is north of the town and the best way to cover the 20 or so kilometres to get there is by motorcycle. It is interesting as the temple is from the Chenla era, a pre-Angkorian period. The ride there is picturesque as you travel along the banks of the Mekong, and the temple is at a bend in the river.
Kampong Cham Is French Colonial
The crumbling temples reflect the crumbling buildings in town. There are many French colonial buildings, as the town used to be a French colonial trading port. Rubber, a business introduced by the French, used to thrive in colonial times but the civil war and American bombing put an end to that. Across the river the rubber plantations have bounced back since the end of the war. If you travel through them, you can often see Khmer families having picnics amongst the rubber trees. And, if you are lucky, they will invite you over for a drink and something to eat.
The tower is another relic of the French era. Not for the faint of heart or people suffering from vertigo; because, the climb up the stairs can be nerve racking as you can see straight through the metal steps to the ground which is far away. However, the reward waiting you at the top is worth it. The views are spectacular. The town is spread out in front of you, boat traffic up and down the river and gardens far below.
Back in town there was some excitement on the riverside. Men were playing boules. This game, a hangover from the French era, is popular. The players try to get their metal balls as close to the target ball as possibly. However, the players try to knock opponents’ balls away from the target ball. While watching the game I notice that behind the players and across the river was the watchtower.
For food, I headed to the riverside where there are quite a few food stalls and seafood and Khmer restaurants. I chose a rather auspicious looking seafood restaurant near the bridge and was delighted. It was one of those cook your own style places. During the meal, I met most of the family. In fact, it was difficult not to as the waitress was a daughter, the manager an uncle, the cook a brother and the other staff were aunties, cousins and sisters. That’s a family business, and the food was fantastic. The owner’s husband even drove me back to the hotel as it had started to rain.
So, if you have the time consider a trip to Kampong Cham. You will be pleasantly surprised.
We are dedicated to maximising the benefits of cycling. In this document we give general information.
Cycling, also referred to as bicycling or biking. We can use cycling for so many purposes such as for transport, for exercises and as a sport. Cycling was first introduced in the 19th century and it is used as a primary means of transportation in most part of the countries or in developed countries. Cycling also prevent us from any health issues and keep us healthy. According to some research and some doctors, cycling is preferred way better than running exercise. As we can use cycling in so many different ways, it provides us so many advantages. Some of these advantages are as follows.
Cycling Is Transportation
Cycling is used as transportation in so many countries as it has so many advantages. It can save a lot of money, instead of buying a car, at the same price we can buy a first-class bicycle which can last up to so many years. It does not use any kind of petrol or gasoline, so it does not create air pollution and it is eco-friendly and good for the environment as well. Cycling is the best option for those who cannot afford cars and it is good for them to use a bicycle as it also reduced health issues. So many studies prove that bicycle commuters are way more productive and way more active than an average person and require less time off at work.
Health issues | Cycling Health Benefits
Cycling is greatly beneficial for those who have health issues and health problems. If we want to be fit and healthy then we must do a few exercises daily and cycling is one of the easiest exercises to do it does not require too much stamina or physical activity people of all ages can enjoy cycling. Here are most of the points about how cycling helps us to prevent us from various diseases and how it advantages us. It is better to do cycling every day rather than visiting a doctor for health issues
Cycling As An Exercise To Be Fit
Cycling is one of the easiest exercises to do it can be done by everyone it only consumes your 3 to 4 hours or sometimes only an hour to make you healthy and fit. Here how cycling helps you, as it is the easiest exercise to do there is also less chance of any injury or harm in cycling all of our muscles workout so it does not require that much physical skill like other exercises do and benefit our whole body cycling also increases our body stamina and strength to do work it is also a fun way to do the exercise you can go to the hills and enjoy the environment and beautiful sceneries
Health Benefits Of Cycling
Cycling is also beneficial for those who have health issues or health-related problems it reduces health problems ,it is also beneficial for those who have recently gone through the bone injury by doing cycling one can recover from bone injury as it is the best to exercise for them and also recommended by the doctors those who have cardiovascular issues cycling increases the cardiovascular strength and decreases the chances of heart attack.
Cycling is also helpful for those who have a mental illness like depression stress and anxiety by doing cycling it decreases stress levels and keeps you calm it also increase the strength of bone also helps to prevent body fat those who have obesity and want to lose weight this is the best way to get rid of obesity
Cycling As A Sport
Cycling was first introduced as a sport on May 31, 1868, with a 1200 metre race between the fountains and the entrance of Saint cloud park near Paris there are so many races organised across the country but the most popular one is touring de France it started in 1903 this is the most popular one cycling sport which held every year and it is played on an international level too as a world championship the tour de France can be worth of 2.3 million and the person who won this race gets the whole price there are many types of cycling which are used as a sport such as a road cycling track cycling and mountain cycling are the most common one others are unicycle cycle ball artistic cycling bicycle polo snow cycling and much more.
Used for work
Cycling is also used for so many working purposes. Most of the people consider cycling on cars because they are way cheaper than cars and can be afforded by everyone and sometimes it can be tax-free and consume less tax than d cars so many people use cycles for their work purposes. It is used by mail carriers for mail delivering it is also used by most of the police officers mainly in parks. It is widely used for general delivering services such as for food delivery, newspapers delivering and much more. Many other works like delivering something with short distance some people considered cycling instead of using a car. Cycling is also used mostly by the students to go to schools as they are not allowed to use cars
As there are so many advantages of cycling, we can use cycling for so many things and take advantage of it. In this modern technology world, it is hard to resist our comfort but using things apart from our comfort can prove to be beneficial for us. Most of the people considered cycling is just for kids and deny the advantages of cycling. Cycling is not just a sport or transportation or doing exercise, it also refreshes our mind, by doing cycling we explore the calmness of the environment and for some time we forget all of our worries and things that irritate us. So, dust off your bicycle in your garage and use it for your benefits and make your life healthy and beautiful. Cycling has so many advantages we should use them and try to keep them on a daily basis.
At the time of writing it is virtually impossible to visit Siem Reap. However a New Zealand company have come up with an awesome solution that we have tested. You can explore Siem Reap and the surrounding area with Sotin (highly experienced and licensed tour guide). We might have been one of the first to stumble upon this, but we will not be the last to use Cooee.
Our video tour did not go as exactly as planned – however, it turned out to be truly worthwhile chatting with Sotin. His English is excellent and he has a wealth of knowledge that would be useful to a newcomer or anyone checking up on how things are in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
You can chat with Sotin and see the usual things. Though mobile intenet is not always great in Cambodia. Or do something different: discuss coffee growing or the Tonle Sap. Maybe a discreet visit to your hotel to see if it resembles the picures in their brochure. Or ask about eco tourism in Cambodia – it does have some great eco tourist destinations. Alittle time and monet spent now guarantees you the adventure you desire. UP TO YOU.
The following section is a direct link to Cooee. It gives a full description of how your Cooee will work. We do not recieve any commission from Aspiring Adventures nor Sotin. We are willingly promoting this as a service to you, our readers, who want a taste of Cambodia before you start booking your holiday.
Enjoy your virtual trip and we look forward to seeing you on your real trip.
Ratanakiri is most definitely one of the more “out there” destinations in Cambodia. The town’s name is derived from the two Sanskrit words, Ratna which stands for gems and Giri which stands for mountains, items much in demand and the cause of demise. Located in the far northeast of the Kingdom, Ratanakiri province is an adventure getting there but is undeniably worth the effort. From Ratanakiri Cambodia, you are within striking distance of Vietnam, Laos, and some of the other more adventurous areas of Cambodia. It is also one of the few places you can see tribal villages.
Banlung is the provincial capital, however it used to be Lumphat. The reason for this depends on who you talk to. To find out more about Ratanakiri and why you should visit, read on.
The Bumpy Journey To Ratanakiri
Many buses head to the provincial capital. However, it is a bone-rattling 13-hour ride on some of Cambodia’s worst roads. If you are thinking about a visit, you might consider breaking up the journey with stops in the picturesque town of Kratie (pronounced Kra-chay) and Stung Treng. While both towns are situated on the Mekong, Stung Treng is at the confluence of the Mekong and Sesan rivers. There is a ferry that crosses the Mekong at Stung Treng, but there is also a bridge, both of which link to Preah Vihear Province on the other side of the Mekong.
There are mini-buses that plough the Phnom Penh-Banlung road. However, be prepared to be squeezed into a bus with 30 people, baggage, and farm animals. There is another way, but we will talk about that later.
Stopping Off At Banlung On The Road To Ratanakiri
If you decide to complete the journey in one go then you will have to start early and finish in the evening. However, don’t worry, you will be greeted in Banlung by hotel touts and Tuk Tuk drivers who will get you to a hotel. The hotels around the lake in the centre of town are perfect. You should organise your own motorcycle as it makes it much easier getting around to all the different and unique places of interest.
What makes these hotels fantastic is breakfast. Nothing quite like looking out over a lake while sitting in a restaurant eating fruit and warm baguettes and drinking brewed coffee.
Banlung is a smallish place. It seems to serve more as a truck stop on the Vietnam-Cambodia transport route. Nonetheless, it is pleasant to cruise around the town taking in the ambience. Most of what is on offer is outside the town.
Water and Ghosts
One of the first places you might like to drift to is Boeng Yeak Loam, or Yak Lom Lake. This is about five kilometres to the south of town. You can walk there, but a bicycle is a good alternative. Once you get there, grab one of the lakeside decks and enjoy the cool water. The lake is set in the jungle, and it is possible to use walking trails to wander through the jungle. But beware of a spirit that is said to live in the lake.
In fact, water is a big feature of the province. There are many waterfalls that can be visited. It would be best to grab a motorcycle or bike to see these places. Many of the waterfalls are great places for swimming. Your hotel should be able to tell you how to get to any waterfall, and some hotels even have a map. Some waterfalls to visit include Ka Chanh Waterfall, which is about six kilometres southeast of Ban Lung; Ka Tieng Waterfall, is about an hour out of town; Cha Ong Waterfall, is two kilometres west of town; and Ou Sensranoh Waterfall, is situated nine kilometres south of town. Just make sure you check with locals if the waterfall is working, as some dry up in the dry season.
Heart of Darkness
Ratanakiri Province also has a bit of a nefarious past. Down the road is Lumphat, on the banks of the Srepok river, and it used to be a Khmer Rouge stronghold and capital. The Ho Chi-Minh Trail also ran through the province. As a result, the town and countryside were heavily bombed by the US. There are plenty of bomb craters in the area and some have even become ponds. There are still some buildings in town pockmarked with shrapnel, bullet holes and rocket fire. There are also unexploded bombs in the area, so be careful where you step.
It is also claimed that the Srepok River was the model for the river on which Captain Willard and his jolly crew went to meet their destiny with Colonel Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now. Go there and see what you think; but, if you haven’t, see the movie first.
Veal Rum Plan
Another place to consider seeing is Veal Rum Plan, or Stone Field. It is located 14 kilometres north of Banlung. Here, there are stones covering the entire surface of the place. Dense stone outgrowths are around here. This place has an unusual appeal which fascinates visitors. Stone Field is a bizarre space in the forest, covered almost entirely by stone. The area is a circular area of flat stone. It is thought the area is the remains of cooled lava. As with many places in Cambodia, there is a legend associated with the Veal Rum Plan. According to the legend, Veal Rum was a young boy who had a tragic accident here. While trying to retrieve his kite, he fell from a tree onto a black volcanic rock. His spirit lives on, offering a protective blanket to the plateau and surrounding trees.
While this is not a complete list of “what to do” in Ratanakiri, it will certainly whet your appetite for more.
Getting To Vietnam From Ratanakiri
When you leave, if you plan to go to Vietnam, you need to have a visa. It is only about 70 kilometres to the border, and there are different types of transport to get there. If you go to Laos, you can pick up a visa on the border, just take plenty of small money and some passport-sized photos. The border guards will ask for photos and charge you if you don’t have any. There are also the “taxes” they hit you with. Do not protest, as there are no places to stay on the border. Pay the taxes as part of the cost on international travel. You know it makes sense
Ratanakiri to Mondulkiri Via Highway Of Death!
Now the other to-and-from Ratanakiri route is the recently upgraded road through the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary. Via this way, you can also pop into Mondulkiri Province. From Banlung, this will take you back to Lumphat and over the bridge that crosses the Srepok River. The road, formally known as the “Highway of Death”, and don’t let that scare you, is now an upgraded road through the rainforest. But if you choose this way then be quick; the sanctuary is part of Cambodia’s rapidly disappearing forests and wildlife.
Cambodia can be hot, uncomfortably hot. In fact, some people describe the seasons as hotter or hottest. To escape that, there is a place you can go: Mondulkiri. But it is more than just about cool weather and cool places. This is where there are rugged hills with majestic Mondulkiri Water Falls, unique tribal people and a different vibe to the rest of Cambodia.
If you are the mountain bike type of person and thinking about Cambodia, this must be on your bucket list. Various difficulties of rides without blisterng heat.
Mondulkiri, loosely translated as “Mountain of Mandala”, is a province in the country’s east. It borders the provinces of Kratie to the west, Stung Treng to the northwest, Ratanakiri to the north and Vietnam to the east and south, with easy access to all. It is the largest and most sparsely populated province, despite being the biggest. Its capital is Sen Monorom.
The original wild east of Cambodia is a world apart from the lowlands with not a rice paddy or palm tree in sight, and the province abounds in natural beauty.
The People of Mondulkiri
It is home to the hardy Bunong people (or Pnong) and their noble elephants, and add to that communities of hill tribe peoples, who are not affected by mass-tourism, and you have an area that is very appealing for people wanting to get off that dusty beaten track.
Eighty percent of Mondulkiri’s population has ten tribal minorities, with the majority being the Chunchiet from the Bunong tribe. The remaining 20 percent or so being Khmer, Chinese and Cham. Most of the population lives off the land, planting rice, fruit trees and a variety of vegetables. Others grow coffee, strawberries, rubber and cashew nuts. Most of the indigenous peoples in Mondulkiri are subsistence farmers.
The Bunong have lived in the area for about 2000 years. Like other people in the country, they were displaced in the 1970s when the area fell under Khmer Rouge control. Much of the populace was forcibly removed to Koh Nhek district to provide labour. Schools, hospitals, even entire villages were destroyed, and as many as half of the people in the province died during the forced relocation.
The people were only allowed to return to their traditional lands in the 1980s.
And to throw a challenge into a challenging mix, there is an interesting blend of languages used in the area such as Khmer, hill tribe languages, Vietnamese, and Lao. So, get your dictionary ready.
Sen Monorom: The Provincial Capital of Mondulkiri
Sen Monorom is the base camp for people who want to explore the area. A quiet but beautiful town nestled in the hills. Currently, it’s undeveloped, which gives you a feeling of going somewhere isolated. At an average elevation of 800 metres, it can get downright chilly at night, so bring something warm.
However, one of the area’s main attractions is its cool climate, which offers a nice break from the heat and humidity of the Cambodian plain. Most nights are cool enough to sleep comfortably without air-conditioning or fans.
In this upland area, you will find deep primary jungle, with a huge variety of flora and fauna. The Mondulkiri Water Falls still has one of the biggest woodlands of Cambodia. There is a seductive mix of grassy hills, pine groves and rainforests of jade green and waterfalls. Wild animals, such as bears, leopards and especially elephants, are more numerous here than elsewhere, although sightings are usually limited to birds, monkeys and the occasional wild pig.
Unfortunately, due to increased logging and the exploitation of the valuable minerals remaining in the deep red and fertile ground, the area is being stripped-mined of its beauty.
The wet season is June to October and is very lush and green. If you’re trekking in the wet season, then it is the best time for viewing wildlife. July and early August can still have sunny days and dry mornings, while afternoons and evenings are usually rainy. In early March the weather gets warm, which brings on the first annual showers or “Mango rains”.
The Mondulkiri Water Falls are at their best during the wet season. Everywhere is quiet. Accomodation and flight bargains to be had.
Besides some smaller rivers, which grow quite big during the rainy season, there are bigger rivers crossing the province such as the Srepok, Preaek Chhbaar, and Preaek Te.
Water and More | Mondulkiri Water Falls
A big draw card to the area is Mondulkiri water falls. Most people travelling to Mondulkiri province head to its most famous waterfalls Bou Sra, Kbal Preah, Romanear I and II and Monorom. But what most visitors generally don’t experience are the province’s shortest and highest waterfalls.
Leng Ong and Leng Khin waterfalls are officially the province’s shortest and tallest waterfalls respectively, and in an ironic twist of fate the two places are located less than 300m apart in O’Reang district’s Pou Yam village, 26 kilometres from Sen Monorom.
Both waterfalls are covered by dense trees in a cool and calm environment. At each waterfall’s base there is a big pool where people can swim.
And the local architecture: There is a current trend to build in the Khmer style, but the traditional Bunong houses can still be found. These houses contain large jars, some of which it is claimed are more than a thousand years old, and there are also the traditional gongs. There are various gongs used at different occasions. Jars and gongs are among the most valued possessions in an indigenous community, whether in traditional, spiritual or material terms. During the time of Pol Pot those objects were buried in hidden places in the jungle and in many cases, they still wait in the ground.
When buying items in Sen Monorom, you will see lots of items from Vietnam. There is also the famous rice wine, which is one of the best in the country. Additionally, the locals sell handmade products such as bracelets, necklaces, scarfs and Kramas.
Keep in mind that when visiting there are plenty of places to stay. But during festivals and public holidays, of which there are many, accommodation in Sen Monorom is usually fully booked. At these times, expect higher accommodation and ticket prices, as well as closures or lack of some services.
Get Wet and Get Happy At The Mondulkiri Water Falls
Mondulkiri water falls are definitely a place to hang your hat when in Cambodia. We look forward to seeing you.
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.
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.