The town of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, or Kompong Som, is a coastal destination south of Phnom Penh: it is also known as “Snooky”. While this dusty and hilly place won’t win any beautiful-town competitions with its excessive and often unwanted development and dozens of casinos, it does have one draw card.
The centre of Sihanoukville itself doesn’t offer much to see. On the upside, the edge of town has the Otres Marina situated on the Ou Tro Jet river mangrove swamp and Otres temple can be visited. But the jewel in the crown and the best attraction is that Sihanoukville has most of Cambodia’s best beaches. It is also a great place to kick back and spend some time from the heat of the interior.
Sihanoukville in Cambodia, a Short Story
In a country with a rich history, Sihanoukville in Cambodia has had a rather short and checkered track record. Fifty or so years ago, a French-Cambodian construction company cleared the jungle and swamp then built a camp. It soon started building the first deep-water port in the country. Named after the prince, Sihanoukville quickly become a destination for Cambodia’s elite who enjoyed the beaches. also became home to Angkor Beer brewery “My Country My Beer”, and the seven-story Independence Hotel was thrown up there; local legend has it that Jaqueline Kennedy stayed there when she visited Cambodia in 1967.
Then in 1970, Sihanouk was deposed in a coup and Cambodia descended into civil war. To add insult to injury, the Lon Nol government renamed the town Kompong Som and dark days descended on the place. The Khmer Rouge soon took over and the beaches became a ghost town. Even after the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge from power, the road from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville was a dangerous place and notorious for kidnappings, hold ups and Khmer Rouge activity.
It took time for people to return to Sihanoukville. But after the Vietnamese occupation, UNTAC engineered election in 1993, and the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, the town has slowly come to life. More and more visitors now go to Sihanoukville. In recent years, Chinese businesses and tourists have flooded in.
Beaches in Sihanoukville
The main draw card is the beaches. Except for Serendipity, they are not nearly as crowded as those in nearby Thailand. However, crowds flock here on weekends and holidays.
To start with, there are two beaches south of the commercial port; Victory and Independence Beaches. The first, Victory beach, has plenty of budget accommodation on nearby Weather Station Hill. A bit further south is Independence Beach. It is also known as “7-chann beach” after the seven-storey Independence Hotel found here.
Continuing south you’ll find Sokha Beach. The beach is owned by Sokha Beach Resort. It is possible to use the beach but be prepared to pay a few dollars if a staff member spots you. This beach is maintained and kept clean and being private you won’t have people begging or trying to sell you something. There is a smaller beach next to Sokha which is public and rarely used. It is just next to the road as it goes up the hill to town and the main beaches.
The most popular and developed tourist beach is Ochheuteal. Chnay Occheuteal is a long and narrow strip of white sand beach. The northern end is misleadingly called Serendipity Beach. Why it has a separate name is unclear as the reality is that it is all the same beach. In fact, there are three main areas: the beach itself, the road running parallel to the beach and the road running perpendicular from the dock at Serendipity Beach up to a huge traffic circle. Ferries use the dock to go to the nearby islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. The boats several times per day from the dock. You can take a slow boat, speed ferry or make a day out and go on a tour boat.
At Ochheutal there are numerous hotels, guest houses, beach huts, minimarts and a vibrant nightlife. So, it gets crowded during the day, night and into the wee hours of the morning. In the daytime people hire the deckchairs that carpet the beach then soak up the sun and water. Here there are many food stalls and restaurants serving grilled meat, chicken and seafood with chips/fries and a beer for US$3-4. Unfortunately, the water is not so good in this area and theft is a problem on the beach, so do not leave any valuables unattended.
At night, the many restaurants lining the beachfront are crowded with people trying the huge variety of seafood places. In fact, there are many good restaurants in town as well. Sihanoukville has a surprisingly diverse set of cuisines.
Ochheutal has also seen a hive of activity in the construction of hotels and casinos which like to cater to Chinese tourists. There are officially 42 casinos, but it is believed there is closer to 85. Cambodians are refused entry and westerners are a rare sight. This development is a closed economic loop in which Chinese tourists patronise only Chinese-owned businesses who prefer Chinese workers which means locals are being cut out of the action and squeezed out of their own town.
As you go south along Ochheuteal Beach the restaurants, chairs and other amenities thin out. Eventually, it is a beach with few people on it. There is the occasional store where food and drink can be bought. A great area to escape the mob.
At the southern end of Ochheuteal Beach, there is a small hill and on the other side is Otres Beach, actually Otres 1 and 2. This amazing four-kilometre stretch of white sand and clear water is less crowded and much more relaxed than other beaches.
Along this beach are dotted bars, restaurants and guest houses. It is a great place to laze about soaking up the sun or enjoy a swim. The water here is wonderful. The southern end of this beach is Otres 2 and ends at the marina which provides boats and charters for the river and the sea. Otres 2 is famed for its sunsets and mangroves on the Ou Trojak Jet river. If you’re feeling adventurous, on the other side of the river is Otres 3.
Distances between the beaches are a little too long to walk comfortably but getting around is easy. A fantastic way to visit the beaches is by bicycle. The more ambitious can take cycling trips up into the hilly outskirts of town or in town: Sihanoukville is quite bumpy. Of course, there is an abundance of motorcycle taxis and tuk tuks. Taxis can also be hired.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of places such as Phnom Penh or the mostly hot and dusty places in Cambodia, then Sihanoukville in Cambodia is just the place.
At its height, the Khmer Empire stretched far and wide across mainland Southeast Asia. In contemporary Cambodia, its former magnificence can be seen everywhere, and this is true for Phnom Penh and the surrounds. Near the capital are a number of Angkorian, and earlier era, monuments. Just south of Phnom Penh is one such place, Phnom Chisor.
How To get to Phnom Chisor
To get to Phnom Chisor is straightforward by tuk tuk or taxi from Phnom Penh. The more intrepid traveller could hire a motorbike. But remember to take into account that it can be a dusty trip.
This mountain-top temple is located in Sia village, Rovieng commune, Samrong district, about 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh or 27 kilometres north of Takeo town. The way from Phnom Penh is well sign-posted. To reach the temple, take National Road 2 to Bati district and Neang Khmao temple, or the temple of the Black Virgin, which is inside Wat Neang Khmao: it is easy to spot as it is next to the highway. This is an Angkorian temple, so stop and take a look.
Nearby, turn left at the sign for the site and head down the dirt road for about five kilometres. On the wat, stop at the monk training centre which is at the bend of the road as you make the final turn to Phnom Chisor.
The temple is perched on a 130-metre-high solitary hill. So, when you visit be prepared for a long climb to the top. People usually climb the staircase on the west side of the mountain, which has about 400 steps and descend by the south-side staircase. The original set of stairs in front of the temple links the temple to an avenue which leads to the baray of Tonlé Om. The west staircase starts with a broad 7.5-metre entrance and narrows to 5 metres at the top. Look for etchings of rabbits, elephants and other animals in the concrete as you climb the long staircase.
Also, try to get to Phnom Chisor early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as it is a sweaty climb in the heat of the midday sun. As you scale the mountain, you’ll pass other visitors taking a breather on the ascent to the temple, in fact, quit a few. Once you get to the top take a deep breath, there is a lot to take in for a smallish temple.
At the top, you’ll be hit with a $2 entrance fee for foreigners. Phnom Chisor is also very popular with locals, especially during festivals and on weekends when it gets very crowded. So, it is best visited during the week.
The main temple stands on the eastern side of the hilltop. It was built in the early 11th century by King Suryavarman I, who ruled from AD1002 to AD1050. This king practiced Brahmanism, and he dedicated the temple to the Hindu divinities Shiva and Vishnu. The original name of the temple was Sri Suryaparvata, “The mountain of Surya” or “The mountain of the Sun”.
Phnom Chisor is constructed of sandstone, laterite and bricks with carved sandstone lintels. The complex is surrounded by partially ruined walls and a 2.5-metre-wide gallery with windows. Inscriptions found here date from the 11th century. The temple is 60 meters long and 50 meters wide and the surrounding is in fact two galleries. The first gallery is 60 meters long on each side. The second, smaller gallery, is in the middle, where there is the main worship place with two doors and a wooden statue. There are exquisite sculptures on the lintels and pillars.
Apart from three entrances to the East, and three to the West, the outer walls are closed. The principal entrance is to the East. Inside are six towers, a mandapa, and two fire shrines. The towers open to the east, the fire shrines open to the west. It was built on a typical Angkorian east-west axis.
In front of the temple, a set of stairs link the temple to Sen Chhmos temple, Sen Phouvang temple and Tonlé Om, a lake considered sacred by Brahmans and used for washing away sins. All three of these form a straight line from the pond to Phnom Chisor in the direction of Angkor. During rituals held 900 years ago, the king, his Brahmans and their entourage would climb the steps to the hill-top temple from this direction. These original steps are rarely used these days. It is possible to visit these places, and this is where a motorbike or tuk tuk come in handy.
From the top of the mountain there are superb views of the countryside. Stretching out in front of you is Takeo Province with its rice fields, rivers and lakes. The view is best during the rainy season when the rice fields are green, there is a lot of water and clouds.
After descending the steps from the temple, local vendors have stalls, complete with mats and hammocks, set up and ready to serve food. A favourite dish is lean free-range fried chicken or the light and lemon-grassy soup.
There is also a mountain cave, Vimean Chan, located about 150 meters south of the temple. It is a quiet place for Brahmans or ascetics to meditate. During the Vietnam war, the USA bombed the site, dislodging several large rocks that have blocked the entrance to the cave.
If after a visit to Phnom Chisor you feel like visiting some other places then head to Takeo town. This out-of-the-way place is rarely visited by foreigners but has a surprising number of places on interest: Khmer Rouge’s Ta Mok’s prison, Phnom Da and you can try the delicious freshwater prawns. There are also other places of interest in the area such as Yeay Peau temple and a wildlife sanctuary. Check it out.
One of Cambodia’s out-of-the-way destinations is Pailin Province. Few foreigners get here, which is reason enough to put the province in your travel planner. The area has a long history, and although Pailin City is small with a wild-west flavour, there are plenty of places to visit in and around town.
Pailin is Cambodia’s second smallest province and is in Western Cambodia. Pailin City is nestled in a picturesque valley with magnificent sunsets over mountains that separate Cambodia and nearby Thailand. The town is also located in the foothills of Chuor Phnom Kravanh, which is part of the Cardamom Mountains making the south of the municipality quite hilly. There are also a number of smaller rivers coming from the mountain range. These places provide lots of opportunities to visit waterfalls and rivers for cool afternoon swims, nature and wildlife reserves, and local villages.
A Brief History of Pailin
Once a part of the powerful Khmer Empire, Pailin was conquered in 1558 by the Burmese under Bayinnaung and later ruled by the Siamese until 1946 when it was returned to Cambodia: it was known to the Thais as “Phailin”.
Since the war, Pailin has suffered an economic depression and the failure of most local businesses. However, since the area has recently stabilised politically, it is now seeing a new wave of tourism focused on its ancient temples, natural forests and wildlife, and the gem market.
In 2001, Pailin was officially separated from Battambang to become a province and separate administrative division: a process started after the surrender of the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge in 1996. More on this crew later.
Don’t be Alarmed
If you’re planning a visit to the area, especially the countryside around Pailin City, land mines are a concern. In fact, Pailin is located in one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. Land mines have plagued Cambodia for decades as a result of the devices being used extensively during three decades of war; Pailin still remains a hot zone for mines. While Pailin is definitely worth visiting, people are cautioned to stay on marked roads. De-mining is ongoing, and if you decide to visit any out-of-the-way places then check if it is safe. The locals will know.
A major cause of these mines was the Khmer Rouge.
Khmer Rouge Invasion, Occupation and Defeat … or Not
Pailin remained under Khmer Rouge control long after they were defeated in 1979 and it served from 1994 to 1998 as the capital of the “Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia.” During the 1980s and 1990s, the city was a key Khmer Rouge strongpoint and resources centre.
Pailin is known to much of the world as the area where many Khmer Rouge leaders came from and retreated to after the murderous regime fell. Even after the death of their leader Pol Pot in 1998, many Khmer Rouge leaders stayed on.
Fearing punishment for their crimes, some leaders went into hiding, while other leaders brashly lived openly in the province. Estimates are that almost 70 percent of the area’s older men were Khmer Rouge fighters: few have been brought to justice. However, Pailin’s last Khmer Rouge leaders have been rounded for their time in court. These men included Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
Goodbye Good Times
In the early 1970s, Pailin was a prosperous town stemming from the extensive gem deposits in the surrounding countryside. Because of its resources, it was one of the first cities invaded by the Khmer Rouge. The city offered no resistance and Khmer Rouge soldiers were greeted as liberators. Meanwhile, deposed King Sihanouk had allied himself with the Khmer Rouge and most locals believed that they were fighting to restore him to power. It was not long; however, before locals were forced march to the countryside to work in rice paddies. Many of those people were never seen again.
Pailin became the major revenue source for the Khmer Rouge through the exploitation of the provinces rich supply of gems and being a prime logging area. The Khmer Rouge used proceeds from mining and logging in the Pailin area to bankroll their initial campaign and later Democratic Kampuchea once they seized power.
When the Vietnamese Army ousted the Khmer Rouge from power, the Khmer Rouge retreated to Pailin.
Not to be deterred, the guerrilla group continued the fight against the Vietnamese and even invested some money from the production of natural resources in Casinos.
Unfortunately, by the time the Khmer Rouge had been dislodged from Pailin they had almost mined out the gems and deforested the area. Nowadays all you can find is low-quality, cheap, hand-faceted gemstones at the market in downtown Pailin.
Beyond the Dark Days In Pailin
These days Pailin is a much different place. In fact, the locals seem happy to see a foreigner means that not only money is coming in but also a sense of normalcy is returning to the area.
The town has a number of interesting places to visit including Wat Gohng-Kahng, and Wat Phnom Yat and at its base Wat Rattanak Sophoan.
The people of Pailin are Kola. These are descendants of Burmese immigrants who settled in the area from the late nineteenth century. Another group of people, the Shan, arrived a bit later. As a result, the people of Pailin are different from other parts of Cambodia. This difference can be seen in the cuisine and the clothes.
The best parts of Pailin are outside the main city, and the best way to see these places is by bicycle. For more on Pailin read Cyclebodia: Wild West Pailin.
While in Phnom Penh why not visit Cambodia’s former capital of Oudong. This ancient site is within striking distance of Phnom Penh being only 40 kilometres northwest of the capital and close to the western bank of the Tonle Sap River. It is also straightforward to get to and easy to find as the mountain, topped with stupas, juts out from the surrounding plain like a fairy-tale castle.
Oudong: Cambodia’s Former Capital
Oudong used to be the royal capital from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Oudong means “victorious”; however, during its time as Cambodia’s capital under several rulers “victorious” was a euphemism, as Cambodia was in perilous decline.
The main attractions today are the twin mountains of Phnom Oudong, which are connected by a ridge and dotted with stupas and shrines dedicated to former kings. One temple, Chedi Mouk Pruhm, is the burial site of King Monivong. One of the ruins, Arthross Temple, houses a large golden Buddha. Several kings, including King Norodom Sihanouk, were crowned here. Phnom Oudong is also a tranquil place of worship for Cambodians.
How To Get To Oudong
To get to Oudong is a straightforward trek along National Highway 5. One way to get there is by Tuk Tuk. Depending on the season it can be a dusty ride or a wet one and can take up to two hours, which is a long time considering the short distance. But, for $15 to $20 round trip it’s a good deal. Or, you could hire a car and driver for $40 to $45 return.
An interesting way to get there is by shared taxi from Sorya Bus terminal. These taxis only leave when full, and full means cramming 12 people into a four-door Toyota. Then there is the northbound bus. You’ll get dropped off at Oudong town, which is still some distance from Phnom Oudong and requires another motorcycle or Tuk Tuk ride, and once there you will have to find a way back.
Also, along route 5 there are silversmithing villages. A hangover from the days when kings and nobility used to come to the Tonle Sap river to bathe and subjects would offer them gifts fashioned from the precious metal.
Admission to the mountain is free and is best visited during the week as Phnom Oudong gets crowded with locals at weekends, who descend on the mountain to eat roast chicken, fish and palm fruit in the cool of the surrounding forest. However, you’ll find that foreign tourists are few and far between at any time.
You’ll be dropped off at a stairway at the base of the hill, where there is a memorial to local victims of the Khmer Rouge. It contains bones from almost a hundred mass graves in the Oudong area. A neighbouring pavilion has murals painted on the walls depicting Khmer Rouge atrocities.
From here, there is a climb up about 500 steps. Watch out for kids who pester visitors to hire them as tour guides.
The mountain itself runs from southeast to northeast, with a low dip in the middle. Khmers believe it has the shape of a Naga. Both ends of the ridge have stunning vistas of the Cambodian countryside dotted with lots of sugar-palm trees, rice paddies and the odd temple. To the west of the hill there is the huge modern Kandal pagoda. The interior is a good example of a present-day Cambodian Theravada Buddhist prayer hall.
The stupas and shrines dotting the ridge are dedicated to former kings, so the former capital is a kind of necropolis. One shrine, Chedi Mouk Pruhm, is the burial site of King Monivong. One of the ruins, Arthross Temple, houses a large golden Buddha. The pagodas are quite stunning, with intricate carvings displaying a cross section of Buddhist and Hindu motifs.
The larger main ridge is known as Phnom Preah Reach Throap, or Hill of the Royal Fortune. The name comes from the belief that a 16th-century Khmer king hid the national treasury here during a war with the Thais.
The city was established in 1601 by King Srei Soryopor, who is also known as Barom Reachea IV, after Thais had attacked the former capital Lovek. In 1618 the city formally became the capital, and it was officially called Oudong Meanchey. Many Cambodian kings of the following two and a half centuries were crowned in Oudong; the last one was King Norodom.
Chinese King in Oudong
In the eighteenth century, locals say a Chinese king sent his people across Asia to identify potential threats. When they came to Oudong, they discovered a Naga-shaped mountain, a cavern on top of the Arthross end, and observed the wealth and power of Khmers. Upon their return, they told their king that the Khmers were a powerful race, and should a Naga appear through the cavern of Arthross, they would be strong enough to rule the world.
The Chinese king was alarmed at this revelation but didn’t want a war. Instead, he asked the Khmer king if he could build a temple above the cavern with the Buddha facing towards China to protect the kingdom. It was named Arthaross temple, or 18 corners as there are 18 points, or corners, built into the structure. This temple also stood 18 hats high, a Khmer measurement for the length of an arm from elbow to fingertips. One hat is about half a meter.
Arthaross temple contains the remnants of a large Buddha statue that was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and is now a few hats less. The statue is unique because the Buddha faces north instead of the traditional east and is said to depict the power of the Khmer Empire at the time.
Behind Arthross is Chker Amao stupa. Chker Amao was the dog of the head monk of Preah Sokhun Mean Bon. He was apparently so clever that the monk could send him shopping with a list tied to his collar and the dog would walk from market stall to market stall, collect the shopping, then bring it home. When he died he was reincarnated as the son of a Chinese king.
At the very point of the mountain, a huge stupa is just in the final stages of construction. This is probably where the Buddha relics, once housed in the vihara outside Phnom Penh train station, will be placed.
Across on the smaller ridge is Ta Sann Mosque.
After visiting the mountain, you will be hungry, especially after the climb up and down the stairs. Go to one of the local restaurants at the bottom of the hill. There you will find local eateries with lots of traditional Cambodian food at local prices.
Oudong remains a sacred place for Cambodians, where a huge stupa has recently been built to store and conserve the relic of Preah Serei Roek Theat, the Ash of the Buddha.
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.
We are going to inform you how to find the best golf course in Cambodia to suit your experience, expectations, and budget. No matter what type of holiday or adventure you are having, you will be able to slip in a great game of golf.
Yes there are. They are mainly in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. You will find 2 golf courses in Siem Reap worth a visit. There are 5 golf courses in Phnom Pehn that will give you a warm welcome – no matter your handicap
How Much Is A Round Of Golf In Cambodia
To be honest a round of golf in Cambodia is not cheap compared to other tourist activities. One assumes it is going to be cheap; however, the cost of keeping a golf course in tip top condition is expensive. Expect to pay $100 upwards for a round.
Can I Hire Golf Clubs
Yes you can. I would let the golf club know in advance your requirements. This will mean that you have clubs that suit your build and style. Certainly at Angkor Golf Resort they have an extensive range of hire equipment.
How Do You Get To The Golf Course
Very simple. The club or your hotel will arrange suitable transport at a very reasonable cost. We suggest open air transport so that you are accustomed to the heat by the time you arrive for your tee off. It is a great way to start off your days golfing.
Are There Hotels Near The Golf Courses
You will find no shorhtages of local hotels close to the golf courses. From 5 star palaces to homely budget accomodation. There is no doubt that the course will give you suitable advice.
Do The Golf Courses Have Professional Golfers For Instruction
Most of the courses have their own golf professional. Be sure to book in advance. We recomend David Baron at AGR. He has been in Cambodia for many years and the course is stunning.
Do You Need A Caddy
Cambodia is hot. It can be very hot. If there is a caddy available, be sure to hire one. Enjoy your day on the course. The cost is very reasonable.
Our Recomendatio For The Best Golf Course In Cambodia
Angkor Golf Resort is constructed on what were enormous rice paddies. This gives the course uninterrupted views of Krong Siem Reap.
As you can see, the bunkers are ominous. However, with expansive and generous fairways you should be able (confidently) to avoid them. With not much rough, you will generally have a good lie.
You will need decent putting skills on our undulating greens. Take your time and think it through. Knowledgeable caddies are on hand to give advice when required.
You can fill out the contact form on our golfing page that goes directly to the resort. It has a few questions that will help Angkor Golf make certain that your trip is exceptional.
Need To Book A Hotel Near The Course
There are many modest hotels and incomparable hotels close to the resort. If you intend to play on the best golf course in Cambodia you can get a great deal for the best hotels in Siem reap. Here is a hint: Place them in customer review order. Siem Reap has an extraordinarily high number of hotels with scores in excess of 9.0 (exceptional). In addition, Booking.com has an office in Siem Reap should you have any cause to complain.
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.
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
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