ratanakiri province cambodia

Ratanakiri Cambodia – The Frontier Province

6 Cambodian eco tour destinations
Table Of Contents

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.

Ratanakiri Cambodia

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.

Ratanakiri Cambodia

Ratanakiri Cambodia – #1 Frontier Province

6 Cambodian eco tour destinations
Table Of Contents

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

Ratanakiri Cambodia

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.

Mondulkiri Water Falls

Travelers Guide To The Awesome Mondulkiri Water Falls

Travelers Guide To The Awesome Mondulkiri Water Falls
Table Of Contents

Cambodia’s Great Escape | Mondulkiri Water Falls

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.

is cambodia safe for cycling

Is Cambodia 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:

  1. Spares. Though every village will have someone to repair a bike. However, the village might not be so near.
  2. Water. Take and drink your own water.
  3. Medical kit. Attend to minor cuts and abrasions immediately.
  4. GPS. Know where you are and where you are going.
  5. Use CycleBodia as a backup to pick you up.
  6. Take a Khmer guide. The cost will be well worth it.
  7. Accident insurance.
  8. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. “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.
  9. 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.
  10.  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.

  1. Personal Alarm. Simple yet effective. However, it is not a shield with superpowers.
  2. First Aid kit. Attend to cuts and grazes immediately. Buy before you go on your trip.
  3. Preprogrammed emergency numbers in a mobile phone.
  4. Flashlight.
  5. Pepper spray – on request. Be careful, the last thing is to be charged with an offence.
  6. Cutting edge personal tracking devices. To include bags and rented transport. We go into details on your arrival in Cambodia.

Why A Picture Of A Cambodian Beach?

is cambodia safe

Many people understand lots of stuff about Cambodia. The floating village, the killing fields of Anlong Veng, Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Children’s hospitals. Maybe even the bamboo railway, the bat caves, or the elephant sanctuaries. What many travelers miss out on, are the amazing offshore islands of Cambodia. Make sure you visit one or two of them.

Take the bus or cycle!

Come And Visit Cambodia

If your main concern is Cambodia safe to visit? The answer is an unequivocal YES. Get it on your bucket list or get a Cambodian holiday booked today.

We make Cambodia safe for all to enjoy their trip to the absolute maximum.

Our Last word on Safety.

Follow your gut instincts. If you are unsure – give us a call.

Koh Rong Samloem Lazy Beach

An Intriguing Travelers Guide To Remarkable Koh Rong Samloem

Koh Rong Samloem

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.

Cambodian Island Hopping

Jump to the next list of Cambodian islands

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.

Koh Kong

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.

Exploration Prohibited

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.

Koh Rong

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.

Koh Tuich

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.

Long Beach

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.

The Vibe

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.

Koh Totang

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.

Cambodian Island Hopping; continued

Koh Ta Kiev

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.

Surf Cambodia

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.

Koh S’mach

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

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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Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia

Tropical Rainforest And Rivers Of The Cardamom Mountains

cardamom mountains

Cardamom Mountains

The Cardamom Mountains, or Krâvanh Mountains, is a mountain range in the southwest of Cambodia and Eastern Thailand. The country’s Cardamom Mountains are extraordinary. A vast blanket of tropical rainforest which remains one of Southeast Asia’s most pristine expanses of wilderness.

Isolated by their remoteness and rugged terrain and forgotten during years of conflict in Cambodia. The Cardamoms have at their core a virtually undisturbed rainforest covering over 10,000 square kilometres. Which is more than 4.4 million hectares. The Cardamoms are mainland Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest and wilderness area. It is also claimed to be the most pristine wilderness area remaining in Southeast Asia.

It is inhabited by many endangered flora and fauna. The expansive woodland is also home to about 25,000 people, many of whom are ethnic minorities.

The highest peak of the Cardamom Mountains is Phnom Aural in the northeast at 1,813 metres. This is also Cambodia’s highest mountain

cardamom mountains wildlife

Cardamom Mountains Cambodia

The Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia are known to contain almost all of Cambodia’s known mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. This is partly due to the very high diversity of habitats, some of which occur nowhere else in Cambodia. Such as the large expanses of fire-regulated ferns, upper montane forest, high elevation marshes and blackwater rivers. The rivers are home to both Irrawaddy and humpback dolphins. The last populations the rare Siamese crocodiles and the nearly extinct northern river terrapin, or royal turtle remaining in Cambodia.

People have identified 30 large mammal species, 30 small mammal species, more than 450 birds, 64 reptiles, 30 amphibians. Plus many other plants and insects. To name just a few of the animals indigenous to this area would include elephants, tigers, clouded leopards and a variety of other mammals. The Malaysian sun bear and pleated gibbons all of which are high on the endangered species list and some represent the only significant population thought to exist anywhere.

Thanks to this vast array of rare animals and tropical flora, there has been a recent upgrade of roads, resulting in a more community-based tourism. Projects are cropping up, tourism is starting to trickle into this remote area.

Once an inaccessible part of Cambodia either through environmental conditions or by human activity, it is now more accessible. Recent improvements to access and the development of community-led projects has seen visiting the area vastly improved.

The area has a rugged landscape, which takes in mountains, marshes, plains and gushing rivers making it perfect for the vast collection of rare and endangered species that call it home.

cardamom mountain trail

Cardamon Wildlife Sancturies

There are two wildlife sanctuaries in the Cardamoms, both of which were decreed by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1993. Mt. Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary is in the western part of the range, and Mt. Aural Wildlife Sanctuary is in the east. These are “paper” parks only, as they exist only by law, with none of the active management necessary for a wildlife preserve.

Conservation and sustainability are often among the lowest priorities in Cambodia. All around the country, stories of illegal logging, mining, overfishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture are common: literally, a rapping and pillaging of the country by self-serving individuals making quick money at Cambodia’s expense. Essentially, the selling off of Cambodian’s heritage and future.

And Cambodia’s endangered flora and fauna in the Cardamoms may well be under threat from these illegal activities. There have been attempts in the recent past by developers to exploit resources in the area.

Being home to such a swathe of endangered animals, hunters commonly prowl the forest to find rare catches and lay snares. Their prizes are often sold on for hefty sums – often to be used in Chinese medicine.

While poaching remains a serious threat, recent years have seen it slow down, thanks to the tireless efforts of a series of organisations. Several initiatives have equipped former poachers with new skills and ways to make money so they can leave their past behind.

Volunteering In The Cardamom Mountains

If you want to get up close and personal with some of these incredible animals, then nature organisation Wildlife Alliance (WA) offers a special experience.

Working in the Cardamoms, WA rescues animals from poachers and traffickers, and rehabilitates them at Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre, outside Phnom Penh.

Activities include accompanying a ranger on his patrols of the forest, checking camera traps for animal sightings, kayaking and hiking.

Former poachers now act as guides to lead guests through the jungle and families can make their cash through guesthouses and other businesses tapping into visiting tourists.

Education has also dramatically helped. With many organisations visiting schools and villages to explain the importance of keeping the Cardamoms intact. Patrol stations have also been set up in areas that are rife with hunters, with rangers trained to patrol the areas.

For decades, the area’s precious woods, including rosewood, have been targeted, with vast expanses of the forest cleared.

Efforts are being made to stamp out the large-scale logging and other illegal operations by campaigners and environmental NGOs. But it continues to be a problem today.

Best Known Of Cambodia Mountains

Cardamom Mountains

Tourism is relatively new to the area. In 2008, WA launched a community-based ecotourism program in the village of Chi-Phat, marketed as the “gateway to the Cardamoms”. Visitors to Chi-Phat continue to grow and the community is regarded as a model for community-based ecotourism. Eco tourism has approximately 3,000 visitors a year.

The Cardamoms are the most populart of all cambodia’s mountains. Get there for the adventure of a life time – NOW. Cyclebodia would be an awesome way trekking in Cambodia.

If you do decide to visit, keep in mind there is no luxury, no wifi, no hot showers or hospitals. There is scarce generator-powered electricity and in many places, no phone reception. There are insects, malaria-riddled mosquitoes in some areas, a range of strange creepy crawlies, and other odd-looking creatures. But at the end of the day it is well worth a visit.

Banteay Chhmar

Banteay Chhmar Another Khmer Jewel From A Great Empire

Banteay Chhmar

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.

Stay Anywhere!

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.

There’s a bit of a shortage of five-star hotels in town, but there are some great homestay options: Ouch Nary Homestay, Khoeun Sreymom Homestay, Khlot Sopheng Homestay, and Phoeu Sopheann Homestay. You can simply arrive and find one of these places or make a reservation through https://www.visitbanteaychhmar.org/homestays/ or https://www.visitbanteaychhmar.org/

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.

Meborn Baray

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.

Cambodian Silk

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.

It seems that many people have a superficial appreciation of their country’s heritage, but a greater appreciation of selling that heritage for a quick buck. Banteay Chhmar has suffered years of looting and destruction.

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.

koh dach

How To Get To Amazing Koh Dach By Bike

koh dach

Koh Dach

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.

Other Adventures

Once you have been to Koh Dach you might want to consider other trips. There are Eco Tourism spots in Cambodia that are a must or a visit up into the Mondulkiri Mountains. Or the busy spots of Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to Battambang.

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cambodia elephant sanctuary

Cambodia Eco Tourism Is Remarkable And Easily Accessible

ambodia-elephant-sanctuary

Cambodia Eco Tourism: back to grass (and) roots

Cambodia Eco Tourism cannot be bettered, than volunteering in an eco sanctuary. Let us explain

Volunteering does not get much better than when it is hands on with nature. Become an eco-volunteer and really make a difference. Help a local community by working on projects that protect endangered wildlife or focus on repairing and managing an overexploited environment. Help locals put skills and money where they are needed and not to those who don’t need them.

Eco-volunteers are involved in a variety of work from protecting wildlife to developing the local habitat to helping farmers and villagers improve food production and quality of life while protecting the environment. Creating awareness about the benefits of local conservation work and wildlife protection is always an objective.

cambodia eco tourism

While many of these projects are at a community level and involve work that develops that environment, there are other projects that develop sustainable ecotourism. Successful conservation work, wildlife protection and community-based ecotourism have proven they work well together.

Helping Locals Help Themselves

Work on projects that are finding ways for local people to better protect and manage the environment while providing opportunities for tourists to visit and experience unique places. Train local people to take care of tourists, teach local residents English, and how to be a good guide. Help them understand what tourists are looking for.

Volunteers can not only improve tourist services and activities and offer trekking advice but also help build trails and show survival tricks in the jungle, like extracting water from a vine and how to spot wildlife.

Teaching English is important. Village guides and host families who speak some English are more successful. A guided tour in English adds more value to the trek.

By helping locals, you will make them less dependent on exploitative businesses such as tour operators and big business who reap the profits of tourism to these places but little or no money goes to the people let alone for developing the community and protecting the environment. Some tour operators who claim to offer genuine eco-tourism only provide fake villages with hired locals, like a zoo. In fact, to develop fake projects these operators destroy the environment by clearing the jungle to build roads and make fake villages and other projects.

Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia

You could volunteer to work with elephants, then an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia could be for you. For this type of project, you observe elephants interacting and foraging in the forest. Take regular walks with the elephants through the jungle and help reforest the area by collecting seeds and planting saplings.

You also take care of injured and orphaned animals until their release back into the wild. The work can also involve taking care of domestic animals at a sanctuary. At most of these types of projects, there is also the need to teach English to locals and develop educational programs. In the daily operations of this type of program, English is very important.

Eco-Volunteers Helping

Eco-volunteers work to help local villagers and farmers earn extra income while they develop their community and protect the environment. Community based eco-tourism is the best way to create local awareness about the benefits of conservation work and wildlife protection.

The goal of most projects is to help villagers by providing them with education and resources which enable them to develop their communities themselves, in a way that is sustainable. Volunteers generally help with the organisation, monitoring and evaluation of projects. Particularly if volunteers have experience in development work or in any of the project areas. They may be able to implement new ideas and have a greater involvement in project planning. However, the Khmer people do most of the work within the communities, as a key objective of all projects is to empower the village residents.

6 Cambodian eco tour destinations

Cambodia Eco Tourism Project Types

Projects typically involve well digging, which provide resources to villagers to allow them to dig and maintain water-wells in their communities. There is also water distribution for irrigation that involves pump building and canal construction. Providing biosand filters so that drinking water is safe is another activity. Improving health care through health education and helping to provide nutritious food, a healthy environment and care for the sick is a major focus. Other projects include microloans to help families set up small business and generate income; animal pass-on projects, which involve passing on breeding animals among villages for food and income generation; and gardening and fish-pond projects so that villagers can provide their own sources of food. Finally, there is bee and honey production, which generates money through the sale of honey. Fair trade projects or selling clothing and crafts to local and overseas markets is also important.

Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuaries

An eco-volunteer could also work at one of the many wildlife sanctuaries where you work with locals to manage many endangered species including tigers, elephants, banteng, Eld’s deer, sarus crane, crocodile, and several turtle species. Many of these areas were once densely forested and rich in biodiversity. However, these areas have been significantly impacted by illegal logging and poaching. Projects are focused on protecting and restoring tens of thousands of hectares of jungle.

Volunteers work alongside locals, helping to reforest areas by keeping records of identified species, collecting seeds, and planting saplings. You also have the chance to care for injured and orphaned animals who have been rescued so that they can be rehabilitated and returned to their jungle home. Lending a hand with the sustainable farming of vegetables and fruit is also available. The ongoing support of volunteers is vital to ensuring a project’s continued success in protecting and regenerating important natural habitat so that it can sustain a diverse range of wildlife for generations to come.

Become an eco-volunteer and make a difference.

Eco-volunteering

Want to try your hand at some environmentally friendly projects then take a look at these projects.

Asian Elephant Projects

Sustainable Cambodia

http://www.sustainablecambodia.org/page.asp?p=28

Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary

http://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.org/volunteer.html

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Osoam Cardamom Community Centre

https://osoamccc.weebly.com/

cycling in cambodia during corona virus

Your Remarkable RoadTrip From Pailin to Battambang

cycling in cambodia during corona virus

The Road From Pailin To Battambang

If you want to attempt some adventure cycling, then take a look at Pailin. It is not far from Battambang and only about 15 kilometres from the Thai-Cambodia border. So, you can enter from Thailand or make a side trip from Battambang, or vice versa. Either way, the ride from Pailin to Battambang is an adventure you won’t forget.

I decided that I wanted to spend most of my time cycling around the province, so to get to Pailin I bundled the bike into a taxi in Battambang – no easy task, as it’s a 29er – with the aim of cycling from Pailin to Battambang.

pailin to battambang

Pailin is a small town and has some decent places to stay, such as the Ruby Guesthouse. It comes across as quite safe, odd when you consider it is a former Khmer Rouge stronghold and racketeering centre. However, I erred on the side of caution and found a guesthouse that let me park my bike inside at night time. Having said that, most places were accommodating with this request.

Another convenience the locals offer is that they will accept Baht, Riels and US dollars; the preference is dollars. And always remember that in Cambodia, the wise bring small denominations.

The first day I was there I decided to check out the sites in town. Very easy to cycle to all these places. The real hump would be the trips to the tourist attractions out of town.

Wats and More Wats

 In town there are a couple temples to visit. You can cycle to all of them, in fact you can take your bike to the top of the hills and right into the temple grounds.

There is the famous Wat Gohng-Kahng where the official Pailin reintegration ceremony occurred in 1996, after the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge worked out surrender and semi-autonomy deals with the Cambodian government. It is also the gate that faces you as you enter the town from Battambang. These days it is the centre of holiday festivities.

Wat Phnom Yat

Another place to visit is Wat Phnom Yat, which was built by Shan migrants from Burma. This Wat is a cultural and historical site and is not a holy place This hilltop temple is in the heart of Pailin and next to Wat Gohng-kahng. It includes an old pagoda, similar to the Kola pagoda.

There is a beautiful new decorative stairway leading to the hilltop temple area, where a new temple is under construction and the monks openly teach the faith. Before you climb, don’t forget to visit the statue of Phnom Yat or “Mountain of Grandma Yat”.

There are many ancient structures on Phnom Yat, including the big and small stupas and Asroms – hermitages for meditating. Many small cottages are available for visitors to relax in on the mountaintop and enjoy the fantastic views of the Pailin area and the beautiful sunsets over the mountains.

Another Pagoda, about 50 meters from the foot of Wat Yat, is Wat Rattanak Sopoan. On the walls surrounding the pagoda is a bas-relief depicting the Hindu story of Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Wat Rattanak Sophoan is a Burmese style pagoda more than 570 years old.

Cambodian Food

All that cycling around town would have built an enormous hunger. The local dishes are distinct to the area. You can try Mee Kola, a vegetarian noodle dish made from thin rice stick noodles, steamed and cooked with soy sauce and garlic chive, sometimes mixed with some meats and small lobster. Another dish is Mon banana. Of course, there is Thai food such as Tom yum.

Out of Pailin Town

Cycling around this part of world during the rainy season would be tough going. It would be wet, muddy, slipping here and there, maybe a tumble, and the ups and downs of the roads would be a challenge. My advice, if cycling then visit during the late wet season or dry season.

Another word of warning is mines. A gift from decades of fighting is the enormous number of landmines that were planted in the province. So, if you’re planning a visit to the countryside around Pailin City ask a local about the current de-mining efforts. Also, point out where you are planning to go, and they will let you know about the current situation. That, and staying on marked roads, will keep you out of trouble.

Most of the rides from the city are easy day trips. Here a some you can attempt.

There’re a couple of short trips that a cyclist can attempt to get a taste of the conditions. The first is to Kbal O’Chra, which is located O’Chra village, and is about a 5-kilometre ride. There you’ll find a nature & wildlife reserve. Another 5-kilometre ride is to a small wooden bridge going over the Oh-chah-rah River. The water coming down from the mountains is cool and clean, so just right for a swim after a hot ride. You also pass by a tank’s bombed-out shell. Tanks have just remained where they were destroyed in Cambodia and have simply become another part of the landscape. One final short ride you could try is to O’Tavao, which is about 5 kilometres from town. It is a place rich in beautiful scenery and clean water, which flows from Phnom Khieu.

Probably one of the most interesting places to visit is Bah Hoi Village. There you will pass through an internal refugee camp with people from different parts of the country that were formerly under Khmer Rouge control and are now in the hands of the government. The people are quite friendly and don’t mind a chat.

Pailin Provence

There are many waterfalls in Pailin Provence and the best time to visit is during the rainy season. However, there are still pools to cool off in during the dry season and the heavily forested hills provide pleasant scenery. Locals from Battambang visit them on weekends. They are a great destination for cycling. One waterfall you can visit is O’Eb and is about 10 kilometres northwest of town along the road to Bo Yakha and Bo Tang Sour.

A few other places to consider cycling to are Phnom Koy, which is about 20 kilometres north of town. Phnom Koy is an area rich in forest and big lianas. A natural stream flows down the mountain.

Another is Goh-Ay Mountain that has a river which is great for swimming. Stay on the worn paths by the river area as there are landmines around.

You can also cycle to the border that is a vibrant place. It is only 15 kilometres. At the border there is a flash casino called the Flamingo which has a rather good bar attached to it. Maybe that is reason enough. The border crossing and casino area is called Pbrohm by the locals.  So, if you want to throw a few dollars, there a several choices to achieve that end.

As for using Pailin as a border crossing to and from Thailand, the Thais have no problem with it and will issue you a Thai visa or stamp. However, the problem is on the Cambodian side as the immigration police say that it’s not an official crossing: maybe.

A Memory of Pailin

Before you leave Pailin, a souvenir to remember the place could be a gemstone. Unfortunately, all you can find these days is hand-faceted, low-quality and cheap gemstones at the market in downtown Pailin. Nonetheless, even a cheap gemstone can hold good memories.

Pailin To Battambang

A five-in-the-morning start will get you on the road for a pleasantly cool ride through the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains: it is also pitch black. Once you go beyond the city limits, street lights are far and few between. Another hassle are farm dogs. At that time of the morning, dogs seem to like chasing invisible cyclists. As you pass farms, snarling, barking dogs set off in hot pursuit. Luckily, they are easily out-paced and a loud snarl from the rider finishes the dog’s pursuit. Apart from that, the road is in good condition and a good bike light will set you straight until it starts to get light.

And what a sight the sunrise is: the sky lightens, and a ribbon of dark blue appears on the horizon; the air fills with the smell of hay. You cycle through rice farms, piggeries and quite an assortment of farming activity. Remember this part of Cambodia is the bread basket of the country. The sun is up, the humidity rises, and it is daytime. You are halfway to your destination.

The ride from Pailin to Battambang is only 90 kilometres. If you leave at 5am, you can be in Battambang before 10am. See you in Pailin.