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Kampong Cham

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in kampong cham

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : Kampong Cham

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

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

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kampong cham Travel Guide :

Kampong Cham

Understand

Kampong Cham is the capital of the province of the same name. Because there is little foreign investment and no large scale tourism (almost every foreigner who comes here will be a backpacker), this city is very poor with few modern buildings, though not lacking in French architecture from the colonial period. It is similar to many other Cambodian cities, being rather dirty, with garbage a common sight. However, with the completion of a modern two-lane bridge across the Mekong, the city has begun a slow recovery from decades of irrevocable decline. The people of Kampong Cham are (like all Cambodians) very friendly and open to engaging with tourists.

If things look good here (relative to other Cambodian cities), consider that Kampong Cham is the original home of PM Hun Sen and former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara.

Kampong Cham

Get in

The highway between Kampong Cham city and the capital, Phnom Penh, is one of the best in the country, being paved and divided. It runs along the Mekong, and buses frequent this route daily, so you should have no trouble getting between the two cities.

If you have your own motorcycle or car, the trip will be so much faster and easier, just make sure to bring a map.

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

  • Bus Ho Wah Genting, Telephone 023-210359. Approximately 7,000 riel, with buses leaving throughout the day at 6:45, 7:45, 9:00, 10:00, 11:30, 13:15, 15:00, and 16:00. Typically a 3-4 hour trip.
  • Bus GST, Telephone 023-335199. Also 7,000 riel, but only leaving twice daily, at 9:00 and 15:00 with a 3-4 hour trip.
  • Taxis are a less popular and more expensive method, costing about $10-$15 USD one way. These do, however, offer much more comfort and speed than a bus usually does, but make sure the vehicle's air conditioning is functional before getting in!
  • Trucks are also an option, but with much less comfort than buses or taxis, are not advised.
Kampong Cham

Get around

Once in Kampong Cham, most of the sites worth seeing are outside the city itself, so you're going to need some form of motorized transport.

An increasing number of visitors to Cambodia are buying their own motorcycles and then reselling them just before they leave the country (or return home), and this is a great way to see Kampong Cham. Smaller 110cc bikes are the ones seen driven by practically every Khmer in the city, while the larger 250cc bikes are more often driven by foreigners or expats. The smaller bikes are cheaper, but less suited for long distance travel and are more susceptible to theft. It's your call, though most travellers end up buying 250ccs. If you choose to buy a 250cc, expect to pay anywhere from $500 to over $2500 USD, depending on the age of the bike. Note that Vietnam currently does not allow anything larger than 150cc into it's borders, but this will likely change in the near future. Note that there are no places to rent motorbikes currently in Kampong Cham, so if you don't wish to buy you had best rent from elsewhere in the country.

There are plenty of motodops offering their service for travel not only within the city, but to outlying areas of the province. For a scant $4 USD, you can be shown the temples at Nokor Wat, the endless jackfruit fields, and other attractions near the city. Be warned though, if your driver takes you to stalls or shops to purchase souvenirs, he will be receiving commission off of whatever you choose to buy. As usual, bargain with your driver. It's okay to set a price beforehand, but sometimes best to agree on the price afterwards. For one way trips within the city, don't pay more than 2,000 riel (and many will consider even that a rip off).

There are tuk-tuks in Kampong Cham, but as the city is not nearly as heavily touristed than others in Cambodia, such as Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, there won't be many of these.

Some of the larger hotels and guesthouses (such as the Mekong Hotel) will rent you bicycles, but these are next to useless, as they are too slow to see anything meaningful in a day, and if yours leaves your sight for an extended period of time, you won't see it again.

Kampong Cham

See

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

Ruins at Nokor WatRuins at Nokor Wat
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Ruins at Nokor Wat
  • Nokor Wat. An Angkorian temple dating from the 11th century, containing a standard assortment of Angkor architecture. Some of the mausoleums are open to tourists and contain piles of bones and skulls from the Khmer Rouge's genocidal reign. Inside one of the buildings is a very elaborate series of wall paintings, depicting torture and executions (of a religious nature), followed by scenes of heaven and the afterlife. This is not always an accessible building, as a Monk has to unlock it for you to enter. He usually does, though your driver may ask you to refrain.
  • There is also a French lookout tower on the other side of the river, once used for monitoring river traffic. It's in pretty poor shape.
Kampong Cham

Do

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

The Bamboo BridgeThe Bamboo Bridge
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The Bamboo Bridge
  • The Bamboo Bridge, located a few blocks south of the bridge spanning the Mekong, is a solid bamboo structure built to an island across the Mekong. On the other side is endless Cham and Khmer villages, entirely poor mounted on stilts. This is a great place to drive along if you want to check out the people of the land. The bamboo bridge can even withstand trucks, so don't worry about whatever you're taking, just be careful not to fall into the river.
  • West of the city are a pair of mountains, with temples on top of them. The mountain of Pros has a dull peak and is approximately 30 metres tall, with a road going up to the top. There are a series of temples at the top, with the centrepiece being a five pagoda temple. There are outlying temples, most of which are ruined and falling apart. The mountain of Srey has 308 steps running up it, with a ruined temple at the top. There are no monks in this one, but there are several women and old men who collect donations from visitors.
Pros MountainPros Mountain
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Pros Mountain
Kampong Cham

Buy

Kampong Cham features a few markets, but the best is the one the locals use. It features all sorts of food, ranging from standard mangoes and other fruits, to pig heads and live fish. As with all other food places in the area, use common sense when buying here, as there are health hazards to the unsuspecting Westerner. It's just down the road from the Mekong Crossing restaurant, but it's only open during daylight hours, closing at around 17:00 or so.

  • Canadia Bank, not to be confused with Canada, this bank is wholly Cambodian owned. This particular branch doesn't take baht, and exchanges money at a poorer rate (approximately 3,800 riel to the USD) than you'll get at your guesthouse or on the street. Best to avoid this one.
  • Money changers are available throughout the city, particularly in the markets, and will give you the standard rate of 4,000 riel to the US dollar, even though the riel has been sliding to more than 4,200 to the US dollar of late. Don't bother with pounds, euros, or other currencies, it's USD, riel, and occasionally baht. Nothing else will be accepted and may as well be toilet paper.
Kampong Cham

Eat

  • Mekong Crossing, on the road between the food market and the riverbank. A popular (at least among foreigners) restaurant run by an American expat, this small place serves up a variety of western foods, including burgers, pasta, and pizza. Though it does serve "khmer" food, it's heavily westernized as well. Service tends to be slow, even by Khmer standards. Costlier than most, but at no more than $5 USD per dish, it's not going to burn a hole in your moneybelt.
  • Hao An - Large restaurant on the main road. Very tourist friendly, and serves plenty of genuine Khmer food, as well as other Asian cuisine. Excellent place to lounge about and drink beer, and good for shared dishes. Most dishes fetch for around $2-$3 USD.
  • San Te Hap Rest. Southeast side of the market in front of pharmacy. Cheap, tasty tofu and seafood dishes for around 2,000 to 4,000 riel. Try the seaweed curry.
Kampong Cham

Drink


Kampong Cham

Sleep

  • Mekong Hotel, #56 Samdach Pann Rd., 012-941536. The best, in terms of quality, hotel in town, and good value for your money, even if you are travelling during the peak season. To find the hotel from the roundabout at the bridge, head north until you get to the food market, turn right until you get to the riverbank, turn left, and it's the big yellow building, impossible to miss. Rooms have fans, TV, and a private bathroom with hot water and optional air conditioning. Considering how this hotel is so much better than virtually every guesthouse in town, many end up here. You don't need a reservation, and most rooms are doubles. $5-10 (fan room - air conditioning).
  • Kim Srun Guesthouse, 012-941507. Nice balconies with good view of the river, featuring rather large, if basic rooms. $3-$5 (single-double).
  • Serey Pheap Guesthouse, #110, Route #7, 012-864565. Very large and good quality rooms. A quiet, family-run establishment with staff that will bend over backwards to please you and your cohorts. $3-$4 (single-double, TV and air conditioning extra).
Kampong Cham

Get out

Kampong Cham features road links with most major Cambodian cities, including Phnom Penh. Since many travellers who pass through here are on their way north to Kratie and other areas, the best thing to do is to simply hop on a bus to wherever it is you are going. If you have your own transportation, just get out and drive. Be aware, though, that the road to Kratie is one of the worst in the entire country.

The bus station is on the main road. From the roundabout, walk southwest, on right side. You buy your ticket at the counter.

  • Bus Hoh Wa Genting, Telephone 012-923551. Approximately 7,000 riel, with buses leaving throughout the day at 7:30, 8:10, 9:00, 10:00, 12:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 for a 3-4 hour trip.

There are two types of boats in Kampong Cham (really all of Cambodia), the slow boats and the fast boats. The slow boats are obviously slower than the other option, but are safer.

  • Slow boats don't have a pier, but simply land on the muddy river bank north of the bridge. Buy your tickets (for approximately 12,000 riel to either Phnom Penh or Kratie) underneath the huge cigarette advertisement. You can sit either on the roof or inside, and regardless of whichever you choose, you're in for a noisy, crowded ride. Get on the boat 1 hour prior to departure. To Phnom Penh the trip takes about 2-3 hours, to Kratie about 5-6 hours, with both boats departing throughout the day.
  • Fast boats are located on the riverside road, 20 minutes north from Route #7. These are more comfortable, but can get packed so get your ticket early, and get on about an hour prior to departure. Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh costs 15,000 riel, and takes less than 2 hours, while to Kratie costs 20,000 riel and takes 3-4 hours.

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