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