Kampong Cham is the capital of the province of the same name and the third largest city in Cambodia. With its Mekong River location and relatively close proximity to Phnom Penh (123km) and Vietnam, Kampong Cham has always been an important trade and transportation hub. The highway from Phnom Penh is in excellent condition-you can get here in just under two hours by road or by the bullet boats that are a main mode of transportation between towns on the Mekong River. Either way it’s a nice fide, with views of the rural countryside or river area, depending on which way you go.
The town itself is quaint and charming with its bustling morning river scene and wide boulevard streets beside the river. There are a few worthwhile attractions nearby and with it’s location on the way by boat or road to Kratie, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces; it’s a nice jump-off point. Kampong Cham is a mix of the old and the new, with a new temple being built in and around old ruins and the big ferry boats taking people and goods to the other side of the Mekong, right next to the construction of the first bridge ever built here.
Because there is little foreign investment and no massive tourism (almost every foreigner who comes here is a backpacker), this city is quite poor with a 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. The people of Kampong Cham are very friendly and open to engaging with tourists. If recent projects seem to be improving the state of things here (relative to other Cambodian cities), remember that both PM Hun Sen and former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara are originally from this province.
This province is located in the eastern heard of Cambodia bordering following provinces: Kratie to the Northeast, Vietnam to the East, Prey Veng to the South, Kampong Chhnang to the west and Kampong Thom to the Northwest. Due to its advantageous location with the mighty Mekong flowing through the whole province, Kampong Cham has not much to fear of water supply.
The sprawling township of Kampong Cham stretching lazily along the west bank of the Mekong River has much to offer, from temples to deep forests of numerous rubber plantations (a legacy of the French colonial period) to peaceful stalls along the river where visitors can sit back and soak in the atmosphere over a beer or fresh coconut. Kampong Cham is also located at a crossroads. It is the gateway to exotic Mondulkiri Province through Kratie, and it’s a common port city on the mighty Mekong. Via the national highway No 7 the province is easily to enter and to explore. The province is divided up into 16 districts, with 173 communes and 1,748 villages. Its geographic location is 12.00N, 105.46 E
Cambodia has sun almost year round. The average temperature is around 27 degrees Celsius; minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months during the year. General information about the climate: – Rainy season: May – October (27-35c, with humidity up to 90%.)
- Cool season: November- March (17-27c)
- Hot season: March- May (28c -36c)
Kampong Cham is the capital of the Cambodian province of Kampong Cham. It is the third largest city in Cambodia with a population of 1,914,152 people (2007) with 928,504 male and 985,648 female and is located on the Mekong River. Kampong Cham is 123 kilometres northeast from Phnom Penh and can be reached by either boats or a recently constructed asphalt road. It takes about 2 hours by vehicles or 2.5 hours by boats from Phnom Penh to the city of Kampong Cham.
In an effort to entice foreign investment, the province is offering generous business concessions to those who wish to invest in rubber plantations inside the country. Kampong Cham and Kratie have an abundance of red soil and water resources, which create ideal conditions for the cultivation of rubber.
Generally, the people make their living from rubber and cashew nut plantation, fishing, rice farming and producing a rich array of fruits in fertile orchards, including durian, rambutans and lychees
How to Get There
This is a nice option for you travel along the Mekong. Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham takes two hours and costs 10,000 riel. The boats depart just north of the Japanese Bridge (around 150m) on the Phnom Penh side of the Tonle Sap River. Kampong Cham to Kratie is a three hour boat ride and the cost is about 15,000 riel. The boats usually do not continue on to Stung Treng, as the water level must be very high to enable the boats to clear all of the small islands and clumps in the river between Kratie and Stung Treng. The boats usually don’t even go during the rainy season, as there aren’t many people travelling on this route.
The cost for taking a motorcycle with you by boat for a section of the trip is the same price as for a person. It’s not recommended, though, as the porters who load and unload the boats are a hassle to deal with and if they happen to drop your motorcycle in the river (a real possibility), it’s your loss and not theirs. If you have a motorcycle, ride it. It’s not recommended to combine the two modes of transportation.
Hoh Wat Gentling Bus Company and Sorya Bus Company (168) have a/c buses to and from Kampong Cham on a regular schedule every day. Their main bus terminal is near the southwest corner of the Central Market (or New Market) in Phnom Penh. The trip is 6,000 riel. In Kampong Cham, bus arrivals and departures are at the Kampong Cham Market. Please see the Getting Around chapter towards the front of the book for all bus schedules.
As it is quite cheap and quick with the air-con buses from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, there is not much of a reason to take a taxi. A share taxi from Kampong Cham to Kampong Thom is 8,000 riel. The road is in good condition. The share taxi do not go all the way to Kratie at this time, only as far as Snoul, the small town that is the juncture point for the road to Kratie and to Sen Monorom town in Mondulkiri Province. In Snoul there are only sometimes share taxis plying the route to Kratie. If you don’t have your own motorcycle as transportation, your surest bet is to take the bullet boat if you want to go to Kratie from Kampong Cham.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham
As mentioned earlier, the highway from Phnom Penh is in excellent condition; you take Highway No 6 from Phnom Penh (crossing the Japanese Bridge) and go to the roundabout in Skun comprising a stature of children holding a bird. Highway 6 continues on to the left, going to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. For Kampong Cham, you veer to the right and follow Highway No 7. A scenic option to this is to follow the river road on the eastern side of the Mekong River (if own vehicle). It takes a bit more time but if you have time it’s worth it. Security is not a problem. Until the new bridge over the Mekong River is finished, you still take the big ferry across if you want to explore the eastern side of the province or continue on to Kratie or Mondulkiri Provinces by motorcycle or vehicle. It’s 200 riel per person and 400 riel for a motorcycle.
Kampong Cham to Snoul and Kratie or Sen Monorom:
The motorcycle ride from Kampong Cham to Snoul is not with the best road equipped, but it’s doable. Just before you reach Snoul there is a junction in the road with a police box on the right side. Follow the road to the left and you are on the highway to Kratie. You go through the town of Snoul just ahead where there is food and fuel.
Back at the junction by the police box just before you get to Snoul, following the curve to the right takes you to Mondulkiri. About 7 km past that curve you come to a four-way junction. Turn left there and you are on the dust highway (laterite surface) to Sen Monorom. Fuel and drinks are available at the four-way junction and 60km later, so you can bypass Snoul if you like. The road from Snoul to Sen Monorom is generally in good condition. It’sonly a dirt road but it’s nice and level, because it was put in for the logging trucks. The road gets quite tricky during the rainy season, however, when the clay gets wet and it becomes similar to riding on ice. The scenery is beautiful and you’re passing one of the remotest places in the country.
What to do
Kampong Cham isn’t a city chock full of tourist attractions, but its 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.
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. To get there by bicycle follow the road to Phnom Penh for about 1 km and turn left when you see a dusty road going down through a gate (there’s also a sign). The tourist police may ask you for money for their own purposes. If you are stingy, you can enter the temple from the other side for free. Don’t miss the beautiful sunset in the old Angkorian ruins. The visit to this site can easily be combined with a trip to the mountains Pros and Srei.
If you are interested in Apsara dances (traditional Cambodian dances), there are occassional performances at 5 p.m. (mainly weekends and holidays) behind (east of) the Wat Nokor (Nokor Bachey Temple) by the children and teenagers looked after and educated by BSDA, a Non Governmental Oranization (NGO) located at the temple site and managed by the monks. Entrance is free, donations are certainly welcome. Performances seem to be mainly on request, and the children and teenagers will be very happy to show off their talents.
Pros and Srei Mountain are praised in every tourist guide, however actually nowadays they are only two ‘brand new’ concrete buildings on the top of some small hills. If you don’t have too much time, it’s better to head for Phnom Hanchey, which is about 8km from the city.
Located 25km north of Kampong Cham, Phnom Hanchey is another temple on a hilltop in the area. The view of the beautiful Cambodian landscape that you get when you go there however is certainly worth it! If you can make it up very early (around 5am) you’ll see a gorgeous sunrise over the Mekong that will be on your right side all through the way.
There is also a French lookout tower on the other side of the river, once used for monitoring river traffic. It’s still standing but in a decaying state. You can climb the stairs inside the tower and have a good view on the bridge, the Mekong and the small village next to the tower. The stairs are difficult and dangerous to climb, however.
An abandoned US airstrip that has been used by B52 bombers is a short distance west of town. To get there take the Highway 7 to Phnom Penh for about 3 km. Just before the factory on the left hand side (looks a bit like a prison) there is a dirt road going to the right between street vendors and two red-white striped poles. Follow this road for about 2.5 km. There is not much left to see apart from the pavement of the airstrip and two decaying buildings next to it – a pillbox and the control tower probably. Leaving the airstrip on the left (west) will eventually lead to Mountain Pros and Srey. Going right (east) to the end of the strip and turning right again will lead you back to Kampong Cham.
Where to Eat
Apsara Restaurant: Near the Kampong Cham Market. They serve a good breakfast and continue throughout the day. They have some western food and an English menu.
Kimstrun Guesthouse & Restaurant:
The guesthouse has a small rice dish and noodle soup restaurant.
Hoa An Restaurant:
This place is popular with locals and the Kampong Cham NGO crowd. It looks like a two-story hotel and has some a/c rooms for private dinners, in addition to the main eating area. Good Chinese and Khmer food along with the usual beer girls.
Phnom Prosh Hotel & Restaurant:
This newer hotel also has a restaurant. Good Chinese, Khmer and a bit of western food.
Two Dragons Restaurant:
Located in the centre of the city, this restaurant has a menu in English and a range of good Khmer food (some international dishes).
Boeng Kan Seng Restaurant:
Located in the West of the town on the lakeside this peaceful restaurant offers more than 100 Khmer and Chinese dishes. There are also small food and drink stands along the River Parkway.
Where to sleep
There are hotels and guesthouses offering decent accommodation options. Although a large number of guesthouses can be found around town, the decent places are concentrated at or close to the riverside. For 5 USD you can get a fan room of a comfortable size with private bathroom (cold water) and TV. There are many more guesthouses around town than mentioned here (especially near the market). They are sometimes (but by no means always) 1$ or 2$ cheaper than a fan room in a hotel but offer tiny and dull rooms in some cases more often rented out by the hour than by night. They are rather a last resort if everything else is fully booked or if you are really on the cheap of the cheap.
Mekong Hotel, #56 Samdach Pann Rd., 042-941536. 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 (with the best range of stations in town), 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. Sometimes tour groups fill all the rooms but in general you don’t need a reservation. Most rooms are doubles. Make sure you ask for a view of the Mekong river, as the only view from the windows on the other side of the building is of piles of garbage. $5-10 (fan room – air conditioning). As at October 2009, the Mekong hotel is being refurbished. Price for a refurbished, air-conditioned room with a view of the Mekong is US$15. Work is conducted from 7:30am-about 5pm, so noise might be a problem if you plan on sleeping in.
Mekong Sunrise, (firstname.lastname@example.org). tel. 088 8057407 The Mekong sunrise is the only guesthouse in kampong cham which has a restaurant downstairs with a pool table, places to relax with sofa and hammock on balcony. And a good view on the Mekong. Owned by a friendly Frenchman who will give you good advice to visit around. Rooms are clean and spacious, with free wifi. Double room with a huge private balcony on the top. No air condition and cable tv, but a playstation for children. Bikes and motorbikes for rent. Simple room with shared bathroom (hot water) US$5, double room with private bathroom 7$.
Monorom VIP Hotel, Mort Tunle Street 11th, Tel. 097 733 2526, www.monoromviphotel.com. This new hotel is not mentioned in any travelling literature so far (July 2011) and offers high quality, spotless clean, spacious and inviting rooms. The best rooms cost 25 US$ (double per night) and look almost like a little palace, with very beautiful Khmer style furniture (wood carving). The Monorom VIP Hotel is located directly at Mekong river, it’s the neighbour building of Mekong Hotel (on the right when you are looking at Mekong Hotel with Mekong river behind you). Monorom VIP Hotel has stunning views on the river, even better than the views of Mekong Hotel.
Mittapheap Hotel, Ph Kosmak Neary Roth (between the roundabout and the riverside). The outside of the hotel looks better than it is in the inside. Still it is one of the better options in town. The rooms are of a comfortable size and come with a fan, cold shower and TV and optional aircon and hot shower. $5-10 (fan room – air conditioning).
Leupviraksa Hotel (coming from the bridge over the Mekong, turn left at the roundabout from where it is about 150 m). The standard is almost identical to the Mittapheap Hotel. It is mainly the view from the upper floor rooms that is better. The drawback is its location a bit outside of the centre. The rooms are okay and come with a fan, cold shower and TV and optional aircon and hot shower. $5-10 (fan room – air conditioning).
Phnom Prosh Hotel , Ph Kosmak Neary Roth (at the roundabout). They have windowless fan rooms with cold shower and TV for 6$ and better aircon rooms (with windows) for 12$. Cleanliness could be better as well as the service from the staff. It might be a place to consider if the other options are full. – July 2011: There are cockroachs coming out of little holes in the walls in the rooms at night.
Monorom Hotel , the pink building just behind the Mekong hotel. The room rates are 5$ for a basic fan room with private bathroom and TV and 10$ for a aircon room or a luxury fan room. This place seems to be very popular but probably not for the quality of the rooms but rather the massage services provided. The staff hardly speaks any English. It might be a place to consider if the other options are full.
Kim Srun Guesthouse, PH Sihanouk (at the Riverside), 012-941507. Rooms come with fan, cold shower and TV. While the windowless single rooms (4$) are merely okay, the double rooms (5$) are much better value for money. Compared to other guesthouses the rooms are large (about the size you can expect in the hotels around) and there is a nice balcony with good views of the river.
Spean Thmey Guesthouse, PH Sihanouk (at the Riverside). The rooms are basic but okay. Price range is 3$-5$ depending on single, double and amenities.
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).
Rana Country Home Stay, Srey Siam village, ☎ 012-686240, . Traditional Khmer house, home cooked meals with home grown food in a country setting. A couple of pleasant walks can be taken from there. The place is located 7km over the bridge in Kampong Cham, on the main highway to Kratie. Phone or email in advance due to a current occupancy of 5 people. $22/per person/perday. For full info and updates go to rana-cambodia.blogspot.com
Mariya Hotel and Restaurant, Riverside, 11th Village, ☎ 0426411144. A brand new hotel facing the Mekong with cozy rooms and a decent, if slightly pricey restaurant on the ground floor. Staff is friendly and willing to help with travel plans, but may push their own services first. Lobby has comfortable chairs, book exchange, and free wifi. $8-25.
Bophear guesthouse, Rue Pasteur. Cheap (3$ without bathroom, 5 with), but not the cleanest room of town. edit
Mekong bamboo hut, Koh pene island, ☎ 070 78 51 15, . A luxurious garden, a pier overlooking the Mekong, beaches at the dry season, the atmosphere of a khmer traditionnal village, the Mekong Bamboo Hut is the perfect place to relax a few days on an island of the mekong and discover cambodian’s lifestyle. You can sleep in a hammock (3$/night) or mattress with mosquito net (6$/2 persons) or private bungalow (10$). There is the possibility to eat on site. Bicycle for rent at 1.5$. Preferential tariff for volunteers of Koh pene pagoda
Kampong Cham market has a gaudy look similar to that of the Central Market in Phnom Penh, and it has a complete supply of just about anything that you may need. A night market springs up on the western side in the evening. There are plenty of photo shops and pharmacies on the perimeter roads.
Kampong Cham Map: Click here to have the map