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Kampot

Kampot, the third largest coastal province in Cambodia, shares a border with Vietnam to the east and extends into the Gulf of Siam to the south. Elegant colonial architecture, spectacular natural attractions, and bucolic charm make this province a favorite among locals, expatriates, and more recently, tourists.

Kampot's languid atmosphere and quaint, small-town feel are easy to fall in love with; many who stay in the province do so on the relaxed riverside, where visitors can swim in waters full of bioluminescent plankton or take a smooth kayak ride down the river.

Kampot is more than just a sleepy riverside town, however. The province offers plentiful historical and natural wonders to discover, and serves as a common gateway to Bokor National Park, the beaches of Kep, the beautiful rapids of Toek Chhou and other attractions in southwestern Cambodia.

Bokor National Park is popular for its cool mountain climate and remains a year-round favourite amongst locals and foreigners alike. The scenery from the top is captivating, especially in the morning hours when one can literally touch the clouds and take in the bracing mountain air.

Other attractions include the Popokvil Waterfall where thundering falls provide a cool, refershing pool to dip in. A short distance across the track, the Toek Chhou Rapids is yet another popular tourist attraction. The Prek Ampal Resort, Kampong Trach Mountain Resort and the Anlong Pring Bird Sanctuary are also worthwhile stops in Kampot.

Preah Vihear Province

Preah Vihear province, which borders Thailand and Laos to the north, is home to three of the most captivating temples of the Angkorian era: the Preah Vihear temple, the Koh Ker temple, and the Preah Khan Kampong Svay temple. It also houses communities of many ethnic hill tribes.

Koh Ker used to be a capital of the Khmer Emperor King Jayavarman IV who built this city in the year 921AD. Some parts of the temples are still hidden in the jungle and are not accessible. The Preah Vihear temple is most significant in this province.

The temple of Preah Vihear, dedicated to Shiva, is situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia. The temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. It is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.

A unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, this temple is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment.

Preah Khan Kampong Svay, also known as Prasat Bakan, is a complex of gigantic proportions located in the southwest corner of Preah Vihear province. It covers an area 4 times that of the Angkor Wat with a 3 km long Baray and a large number of towers or Prasats within the compound. Largely unknown and rarely visited, the temple had been very badly looted over the years.

Kratie Province

Kratie Province, located on the east bank of the Mekong River, attracts a fair share of visitors, many of whom wish to catch a glimpse of the last few Irrawaddy Dolphins left in the world.  The recommended place to see them is Kampi Village, about 15 kilometers from town. Irrawaddy Dolphins are an endangered species and are extremely rare; it is estimated there are only about 60 living in this stretch of the river.
The town of Kratie offers an authentic rural ambience, and therefore serves as the perfect place to spend a peaceful night or two. It is a nice relief from some of the country’s more trafficked areas.

There numerous sites to visit in Kratie. Phnom Sombok is a small temple located on a hill north of town. A long flight of steps lead into a pavilion of Phnom Sombok that features detailed photos of afterlife punishments to those who have sinned in the present life. Wat Roka Kandal is a restored pagoda with an ancient Lao style ‘Stupa’ on the riverfront about 2 kilometers from the town center. Nearby lies a more modern pagoda where chanting of the monks can be heard at dawn and in the evenings. About 15 kilometers from town, there is a large Cham community. This is known locally as the ‘basket-weaving’ village; it is the biggest in Kratie with over 4000 villagers living here.

A popular end-of-the-day activity in Kratie is to relax by the riverfront to watch the sun set.

Stung Treng Province

Stung Treng is a beautiful province located on a high sandy bank overlooking the Mekong River. It is about 455 km from Phnom Penh and some 40 km to the Laos border. This charming city is linked to Banlung (Rattanak Kiri) and is more than just a ‘stopover’. The Sekong Bridge, itself an attraction, serves as a convenient passage to the border of Laos.

There are several noteworthy attractions in the province of Stung Treng. The incredible Sopheakmith Waterfall never ceases to mesmerise visitors, and neither does the stretch of the mighty Mekong, which is home to the incredibly rare Irrawaddy dolphins.

The Thala Barivat is only 4 kilometers from the provincial town. This is accessible by crossing the Se Kong River. Thala Barivat is the historical site where the Preah Ko, a 7th century brick temple of King Jayavarman I is located. Preah Ko is consists of six brick towers arranged in two rows of three towers each perched on a sandstone platform. This is one of the earliest temples built during the Angkor era.

Here in the vicinity are a few other small ancient temples; the Prambuon Lveng Temple, Srei Temple and the Angkor Kmao Temple. The Hang Kho Ba Pagoda, a 300 year old temple in the Hang Kho Ba Village, is also only about 6 Kilometers from the provincial town and worth the while to pay a visit.

Stung Treng province is also famous for sweet tamarind Pa Si Yi fish, a local delicacy enjoyed by many tourists.

GETTING to/from KOH KONG CITY

 Koh Kong may be approached directly from Thailand via the Cham Yeam crossing, and from Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Kampot by road. Several bus companies offer direct bus service between Koh Kong, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. Buses arrive and depart the bus station in Koh Kong. Bus company offices are clustered along Street 3 in the center of town. For more on international border crossings see the Overland page.

SIHANOUKVILLE to/from KOH KONG

National Route #4 (NR4) connects Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh.. Road #48 runs between NR4 and Koh Kong City. The road from Koh Kong (Road #48) is in fair condition - fully paved but broken and pot-holed in sections. Road #48 passes through the jungled Cardamom Mountains. At high points on the road the jungle canopy can be seen stretching into the distance. ‘Elephant Crossing’ signs dot the side of the road in parts. Road #48 also spans four picturesque major rivers. Keep your camera ready.

Bus Several bus companies bus companies offer direct daily bus service between Koh Kong and Sihanouk Ville using full size a/c buses for $6-$10/person. About 4-4.5 hours duration. Most buses depart in the morning. Check current schedule.

Taxi Share taxi: 45,000R/person. Up to 6 passengers in one taxi. Private taxi: $65-$70.

PHNOM PENH to/from KOH KONG


Taxi About $75 for a private taxi.

Bus Several bus companies bus companies offer direct daily bus service between Koh Kong and Phnom Penh using full size a/c buses. $12-13/person. About 5 hours duration. Most buses depart around 7:45AM and another at midday.

Getting Around Koh Kong
Motorcycle taxis (motodups) are common and priced about the same as other Cambodian towns. Motodup drivers expect foreigners to pay 500-2000 riel for short trips in town. From the Thai border to town is 50B though from they usually want twice that to go from town to the border. By the day, motodups charge $5-$7. You can rent a 100 or 110cc bike through your guesthouse for about the same price. To rent a dirt bike contact Neptune Guesthouse. 

Koh Kong Hotels and Guesthouses

Koh Kong offers a pretty good choice of accommodations including several very reasonably priced guesthouses, a few mid-range places along the riverfront and upscale rooms the Koh Kong International Resort. Offering a very unique eco-lodging experience a few ‘eco-accommodations’ are located on and along the Tai Tai River in the jungled Cardamom Mountains 20-30 kilometers outside of town, including the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Rainbow Lodge and the Neptune Bungalows.

The Islands

While Sihanoukville is still Cambodia's most popular beach spot with locals and tourists alike, the islands off Sihanoukville's shore are quickly becoming a destination in their own right. Located in the turquoise-blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, the Cambodian islands have an undeveloped, laid-back charm not easily found elsewhere.

While many of the islands are covered in jungle and almost completely uninhabited, others have lovely stretches of perfect beaches and have started to cater to tourists, offering bungalows, tree houses and camping opportunities. Most of the islands are slated for major development, so if you're looking to appreciate the rustic atmosphere, go sooner rather than later.

The most developed of the islands is Koh Rong, located about two and a half hours from the mainland by regular boat (speed boats are on their way, but aren't in regular operation yet). This island is one of the most beautiful in the archipelago, with miles of white sand beaches, gently swaying palm trees and tropical fruit orchards. Koh Rong has more than a dozen guest houses and bungalows and more are springing up every day, ranging from dormitories and inexpensive home stays to flashpacker accommodations and fancier family-sized bungalows.

The southeastern tip of the island is where most of the accommodation is situated, and it's the busiest part of the island, with fire dancers, nightly beach barbecues and music that can go into the wee hours. If this isn't your cup of tea, there are more secluded options located around the island. Nature lovers will appreciate the many hiking and snorkeling opportunities, and there are two scuba outfits on the island offering dives and certification.

For those looking for something a little more luxurious, just off of Koh Rong are two private islands known as Song Saa (sweethearts, in Khmer) that are home to an all-inclusive five-star resort, the first of its kind in Cambodia.

If you're coming from Koh Rong, you can take a boat straight to Koh Rong Samloem, the next largest island in the Koh Rong archipelago. Located about two hours from shore, Koh Rong Samloem has several guesthouses offering a quieter, more secluded alternative to Koh Rong. Koh Rong Samloem is dotted with empty beaches and relaxation opportunities are not hard to find. If you're looking to experience a bit of rustic island life, you can stay in Mai Pai Bai village on the northernmost part of the island, but be warned: Cambodian roosters wake up early! There are also a couple of foreign-run dive outfits operating out of the village that offer certification and trips to nearby islands for dives. On the western side of the island there are lovely beaches and a few accommodation options, ranging from cheap and cheerful to more upmarket bungalows.

Closer to shore is Koh Russei, or ‘Bamboo Island’. The island is favored by backpackers and even though most of the accommodation has been torn down, what remains is as popular as ever. At less than an hour from Sihanoukville, the island is the closest to the mainland and easily visited on a day trip. Many of the tour operators in town include Koh Russei on their islands day trips, but they all stick to the golden sand beaches on the eastern side of the island. It's just a short walk to the more secluded beach on the western side if you want to escape the crowds.

Next to Koh Russei is Koh Ta Kiev, a lovely island with beachside camping and simple treehouse accommodation. Lovely yellow sand beaches dotted with pine trees offer the perfect spot for reading and relaxing, and visitors will never find themselves too far from a hammock. Koh Ta Kiev also offers many bird-watching and snorkeling opportunities for day trippers.

Located off the shore of Ream National Park is Koh Thmei, an island that is on the brink of development but is still blissfully quiet. Flanked by mangrove forests and home to more than a hundred species of birds, the island offers splendid sunset views and the chance to stay in a compound of ecologically minded bungalows that are set up with solar power and a special water filtration system. Otherwise Koh Thmei is as yet still almost completely untouched and receives very few visitors.

Further offshore are 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 bestdiving opportunities in Cambodia, but visits must be arranged via the diving and fishing outfits in Sihanoukville, as they do not have independent accommodation on the islands themselves.

Things to do on the islands...
Most visitors to Cambodia's islands are happy to do little more than relax and sunbathe on the gorgeous beaches. If you're looking for something more adventurous, there are many activities to keep you busy on the islands. There are dive outfits located on Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem where you can get certified or do fun dives -- there are also dive trips organized from the mainland that go to some of the more distant islands including Koh Tang and Koh Prins (see page 29). You'll find ample snorkeling opportunities on all of the islands, and most of the bungalows have snorkel equipment to rent for under $5. It's also possible to tag along on one of the diving trips that leave from Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem if you'd like to snorkel further afield.

Although most of the islands aren't very big, Koh Rong is big enough to offer multi-day trekking opportunities, and there are a few marked paths for shorter trips. Inquire at your guesthouse for more details. Bird watching opportunities abound, especially on Koh Ta Kiev and Koh Thmei, which is home to over 150 species of birds. Those who enjoy fishing will find lots to do on the islands, from spear fishing on Koh Ta Kiev to overnight boat trips to Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem. Fishing trips are best organized from Sihanoukville, although there are day trips from Koh Rong and many guesthouses have their own basic equipment if you want to strike out on your own.

Organized boat trips are available from Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, but it's best to organize from the mainland if you're looking for something other than a day trip, (see page 30.) There are also simple three-island trips that offer a barbecue lunch and a chance to visit a couple of the islands that sit closer to shore. If you're already on the islands, it's also possible to hire private boats to go between the islands. Be aware, though, that due to the cost of petrol private boats can be quite pricey. It's possible to go between Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem for about $20, and there is a daily boat from the pier run by the Dive Shop for $10 per person.

Getting to the Islands...
It's best to reserve a room in advance for island accommodation and check with your guesthouse about the best way to reach the islands. The smaller islands have private boats once per day arranged by the guesthouses. Only Koh Rong has enough accommodation to show up without a reservation -- if you'd like to go there, you should decide first which side of the island you want to go to (it's quite large, and still difficult to traverse by land). There are two daily boats that go to the southeastern side of the island, leaving at 8am and 2pm from the Sihanoukville port. Tickets can be purchased on Serendipity Beach Road for $20 return, and a shuttle to the pier leaves from Koh Rong Dive Center at 7:15am or in front of Monkey Republic at 1pm. The Dive Shop also runs a 7am boat to Koh Rong that leaves from Pier 52 in the port, plus an afternoon boat from Serendipity Beach. Both cost $25 return. It's also possible to book a private speedboat through some of the agents on Serendipity BeachRoad. A speedboat will save a few hours off your journey, but it won't come cheap.

Island Accommodations

Most of the available accommodations in the islands are quite rustic - wood and thatch bungalows and basic rooms on or near a beach. It's best to reserve a room in advance for island accommodation and check with your guesthouse about the best way to reach the islands. It is a unique time to stay on the islands of Sihanouk Ville, still offering something of a Robinson Crusoe ambiance that will no doubt be lost to development in the coming years.

Sihanoukville - Beach Resort

'Beach town', 'port community', 'fledgling resort destination' - all describe Sihanoukville, Cambodia's premierbeach town. Sihanoukville's white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out.
Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambodian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most Cambodian provincial cities.
Nowadays, Sihanoukville is as much a beach town as it is a port town, catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. Still, the pace of life in Sihanoukville is very relaxed.
Cows occasionally wander the main road, outside town foreign faces draw smiles and curious stares, and most of the beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries, and a growing number of restaurants, bungalows and hotels.
Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommodations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach, several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few 'upscale' three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses, especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill).
Considering the moderate number of visitors to Sihanoukville, the town offers a surprising number and variety of restaurants and bars.
Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish, has always been one of the town's biggest draws, but there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines - Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian, pizza places, a couple of western bakeries and even a espresso coffee shop.
And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.
ORIENTATION
Sihanoukville is not a small place, and the best way to get around is to hire a motorbike.  Sihanoukville itself is east of the main backpackers' beach and close to the more mid-range Ochatial Beach. Due south of town is tiny Ko Pos Beach, which ha a solitary mid-range hotel, and the larger Independence Beach, which has the crumbling Independence Hotel - slated for redevelopment.
INFORMATION

Cambodian's only deep-sea port is located here and considerable international aid has been spent to improve the infrastructure in the province. Although tourism has increased over the past few years, the beaches of Sihanoukville are some of the most unspoiled in all of Southeast Asia. It is a prefect tropical getaway, filled with lovely beaches and facilities for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or just sunbathing. Boat trips are also available to many of the nearby islands. There are several hotels and local restaurants serving fresh, delicious seafood on the beach. On the weekend, there are many local visitors from Phnom Penh to relax, swimming and enjoy fresh seafood.