Provinces of Cambodia
Cambodia has a land area of 181,035 square kilometers in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula, about 20 percent of which is used for agriculture. It lies completely within the tropics with its southern most points slightly more than 10˚ above the Equator.
International borders are shared with Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the West and the North, and the Social Republic of Viet Nam on the East and the Southeast. The country is bounded on the Southeast by the Gulf of Thailand. In comparison with neighbors, Cambodia is a geographical contact country administratively composed of 20 provinces, three of which have relatively short maritime boundaries, 2 municipalities, 172 districts, and 1,547 communes. The country has a coastline of 435 km and extensive mangrove stands, some of which are relatively undisturbed. The Kingdom of Cambodia has 24 provinces and city. The Capital of Cambodia is Phnom Penh, the vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, what was once considered the ‘Gem’ of Indochina. The capital city still maintains considerable charm with plenty to see.
Banteay Meanchey is a Cambodian province in the northwest of the country, and its capital is named Sisophon. The town of Sisophorn is today a charming, quiet place that only gives hints to its turbulent past upon closer examination. Like Siem Reap and Battambang Provinces, control of the province has changed hands many times between the Thais and the Khmers in the more distant past, and the Khmer Rouge and central Phnom Penh government in recent decades. With the final demise of the Khmer Rouge (locals, however, firmly believe the Present national reconciliation only the Khmer Rouge trick), the province and towns are striving to rebuild their culture and economy.
It’s very friendly place with the locals genuinely happy to see foreign faces and the stability that it implies. Normally just a passing-through spot on the way to the border, or between Battambang and Siem Reap, the area has a few sights that warrant a visit, such the Banteay Chhmar temple ruins, the only other Khmer temple ruins besides the Bayon (Angkor) and Preah Khan ( Preah Vihear Province ) that features the famous four-faced monuments.
This area was part of the extensive Khmer empire, with its most notable remains the Banteay Chhmar temple (built in 12th and 13th century) in the north of the province. In the 17th century the Siam took control over Cambodia, and made the area of the modern province part of Sisophon Province. In the year 1907 the Siam had to cede control to the French, and the area was then included into Battambang Province. In 1988 the province Banteay Meanchey was split off from Battambang.
Siem Reap, a well-known destination with any tourists, is a province with the interlacing of a modern and an ancient one not only because it near Angkor Wat, one of Seven Wonders of the World but also because the glorious of its history. Siem Reap province, located in northwest Cambodia, is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor. The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, associating with the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century.
In the past, Siem Reap was a quiet place with lack of facilities and transportations as well as entertainment activities. But now, Siem Reap turned into another province, a newly-developed one.Huge,expensive hotels have sprung up everywhere and budget hotels have been built uprapidly.The revenue of the hotel business has been rocketing as well as the development of tourism and this has turned Siem Reap into a brand-new potential province like nowadays.
However, behind the prime of the business and tourism, there are many contrasts in Cambodia in general and in Siem Reap in particular. A great numbers of citizens are living in poverty and difficulty earning a livelihood of their own.
Although some major problems are remained in Siem Reap, this province is stills a ideal, friendly and safe tourist destination to any visitor, an endless choice of places to stay or dine and a host of possible activities awaiting anyone.
Phnom Penh is the vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, what was once considered the ‘Gem’ of Indochina. The capital city still maintains considerable charm with plenty to see. It exudes a sort of provincial charm and tranquillity with French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture. Phnom Penh is a veritable oasis compared to the modernity of other Asian capitals. A mixture of Asian exotica, the famous Cambodian hospitality awaits the visitors to the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Here in the capital, are many interesting touristy sites. Beside the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields and Wat Phnom, there are several market places selling carvings, paintings, silk, silver, gems and even antiques. Indeed, an ideal destination for a leisurely day tour. The whole area including the outskirts of Phnom Penh is about 376 square kilometres big. There are currently 2,009,264 people living in Phnom Penh.
The city takes its name from the re-known Wat Phnom Daun Penh (nowadays: Wat Phnom or Hill Temple), which was built in 1373 to house five statues of Buddha on a man made hill 27 meters high. These five statues were floating down the Mekong in a Koki tree and an old wealthy widow named Daun Penh (Grandma Penh) saved them and set them up on this very hill for worshiping. Phnom Penh was also previously known as Krong Chaktomuk (Chaturmukha) meaning “City of Four Faces”. This name refers to the confluence where the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers cross to form an “X” where the capital is situated.
Phnom Penh is also the gateway to an exotic land – the world heritage site, the largest religious complex in the world, the temples of Angkor in the west, the beaches of the southern coast and the ethnic minorities of the North-eastern provinces. There are also a wide variety of services including five star hotels and budget guest houses, fine international dining, sidewalk noodle shops, neighborhood pubs international discos and more.
Phnom Penh, like other Asian-City tourist destinations, is in the midst of rapid change. Over the past few years the number of restaurants and hotels have grown considerably and in the last year there had been a huge increase in the number of visitors. Come and see a real original as it won’t be the same in a few years.
Sitting on the Sangker River just southwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’, and even though it is one of the country’s largest towns it still has few tourists, provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is colonial-era with traditional shophouses lining quaint narrow lanes. There are plenty of hotels in town these days including several new mid-range places. And a pleasant little walking district is taking shape in the old colonial blocks just south of the market – restaurants, cafes, a few shops and bars…
As you leave the town by road, the scenery quickly becomes one of villages and rice paddies, offering an excellent opportunity to see a bit of ‘unspoiled’ rural Cambodia. The nearby countryside harbors several picturesque old pagodas, Angkorian era ruins, caves, waterfalls, and even Khmer Rouge killing field.
‘Battambang’ means ‘disappearing stick,’ from the legend of a powerful staff wielded by the legendary ruler Ta Dambang to achieve and maintain power in the area. A statue of Ta Dambang and the stick stand imposingly at the eastern entrance to the town on Route #5.
Stung Treng is one of the most visited places in Cambodia. It is the contrary to its smallness. This small city has a long list of tourism sights including various temples, shores, rivers, etc. To visit Stung Treng, visitors can take a trip on the Seikhong River, one of the important Cambodian rivers crossing the city. Your complete journey will start from Kantuy Ko. It’s a national wildlife sanctuary where you can find various species of wildlife population. This sanctuary is a rare collection with many kinds of animals and plants under one roof. It’s really a good chance for tourists, especially zoologists to explore the diversity of nature.
The next sight is the Bou Sra Waterfall. Here, visitors will be able to gaze its haunting beauty combined by sound and force of water.
Then, tourisms can have some time relaxed at Preah Ko Temple. The temple is typical for architectural style here, and it’s also play an important role in Stung Treng’s history that makes Stung Treng be a memorable city in visitor’s minds.
Your trip will continue with Wat Phnom. This temple has a beautiful location on the peak. It’s not far from the city but surrounding by a calm and quiet. Thus, this place is considered as a wonderful place to worship and meditate.
One more sight you should visit is the Hang Kho Ba Pagoda. It is one of the finest pagodas here. Tourists visiting the pagoda will be attracted and impressed by its elaborate design. Those all will certainly provide you a perfect vacation.
Kampong Speu is the capital of Kampong Speu Province in Cambodia. Speu is the Khmer word for starfruit, but Kampong Speu is actually famous for its palm sugar and wine. This province is a natural and cultural resort, which is located at Tang Tonle Village and Ampe Phnom Village, So Por Tep Commune and Svay Kra Van Commune, Chbar Mon District in 48-Kilometer distance from Phnom Penh, then turning left for two more kilometers.
The resort has natural rivers, especially the bigger Preaek Thnot River, which has many big trees growing along it and the mountain foot, a rocking bridge linking from Tang Tonle Village to Ampe Phnom Village. You may also see the old pagoda on a hill, what’s a worshipping place for Cambodian people, who go there during traditional festivals.At Ampe Phnom, tourists can enjoy swimming, walking through the rocking bridge and resting at the collages along the riverbank.
Kampot City sits along the east side of the Kampong Bay River near the base of the Elephant Mountains and is of quite a different character than the beach town of Sihanoukville. Kampot City is an old provincial capital of quiet lanes and colonial period architecture, a bit worn but radiating a quaint, welcoming, small town ambiance. A partially destroyed bridge, bombed in the war, sits city center over the river, it’s unique haphazard repair almost an iconic symbol of the town. Kampot is a place to get a taste of provincial Cambodia, both urban and rural. Use the city as a base to explore and tour the surrounding countryside and as a stepping stone to the nearby beaches and islands of Kep, the Bokor Hill Station and the rest of southeastern Cambodia. Come the end of the day back in Kampot City, a little riverside cafe or pub is the place to be – relaxing curbside over a glass of wine, watching the sun slowly set behind the Elephant Mountains.
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.
Mondulkiri will be one of the names that can make you feel strange when visiting not only because of its geographical differences but also because of its incredible wild. Mondulkiri, locating east of Cambodia, is seemed a different attractive world from the rest of the country with pine clumps, windswept valleys, forested hills and powerful waterfalls. This place is also the home of various wild animals such as elephants, tigers and bears with numerous quantities. About the name of the province, Mondulkiri means ‘Meeting of the Hills’, an interesting nickname for a land of rolling hills. It’s said that the visitors arriving here can enjoy both the wonderful sun shining scenes in Wales and the fresh air of Tasmania.
Mondulkiri is the most sparsely populated province in the country; with just two people per sq km. Almost half of the inhabitants come from the Pnong minority group. There has been an influx of migrants in recent years, drawn to the abundant land and benign climate. Fruit and vegetable plantations are popping up, but hunting remains the profession of choice for many minorities. This undiscovered place is a potential province of natural resources and tourism that have made many competitions between conservators and industrialists.
Roads are pretty poor throughout the province, but the main highway to Phnom Penh is in pretty good shape most of the way, bringing journey times down to seven hours. The road to Koh Nhek is unrecognizable from the mess of bygone years. Improved access has fuelled an explosion of domestic tourists, so book ahead at weekends.
Kratie is one of Cambodia’s eastern provinces with sparse population, located on the riverbanks of the Mekong. This is a remote area and covered by jungle. Its capital has the same name and lies also on the banks of the spectacular Mekong River, which strongly highlight the province from the North to the South. The river is not only as the perfect background for the province but also as a home for specific specie, the Irrawaddy dolphins. And this rare and beautiful specie(only about 120 remaining) with hundreds of green islands and circling water draws a great number of visitors each year. Behind the splendor of a tourist destination, Kratie town is peaceful with sandbars and big islands out front and bends in the river. The romance and pleasant feel of the place is also appeared in some roads and houses with French architectural style combined with some awesome homes of Khmer style that witnessed many historical events in the war time.
It seems that Kratie is a complicated place with the interlacing of peace and excitement. Beside the tranquility of old buildings, a bustling market is not only born to become a noisy and bustling place but also to balance the atmosphere of the province. The real interesting things of this great place are watching frogs being skinned with some delicious foods and generally take in rural Cambodian life.
The most memorable thing of this place was the Mekong River as well as its banks and this worth to spend one or even two nights to stay. The river scene has a beautiful river boulevard with dozens of snack and drink stands in the late afternoon and evening, making this a nice spot to chill out and watch the people parading by. There are also a few big concrete decks along the river scene. The river road is a great place for a stroll or jog. Enjoy the dramatic sunsets over the Mekong.
The province Kampong Chhnang is located at the heart of Cambodia. Its bordering Kampong Thom to the North, Kampong Cham to the East, Kampong Speu to the South and Pursat to the West. This province is not only at the fertile and almost ever-wet heart of Cambodia, but also just a 91km ride from Phnom Penh, so it’s a quick jaunt up.
Due to its location next to the Tonle Sap Lake Kampong Chhnang’s population is predominantly in fishery and rice plantation involved. Especially the provincial capital Kampong Chhnang, which is an easygoing river port town that is worth a visit, focuses on fishery and therefore features a big fishery port. It is, easy to get to from Phnom Penh via national road number 5, passing by the former capital of Udong. Kampong Chhnang also gives you the option to take an air-con bus to get there (as it wasn’t possible in near past). There are also some nice sights to check out and the town has a fair selection of places to spend the night and a couple of decent spots to have a feed.
The bullet boats to and from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are taking you through a breathtaking countryside along the Tonle Sap to the provincial town. If you are interested you also may rent a motorized boat to explore the Tonle Sap River area around the town. They are between US$ 8 per hour, or you can get one of the small non-motorized boats to take you on a more quiet tour for 4,000 riel per hour. The new river walkway is the place for a stroll and is where the locals head to for the early evening social hour. It’s the evening and weekend spot to be seen.
Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s premier beach town, sporting miles of white sand beaches, picturesque islands and warm tropical waters. Sihanoukville also serves as a travel hub for the coastal towns of southern Cambodia – Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong and beyond. This website is the online version of the print publication – The Sihanoukville Visitors Guide – is Cambodia’s first, most comprehensive and widely. circulated guide to the beaches, restaurants, bars, hotels, entertainment, transportation and most of what you’ll need for your visit to Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, and Koh Kong.
Sihanoukville was founded as a port town half a century ago, but these days is as much a beach town and tourist destination, catering to weekenders from Phnom Penh and a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. The town sits on a beach lined peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Thailand and the pace of life in this provincial town is very relaxed and unhurried. The beaches offer umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries and bars and an ever growing number of restaurants, pubs, bungalows and a range of hotels, all making for a laid-back, beachy atmosphere and a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, party at the bars and happenings, take in an island or scuba trip and generally slow down, lay back and chill-out.
Takeo province is often referred to as “the cradle of Cambodian civilisation” Takeo province has several important pre-Angkorian sites built between the 5th and the 8th century. The provincial capital, Takeo town is an easygoing place that possesses a fair amount of natural and man made beauty. The natural beauty is in the Scenic River and lake area that faces a pleasant town parkway. The low-lying area seems to include much of the surrounding province area, which is probably why a kingdom that once had its heart here was referred to as Water Chenla. There seems to be water everywhere in the surrounding countryside during the rainy season. The man-made beauty mostly comes from a series of canals and waterways that were cut through the surrounding countryside, many a very long time ago, connecting towns, villages, rivers and Vietnam.
Nearby Angkor Borei town (connected by water to Takeo town) may have been the heart of the Funan Empire, which is called the “Cradle of Khmer Civilization” by Cambodians. Much older than Angkor, the Funan empire had its heyday between the 1st and 6th centuries and stretched across a vast area, from South Vietnam through Thailand, down through Malaysia and into Indonesia. Bold, silver and silks were traded in abundance in the kingdom, or, as some say, the series of fiefdoms. Although Cambodians claim Funan was created by Khmers, neighbouring Vietnam argues that they were the people of origin.
Archaeologists from the University of Hawaii of the USA have made research trips to Angkor Borei in an attempt to piece together the history and story, and story, as well as relics, of the Funan period. In an odd recent twist, Reuters News Service reported in early November 1999 that locals saw the research team digging up ancient relics and figured the stuff must be valuable, so they started digging and looting objects from the area. Fortunately, the Cambodian government seems to be moving in on the problem quickly to try to save what they can of this important piece of Khmer heritage. That was not the first time the locals have created problems in the piecing together of ancient history. Much of what did remain in the form of ancient ruins in Angkor Borei was destroyed not too long ago in the modern past. The officials that runs the museum that’s dedicated to the history of the Funan empire told me that much of what was still standing from this period (from parts of ancient walls to partial structures) was thought to be useless by locals and was bulldozed and razed to make way for more “useful” modern day structures! Talk about having a bad track record. Fortunately artifacts and history have been put together in the museum.
Takeo Province is full of other interesting sights as well and because of the short distance and good road from Phnom Penh, all are great day trips. Some sights can be combined in a day trip. If you have a bit more time, spend an evening in Takeo town and take in all the sights. There is a pleasant little place to stay overlooking the river and lake area.
Ratanakiri is a Cambodia’s northeastern province which shares the borders with Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri Province to the south, and Stung Treng Province to the west. For a long period in its history, the Khmer, Lao had exploited Khmer Loeu residents as slaves and Thai empires dominated the region. In the French colonial period, the slave trade was stopped. After Cambodia had its independence again, a harsh Khmerization campaign threatened the life here. The region had been devastated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s and bombing during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, the province is rapidly developing and traditional ways of life is altered. Ratanakiri is known for its lush forests. Its population is 118,000 people, accounts for less than 1% of the country’s total population.
Inhabitants sparsely live on the hilly basalt plateau between Ratanakiri’s two major rivers.They gather 100 to 300 people in a village, though the provincial capital of Banlung (by far Ratanakiri’s largest settlement) has a population of 17,000.
Kep is a coastal city of Cambodia, 173 km southwest of Phnom Penh and being founded in 1908 during French colonial rule and initially Kap-sur-mer was the first name of nowadays Kep City. There are many ways for visitors coming to visit Kep: from Kampot is the recommended way, only about 30 minutes by bus with 2$ or from capital city Phnom Penh with a 4-hour bus drive (5-6$). More, you can also reach Kep from Shihanoukvile by a bus drive in about 2 hours. The best transport vehicle in Kep is tuk-tuk which will take you to anywhere in Kep with slow speed, enough for you to enjoy anything in Kep. The most attractive sites of Kep are its beaches, resorts and mountains like Kep Beach, Kep Mountain, Rabbit Islands, Angkaul Beach.
Beside the landscapes, seafood is also the unforgettable thing in Kep with numerous dishes from fishes and other oysters like fresh fish with pepper sauce… Another attraction in Kep is resorts with good services.
Prey Veng is quite a sleepy Cambodian province, that just happen to have one of the countries busiest highways running straight through it-National Highway No 1, which links Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is a small but heavily populated agricultural region located on the east banks of the mighty Mekong. The name of the province means literally tall forest, but actually doesn’t refer in any case to lush forests as most of them were chopped down in the past 30-50 years. Also rubber played once a big economical role in this province, but since the war took over the country the plantations are no longer commercially viable.
There are little places of significance to see nowadays, but during the pre-Angkorian times it must have been one of the most populated and lively areas of the country. One of the earliest pre-Angkorian kingdoms was located in the area around Ba Phnom.
The sleepy provincial capital is also named Prey Veng and situates on the National Highway No 11, recently rebuild as a road link between National Road No 11 and No 7, or Neak Luong and Kompong Cham. There aren’t a lot of travellers making their way to that small town. So if you would like to escape from your fellow travelers that’s an opportunity, especially on the way to Kampong Cham. It’s also a stop worth on the way to or from Vietnam. The town itself hosts a few decaying colonial buildings, showing that this was once a lively and important center. There is a huge lake on the west edge of the town, which evaporates from March till August and local farmers cultivate their rice on the fertile ground.
Pursat is the fourth biggest province of Cambodia. The province is located in the western part of the country and borders clockwise from the north with Battambang, the Tonle Sap Lake, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Speu, Koh Kong, and Thailand. Pursat offers a perfect access to both the Tonle Sap (just 35km far) and the Cardamom Mountains (right to the West). The name of Pursat refers to a type of tree.
For the time being, Pursat receives few travellers and the two main attractions, the Cardamoms and the Tonle Sap require a little initiative on the tourist’s part to visit. Pursat is predominantly accessible by the National Highway No 5 form Phnom Penh (174km) and Battambang (106km). There is also an old slowly train working between Phnom Penh and Battambang, which stops outside (2km) from Pursat.
The provincial capital of Pursat is also called Pursat town. The city is located right in the middle between the Tonle Sap and the Cardamom Mountains on the riverbanks of the Stung Pursat. There isn?t that much to do in that small town, so most of the tourists coming here are more or less on their way to Battambang or Phnom Penh. For people just driving by, the impression of a boring ordinary town remains. The only tourist attraction in town is the marble workshops near the bridge on the main street. The precious marble stones originate from the Cardamoms, than they are brought here, followed up and sold near the Lam Siv Eng Restaurant. About 5 km from town is the tomb of Khleang Meung.
The Tonle Sap
Pursat province offers the magnificent opportunity to see one of the larger and markedly less touristy floating villages without a significant investment in time or money. In fact, there are a number of floating villages in the province only accessible from the lake, Peach Kantil, Kbal Taol, and Prek Kr, but you can only see Kompong Luong for the cost of the day-rate for a moto ($6-8) and the cost for a boat ride once you get there.
Pursat offers a relatively easy way to enter this fantastic ecological wonder, the massive Cardamom Mountains. Accessing the central Cardamoms from Pursat is not too difficult as there is a road from Pursat to Veal Veng, a small village between the Mt. Samkos and Mt. Aural Wildlife Sanctuaries. There’s really nothing to do but to take a drive through the country, to have a look at the mountains, and to talk to people who don’t see many foreigners ? and that is even worth it. There’s no organized transport from Pursat to this place, but if you ask around you should eventually get satisfactory results.
Kandal is one of the smaller provinces of Cambodia. This province completely surrounds, but does not include, the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. It’s capital is Ta Khmau (lit. Black Grandfather) and is around 20km south of Phnom Penh. The province is re-known for its ancient history. One of the major attractions is Udong, which served as the former capital of Cambodia under several sovereigns between 1618 and 1866. A number of kings, including King Norodom, were crowned here.
The most interesting things to see there, are: several Stupas, some of them recently renewed, a huge 8m high reclining Buddha and the battered Ta San Mosque on the smaller ridge. As Kandal province isn’t far from Phnom Penh it is easily and quickly to enter, even if it’s just a day trip. There is quite a bunch of places of interest such as Ang Kor Chey Pagoda, which is located at Ban Tey Dek commune, Kean Svay District with a total distance of 29km from Phnom Penh or 32,6km from Ta Khmao by the National Road N0 1 (Phnom Penh Svay Rieng province). You have to travel along the National Road N0 1 from Phnom Penh or Ta Khmao to Kilometre 29 then exceed about 50 metres, there is a gate at the right with a handwritten sign: Ang Kor Chey Pagoda.
If we enter by trail about 1,600m, we will reach the entertainment centre. The pagoda is constructed with five peaks as the temple’s peaks. Before reaching the pagoda, we need to pass over a 100 meter wooden bridge; under the bridge, there is a big pond for keeping water during the dry season. Behind the pagoda you’ll see an artificial site located on the black hill characterized as resident of Neak Mean Bon or King. It is said that the black hill is a former palace, because they found ancient objects and equipment like bowls and pots characterizing ancient features.
Now, the black hill has been organized and maintained by guards, because it relates to the belief in sacred objects there. Nowadays, Angkor Chey pagoda has a lot of local visitors, especially those, who cling to abstract belief; they go there to have themselves sacredly watered. In addition, Ang Kor Chey pagoda is surrounded with beautiful scenery offering cool shadows from the trees and a pleasant environment.
Oddar Meanchey is one of the smallest provinces of Cambodia located in the far Northwest bordering with Thailand. Its name means Victory Province and the provincial capital is called Samraong. This area was formerly known as Phanomsok, a province of Thailand, which was ceded to French Indochina in 1906, and now remains a part of Cambodia. This province is also a recent creation that was carved out of Siem Reap Province, which the government did not control for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
The countryside is covered by the Dangrek Mountains (or escarpment, as they are sometimes called), which was an optimal shelter for the Khmer Rouge to hide. It is a very remote province that has been a notorious place, because this is where he nastiest of the nasty Khmer Rouge made their last stand. The diabolical Pol Pot and his seemingly bloodthirsty henchmen, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan holed up here for the last years of the Khmer Rouge’s existence (another of the henchmen, Ieng Sary, already worked out a surrender and defection deal with the government in 1996).
Pol Pot died mysteriously here, after a supposed power struggle within the power elite (he had Son Sen and his family murdered) and after a controversial show trial. The debate focused on whether it was real or just a sham staged for the outside world to try to legitimize remaining Khmer Rouge figures. The trial took place in the power centre of the Khmer Rouge, the village of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot died mysteriously after he was sentenced to house arrest and the international community began real efforts (for the first time ever) to capture and put this butcher on trial.
His henchmen had more than enough reasons to believe that he wasn’t dead at that point, because a Pol Pot on trial, as the ringleader most responsible for the genocide wrought upon his fellow countrymen, would probably have tried to shift portions of the blame (rightfully in the case of these guys) to the rest of the power elite.
The Khmer Rouge kept fragmenting after that and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan worked out a surrender-amnesty deal with the Cambodian government and Ta Mok (also called The Butcher) was subsequently captured and is still awaiting a trial in Phnom Penh. As of March 2000, the United Nations and the Cambodian government finally seem set to come up with an agreement on putting the top surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime on trial in Cambodia, with assistance from and in a partnership with the International Community. Stay tuned though, as this has been a real political football with seemingly more concern for one-upsmanship and personal gain than justice for the dead and surviving victims of Khmer Rouge brutality.
The international border is 14.5 km from the circle in Anlong Veng (Anlong Veng-Choam-Choam- Srawngam and O Smach-Chong Jom). There are plenty of tanks and tank shells to look at along the way and also a strange site in the form of a boulder that had Khmer Rouge soldiers carved out of the sides of it- they have all been decapitated since government forces took control of Anlong Veng. Anyway, it’s an interesting little ride to a low-lying part of the Dangkrek Mountains. The road is in fairly good shape with the exception of the climb up a rocky hillside near the border.
Pailin is a small municipality in the West of Cambodia very closed to the border of Thailand. The provincial capital is called Pailin City and is known to much of the world as being the area where many of the Khmer Rouge leaders came from and retreated after their fall. Until the year of 2001 Pailin was part of the Battambang Province, but was then elevated to city status and thus became a province and autonomous zone of its own.
The city was during the 1980s and 1990s a major Khmer Rouge strong point and resource centre. Even after the death of their brutal leader Pol Pot in 1998, many Khmer Rouge leaders still remained there. Some of the leaders went into hiding in fear of punishment for their crimes, although other leaders or henchmen lived openly in the province. It is said that almost 70 percent of the area’s older men were fighters for the Khmer Rouge, but unfortunately none of the regular fighters have yet been brought to justice.
As of September 2007, Pailin’s remaining Khmer Rouge leaders were being rounded up to face justice by an international tribunal, including Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. So after years of the governmental dump contemplation regarding the crime of the Khmer Rouge, its time for lasting enlightenment of what has happen.
Poipet is now more and more becoming a boomtown attracting Cambodians from around the country seeking to make their fortune, or at least a better salary than back home. Pailin was the major revenue producer for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, being a major gem producing area as well as a prime logging area.
While gem production seems to have tapered off a bit, other business opportunities and the lifestyle have attracted prospectors to the town. Up until the surrender deal of Khmer Rouge’s number three men, Ieng Sary, in 1996, the townsfolk lived under the strict rules of the KR hierarchy, with little freedom of expression and most aspects of life being completely controlled by the paranoid regime.
Pailin is just another Wild West town of Cambodia and like the gold-rush days of California, people seem to be everywhere in the hills sifting through mud puddles and scratching at the dirt, looking to strike it rich with the find of a nice gem. Still, there is more control of some aspects of life than in other areas of Cambodia.
But this seems to have attracted people rather than kept them away. Several people, who had moved to Pailin from Phnom Penh, gave this as the main reason they made the move. They liked the idea that criminals did not enjoy the same impunity that they seem to enjoy in Phnom Penh. The influx of residents from other parts of the country has produced a friendlier Pailin. Nowadays the mixed lot of Pailin residents seem happy to see foreigners coming in for holidays and check the place out, realizing that their presence means that normalcy and revenue are arriving in Pailin.
Even the Vietnamese residents seem to have been accepted, which is truly amazing given the hatred the Khmer Rouge have generally shown them. Pailin is worth checking out. The town is nestled in a beautiful valley with picturesque sunsets over the mountains that separate Cambodia and Thailand close by.
Wat Gohng-Kahng is very famous and features the much-photographed landmark gate of Pailin town that you face as you arrive on the highway from Battambang. This wat is the centre of holiday festivities these days in Pailin and was the scene of the official Pailin reintegration ceremony in 1996, after the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge worked out surrender and semi-autonomy deals with the Cambodian government.
Kampong Thom is Cambodia’s second largest province by area. Its capital is named Kampong Thom, a picturesque town on the banks of the Stung Saen River.The Sambor temple and Prei Kuk temple are the two main temples in Kompong Thom as well as other less significant Angkorian sites. Kompong Thom was a very powerful capital in Southeast Asia during the Funan period. Later on, during the French rule, the province was home to a large group named the Stieng, but they have long been assimilated into Khmer society.Kampong Pos Thom was the original name of the present called Kampong Thom. Because originally long time ago, at the dock of the Sen River next to a big natural lake, there was a big cave with a pair of big snakes inside. The people living around this area usually saw these big snakes every Buddhist Holiday.
Time after that, the snakes disappeared, and the people of that area called it Kampong Pos Thom. Then, only short words Kampong Thom. During the French colony in Cambodia, the French ruled and divided Cambodian territory into provinces, and named them according to the spoken words of the people Kampong Thom Province.The provincial capital Kampong Thom is another bustling town on the banks of the Stung Sen River. The town itself is strategically located on the National Highway No 6 between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Its more a stopover to have a break from driving long distances or to eat something on the way to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, than a very touristic place. Despite the town itself people come to explore the pre-Angkorian Chenla capital Sambor Prei Kuk, the remote temples of Preah Khan and Prasat Preah Vihear.
Preah Vihear is quite a big northern province of Cambodia. Its capital is called Phnom Tbeng Meanchey. The province itself is named after the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, what is definitely the hotspot of this province. Much of the province is extremely remote and strongly forested. Unfortunately do large logging companies reduce the natural landscape by carving huge tracts of pristine tropical hardwoods out of the locations. It is also one of the least populated provinces in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This tranquil site is popular for the Preah Vihear temple, standing in the vicinity of the borderline between Thailand and Cambodia.
The province has one of the worst infrastructures in the country there are even no proper Major Roads in existence. Going around this province is not that easy if you’re used to proper roads and usual transportation possibilities, as there are only a few pick-ups or some money-hunting moto drivers to take you where you would like to go.
Whatsoever the province has a lot to offer for those, who are interested in ancient temple structures and remote villages without touristy influence. Here in Preah Vihear you may find three of the most impressive legacies from the Angkorian era: the mountain temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, the 10th-century capital of Koh Ker and the mighty Preak Khan.
Koh Ker is nowadays easily accessible from Siem Reap via Beng Mealea, but the other two still remain difficult to visit, requiring long and tough overland journeys and a distinct possibility to spend a night in the jungle. During the wet season these places are more or less unreachable. But there are governmental plans to develop the region for a smooth but constant tourism, building roads and improving infrastructure.
The provincial capital Tbeng Meanchey is due to the state of the infrastructure and it’s geographical location not visited by a lot of foreigners. Most of them don’t make it here worrying about the street conditions and the backcountry feeling of no fast supply in need. The city is sprawling and dusty and consists of little more than two small major dirt roads form South to North. There is nothing interesting in town or to do, so it has necessarily become more a stopover on the way to Koh Ker and Preah Khan.
Svay (pronounced Swai) Rieng is on of the smallest and sleepiest Cambodian provinces that just happen to have one of the country’s busiest highways running straight through – National Highway No 1, which links Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam just after you cross the Mekong River by way of the Neak Loeung Ferry. It is also one of the poorest provinces of Cambodia due to the poor quality of the land. Most of the provincial population eke out a subsistence living based on farming and fishing.
Svay Rieng is the provincial capital, a sleepy town just 43 km from the Bavet border crossing. This is a fairly prosperous place as a result of the border trade traffic, business people and travellers passing trough. The town is a very friendly place and makes for a pleasant overnight stop whether coming from or going to Vietnam.
Svay Rieng town is situated near the Waiko River and its vast, scenic marshlands, the result of a wide stretch of the river drying up significantly over the years. It’s a pleasant setting and one that can be enjoyed at several different spots along the river and marsh. A bridge over the Waiko, not far from the main part of town, bears a plaque that states prime minister Hun Sen donated the bridge.
During the long Vietnam War, American forces believed that this was the place, where Vietnamese communists had their intelligence headquarter. For sure there were undoubtedly a lot of Vietnamese communists hiding especially in the South of Cambodia during much of the war, but there wasn’t a strategic center like the Pentagon here. In 1969 the Americans began unauthorized bombing in this area and in 1970 joined with South Vietnamese forces for a big ground assault.