If you are already tired of seeing so many barangs (the local word for foreigners) every place you travel in Cambodia, you definitely should get out of the main routes that pass through Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville or Kampot. If your thing is going out of the beaten track, one worthy place to have a look is Kampong Chhnang. On the route from Phnom Penh to Battambang, and just two to three hours by bus from the capital, it’s a small town on a riverside leading to the gigantic Tonlé Sap, the largest lake on the entire Southeast Asia.
Rural lifestyle in Cambodia: half-farmer, half-Daft Punk.
The town is divided in two parts, just two kilometers apart so easily accessible by bicycle. The main town is where most of the accommodation, services and shops can be found, and the river front is where the best views and the entry point to the floating villages and ethnic communities are. It’s a great place to see the countryside life in Cambodia, and friendly locals that are still not very used to seeing foreigner travellers.
The main town is located around an Independence Monument like the one in Phnom Penh. Nearby you can also find a new playground for kids (the only one we remember to see in the whole country!), a pretty pagoda and the Phsar Leur, the central market and a great place for cheap eats.
Copy-paste from the Phnom Penh’s iconic Independence Monument.
Best way to go around is to rent a bicycle (normally one dollar per day around town), so you can easily explore the surroundings. For instance you can visit the Storntuch Mountain, located around two kilometers from the main town and where you can see a large rock formation, or at north of the city you can find a big hill with great views for the town, its surroundings and the Tonlé Sap.
And actually Chhnang means pottery (although it sounds quite similar to the Khmer word for delicious!) so as you can expect there is a lot of ceramics around. You can visit a pottery village in the west of the town, accessible by bicycle and quite a nice ride. On the way you will also pass by a lot of stalls selling every ceramic item possible.
Cambodian pottery, the kings of kitsch.
And of course, the main reason to come to Kampong Chhnang is the river and its ethnic communities. Cycle to the other side of town, in the east near the water front, and explore beautiful wooden houses on stilts, the fishermen lifestyle or simply relax by the riverside. You can also take a boat tour in the Tonlé Sap to visit some floating villages, with a lot of Vietnamese communities and Cham ethnic minority people.
Houses on stilts and happy fishermen, the peaceful life of Kampong Chhnang people.
Kampong Chhnang is definitely a place worth exploring if you are looking to get out of the beaten track and check some traditional way of life in Cambodia’s countryside. And being just a two or three hours ride from Phnom Penh, is a perfect getaway from the city or a nice middle stop in your way from the capital to visit Battambang. Check the Camboticket website for options on how to get there, and bear in mind that due to the lack of computerized ticket systems in town, the booking of your return ticket is not available on our online platform, but is very easy to buy it in one of the shops in main town. Happy explorations!