Even being the third largest city in the country doesn’t take the sleepiness out of Kampong Cham: a town (slowly) living on the riverbank of the Mekong, home to a variety of ancient temples and the famous bamboo bridge. Kampong Cham is an interesting sight not so far away from Phnom Penh.
Peaceful life on the side of the river.
The best way to travel around here is renting a bicycle or a motorbike, being free to explore the surroundings. There you will find various temples from the old Khmer empire, of the same time or even before the Angkor Wat period. Check at least the Nokor Wat, from the 11th century, resembling the typical Angkorian architecture. Don’t miss also Phnom Hanchey, a nice hilltop temple with a beautiful view of the surroundings. One of our favourites is Wat Maha Leap, around 20km from Kampong Cham, one of the last wooden pagodas in the country. For the ones looking for more temples, there are Phrom Pros and Phnom Sray (literally men’s hill and women’s hill).
A quite serious but shiny Buddha from one of the city’s temples.
This was also domain of the Cham ethnic for some time, hence the city’s name. For this reason, you can still find a large Cham population here, the mosques and houses with their distinctly Arabic decoration. Besides that, the city is a pleasant combination of old colonial architecture from the French, modern Cambodian architecture and Chinese shop-houses. You will notice that it is quite clean and easy to walk compared to Phnom Penh.
Take some time to stroll along the pleasant riverside. Don’t miss the remainings of the famous Kampong Cham bamboo bridge, the longest of its kind in the world. It’s built from scratch every dry season for the locals to cross to Koh Paen, a small island in the Mekong. Then each year, during the rainy season the rising of the water level destroys it. It’s a monument to the ingenuity of Cambodian traditional engineering, but it is also able to hold incredible amounts of height, enabling even trucks to pass through. However, the government has just built a cement bridge, so this may be the last year the bamboo bridge is built. You can know more about this story in this article from Phnom Penh Post.
A man looking at the remaining of the bamboo bridge in both sides of the river.
Have a look at Koh Paen itself, a pretty and clean village where you can spot genuine Cambodian rural lifestyle. There’s also a beach for the ones looking for some sun and relaxing days on the sand. Check also the Khmer handicrafts in Cheung Kok ecotourism village close to the main town.
If you want to stay for a while, OBT Homestay and Bungalow, in Kampong Cham itself, is a great option. It’s an organization delivering training to local children. They use the money from their tourism program (from 5 to 20 dollars depending if you are staying with a local family or in your own private bungalow) to support their work.
Weird sculptures that you will find everywhere in Kampong Cham.
Indeed quite a pleasant city to visit for a couple of days! Kampong Cham is just 120 kms from Phnom Penh but has a very relaxed pace of life. Have a look on Camboticket website for options on how to get there from Phnom Penh or other Cambodian cities!
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