This is the first of three posts describing a 4 day Khmer New Year motorbike journey along the loop Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and back to Phnom Penh. This post deals mainly with a ride through the dry flood plains of the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, between Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom.
This is the plan: we ride the 92km from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang already in the evening of Friday, planning to get up early the next day, cross the river with the ferry and ride through the flood plains to Kampong Thom. This trip is not mentioned in any of the guide books I use but I found a helpful account of it by Mac on Khmer 440. Without it, I would not have known that this trip is possible and it also has good clues as to how to do it.
Continue reading Kampong Chhang to Kampong Thom via the Dry Tonle Sap Flood Plains
It is time for an extended weekend trip again. The plan is to ride from Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom today and meet up with Vothear and Sokhom, two friends of mine who are excellent guides for exploring the temples in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap.
The plan for tomorrow is to follow National Road 6 towards Siem Reap town for another 100 km or so, passing Stoung and Kouk Thlok Kraom on the way until we reach Dam Daek. From here, we follow the newly upgraded Road 66 to the north for about 30 km, until we reach Prasat Trapeang Noem, close to Beng Mealea (Boeng Mealea), an ancient temple. After visiting the temple we plan to proceed on what is a new road towards the northeast until via Svay Leu to Prasat Kor Ker (Kaoh Kerr, Chok Gargyar, Phnum Dai), another ancient temple, or rather, a complex of dozens of them. From here we continue on a more modest road and via an extensive detour through Trayang to Kulen (Koulen) and finally to Tbaeng Mean Chey (T’beng Meanchey), the provincial capital of Preah Vihear province, where we spend the night. The next day we return to Kampong Thom on Road 64 and from there I continue home to Phnom Penh.
Continue reading Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear: Beng Mealea, Kor Ker, Kulen, Tbaeng Mean Chey by Motorbike
This is one of the few occasions that I am traveling Cambodia for work rather than pleasure, together with my Cambodian colleagues around the great lake. It is the first time that I am making a trip all around the Tonle Sap Lake. I tune out work related issues here and focus instead on impressions from the road starting from Phnom Penh via Kampong Thom to Siem Reap, Battambang and back to Phnom Penh via Kampong Chnang.
Continue reading Around the Tonle Sap Lake by Car: Siem Reap, Battambang
Many of my colleagues are in Kampong Thom (Kompong Thom) this weekend and I decide to go there and meet up. I have been to Kampong Thom many times but until recently was not aware that there are countless temples to visit along the way, in particular between Kampong Thom town and Skuon (Skon). The plan for this weekend is to meet my colleagues in Kampong Thom and also Vothear and Sokhom, two friends and guides of mine whom I have been exploring the surrounding provinces with on a number of occasions. I am sure these people are the best guides you can find in Kampong Thom with detailed knowledge of the surrounding provinces.
Kampong Thom does not see many visitors, despite the fact that the site of the ancient capital of the Pre-Angkor kingdom of Chenla is right next to the provincial capital. The ruins of Sambor Prei Kok (Sambor Prei Kuk) cover a vast area of mostly forested land in close proximity to Kampong Thom town which is an excellent starting point for journeys into neighboring provinces also. The complex contains countless structures that are nearly 1400 years old and easily accessible even by coach. If this place was in Vietnam or Thailand it would be a sensation attracting thousands of tourists daily. Tourists who make it to Cambodia pass through Kampong Thom on their way from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or just bypass it by aircraft. While exploring the site you will meet few tourists, if any. I have been to Sambor Prei Kuk before and my interest this time is more in these lesser known temples along the way to Phnom Penh.
Continue reading Temples along the Road from Kampong Thom to Skuon by Motorbike
The plan for today is to travel back to Phnom Penh, which is about 310 km from here on national road via Kampong Thom. I get up at eight, have a shower and leave the guesthouse. I walk along the river for a bit and pass the market before I find a charming place at the river for breakfast.
In many ways Siem Reap is different from the rest of the country. Everybody appears to be busy, there are many tourists, most people understand English, and the city appears to be more Western and more affluent then any other place in the country. Siem Reap has a lot of appeal for Cambodians in many provinces, as it holds the promise of rapid economic and social development and immense individual opportunities that are not easily available elsewhere. There are countless luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, internet places and souvenir shops. As well as hospitals and schools. Other than Phnom Penh this is the only other truly urban place I know of in Cambodia.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Ninth Day: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: Kampong Thom
We get up at about 7 am and following some breakfast we head of. Vothear is convinced we can make it all the way to Choam Khsant but I remain skeptical. As soon as we leave Khvav to the north the dirt road turns into oxcart trails again.
We continue riding those trails. First we pass sandy stretches through open landscape. Later we ride through dense forest forcing us to duck from the branches of trees and follow the tight turns of the trail. We do not think of having breaks, as we want to catch up with the initial schedule.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Fifth Day (Christmas Eve): Khvav, Sraryang Village, Prasat Kaoh Ker (Koh Ker), Choam Khsant
It is at about 4 am when cocks start their noisy business. The village is getting busy when it is still dark. We get up at about 7 am and have breakfast, fish and rice, which is tasty.
Later we head out to see another temple of the Prasat Bakan complex, Prasat Domrei (temple of the elephants). Vanna and his friend give us company and the four of us ride on two motos. Vanna is traveling with Vothear and it is actually the first time I am not alone on my moto. I felt I do not want to risk other people’s health or live. However, it turns out not to be too difficult, although the road is pretty rough and sandy. After about 20 minutes we arrive at the temple, which is located at a beautiful lake. This is the first pyramid shaped temple I see.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Fourth Day: Prasat Domrei, Khvav Village, Kampong Kdei
I met Vothea at 8 am in front of the guesthouse. This is the plan for the next three days. We follow National Road 64 to the north, until we reach Phnom Dek (a village which is not in my map). This is about 75 km from Kampong Thom. From here we turn east, following the oxcart trail to Ta Seng Village and Prasat Bakan (both places are in my map). After we spend the night in Ta Seng we continue north to Kulen and then to Prasat Kaoh Ker. After spending the night in Kulen we attempt to go further north to Prasat Preah Vihear, the best known temple in the province with the same name, next to the Thai border. I should mention other than road 64 there are no roads in my map. I was told the other day this way is adventurous and many people failed to make it with a big moto. I am advised to go on somebody else’s moto scooters’ back. And none of my guidebooks indicates that it is possible to go to those places on a road other than 64, or without hitting Tbaeng Mean Chey. Rather, most books suggest getting to those destinations on one or multiple day trips from the provincial capital. Yet Vothear and his friend Sokhom seem to be trustworthy and experienced. So I decide to try it.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Third Day: Kampong Thom, Phnom Dek, Ta Seng, Prasat Bakan
Next day is Sunday and I get up at 7:30 am, and have a shower and breakfast in the guesthouse. I ask one of the waiters whether he knows a good guide and of course he does. So I wait ten minutes and get introduced to Vothea. He is 30 years old, friendly and speaks reasonable English. While having breakfast we agree to visit the temple city of Sambor Prei Kuk and later in the afternoon travel to Phnom Santuk.
We kick of at about 9 pm, fill up the motos and ride north on a recently constructed dust road, which is in good condition. We turn left immediately after we pass the bridge. Our way leads us through fertile lowland with rice fields and a number of villages. Many people are harvesting in the field, in many cases children. Most of the time we see only the bicycles at the roadside, while people are working fare away, deep in the rice field. Sambor Pre Kuk is only about 35 km from Kampong Thom. We are riding with two bikes and moderate speed. So I have the chance to pay attention to the environment.
Continue reading Preah Vihear Second Day: Temples in Kampong Thom and Phnom Santuk
I get up at 7:30 am. The plan is to have breakfast at riverside and buy some stuff in the market before heading to Preah Vihear.
Continue reading Preah Vihear First Day: Kampong Thom
This is the last weekend before I go back to Germany. I did not have much vacation so far and manage to get a day off on Monday. I always wanted to travel to Siem Reap and to see Angkor Wat but unfortunately I did not yet get the chance to go. So I thought better one day in Siem Reap than not at all.
I have planned to go to Siem Reap by moto for quite some time. And I have tried to find somebody to give me company. However, I did not find anybody who had both time and interest to go. After all, it is a distance of about 350 km one way.
So I decide to go on my own. The plan is to leave Saturday early in Phnom Penh in order to arrive in Siem Reap early enough to buy the ticket and see the sunset. The next day would be dedicated to visit the temples. And on Monday I would have to travel back early enough to go to work on Tuesday again.
Saturday I get of at about 8 am and go to riverside to have breakfast. This picture is taken from the restaurant at the Mekong River, which is in the background.
Continue reading From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by motor bike: Skun, Kompong Thom