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talesofasia guide to the provinces of Cambodia

Cambodia

Koh Kong

updated January 2006

Almost every foreigner that travels through Koh Kong province is either coming from or going to Thailand. Located in the southwest corner of the country, this province of predominantly mountains, jungle, and a rugged shoreline is bordered by Thailand to the west, Pursat to the north, Kompong Speu to the east, and Kampot and Sihanoukville to the southeast.

Other than the town of Koh Kong, the only other attraction in the province is the Cardamom Mountain range.

Kirirom National Park, though partially in Koh Kong province is mentioned under Kompong Speu.

Koh Kong is accessible by land to and from Thailand and route 48 built by the Thai army connects the town with the road to and from Phnom Penh and the coast area (Sihanoukville, Kampot) by way of Sre Ambel and the scenic southern Cardamoms. There is also a logging road north into the Cardamoms that you can take to Battambang and Siem Reap but there is no public transport. You can only do this by motorbike and you better know what you are doing. Speedboat service connects Koh Kong and Sihanoukville. There is no boat service to Thailand. Air service was discontinued years ago.

Being on the Thai border, this is a Thai baht province.

Koh Kong (town)
Sre Ambel
Southern Cardamoms

Koh Kong (town)
This is the provincial capital and other than the village of Sre Ambel, one of the few places in the entire province where you can find any appreciable number of people.

Most folks pass through on their way to or from Thailand but due to transport limitations often have to spend the night here. Unlike that border town to the north, Poipet, Koh Kong is a much more relaxed place. As with any border town there are the requisite mercenaries around, but you won't feel hassled here like you would in Poipet. Having to spend the night in Koh Kong is not a bad thing.

For border and overland travel information see my Overland section.

I've stayed in three different establishments. The Phou Mint Koh Kong, located by the new bridge and the Kolab Cheay Den Hotel, in the center of town one block from Otto's are both adequate. The Nokor Reach Hotel next to the market I was less impressed with. There are numerous Khmer restaurants around town, many with English language menus. Otto's does a good job with western food and is a nice place to hang out and get travel information.

If you have the time and the cash (700-900 baht for the boat), I'm told a trip out to Koh Kong Island is well worth it. I haven't done this myself, but it sounds like a bit of an adventure with the island being sparsely populated, jungly, and full of nice beaches.

About the only other activity not of an adult nature is a journey up the river to a couple of waterfalls at the edge of the Cardamoms. I haven't actually done this, but as it's made the guidebooks it shouldn't be difficult to arrange something. For further information on exploring the Cardamom range, see the section below, Southern Cardamoms.

Sre Ambel
This small village is not much more than a road junction and a boat port. If you do have to spend the night there are a couple of nondescript guesthouses. Though I've been through here a few times, I've never spent any significant amount of time but people who have describe it as not one of Cambodia's friendlier places.

Southern Cardamoms
Here comes adventure! The Cardamom Mountains are one of Asia's most pristine ecological areas and also one of its most inaccessible, which explains why it's so pristine. If you want to get into the Cardamoms you have two choices - pay for an expedition (click the image above) or if you can handle a motorbike, do it that way.

The other option is to take a motorbike trip and I have done this. The only safe route north is to head east from Koh Kong and turn left a few kilometers up the hill and past the circle and then head north to the town of Veal Veng in Pursat province on the other side of Mt. Samkos. Reaching Veal Veng, roughly 100 kms away, will take about half a day - or at least it did when I went through in January 2002. Now, it's another story. The trip is still doable, yes, but you better know what you're doing. Though one of the most scenic rides in Cambodia it may well also be one of the most difficult now. From Veal Veng you have the option of turning east to Pursat town or continuing north and then turning left to Pailin or right to Battambang. Absolutely do not do this alone. Though security on this road is not really a concern (though land mines in the bushes may be), it is a very isolated road and if you have an accident or breakdown you might be in deep doo-doo. There is one stretch of 75 kms that has no sign of human habitation. I recommended you plan to pitch a hammock in Veal Veng. You might make Pursat in a day but if you want to continue north through the mountains to Pailin or Battambang you may find yourself in a race to beat the setting sun and this is a race you don't want to lose. For more information, read my story on this trip and visit the Pursat page of the Provinces Guide.


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All text and photographs 1998 - 2006 Gordon Sharpless. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.