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talesofasia guide to the provinces of Cambodia


Kompong Cham

updated January 2006

Straddling the Mekong River, Kompong Cham is close enough to make a day trip from Phnom Penh or can be a convenient staging point for trips to the wild northeast. Easily reached by boat or road (excellent road!) the province is surrounded by (clockwise from the north) Kompong Thom, Kratie, Vietnam, Prey Veng, Kandal, and Kompong Chhnang.

If things look good here, consider that Kompong Cham is the original home of PM Hun Sen and former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara.

My experience with this province is a little limited. I did make the trip to Kompong Cham town in October 1999 and have otherwise driven through the province a handful of times on motorbike and in taxis. However, the main attractions of Kompong Cham have been around for quite a few centuries so things aren't changing too fast in that respect.

Kompong Cham (town)

Kompong Cham (town)
Cambodia's third largest, err, city, is but two hours or so from Phnom Penh by bus or share taxi on one of Cambodia's best highways. I've never spent the night in Kompong Cham so I can't comment on the hotels, but I did see most of what's worth seeing.

The main attraction, other than the Mekong and its peaceful banks, is Wat Nokor which is a curious combination of an 11th century temple and a modern pagoda. An interesting legend surrounds this structure and you can read about it here. A few kilometers further east are Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, two hilltop pagodas with their own unique legend. The Khmer Rouge made a mess of things here and between the two hills lies one more of Cambodia's many killing fields. In this case it's nothing more than a cement shed and a pile of bones. Further away from the town sit several more temples and a rubber plantation which I have not visited.

The other area attraction is Koh Paen, an island in the Mekong. I haven't visited it, but people who have seem to enjoy the glimpse into rural Cham life.

Despite this seemingly limited number of attractions, I think sparing a day or even a day and a night in Kompong Cham would be a good addition to a Cambodia holiday.

About 75 kilometers north of Phnom Penh this town is at first glimpse nothing more than a crossroads. When you hit the traffic circle veer right for Kompong Cham and points to the northeast, veer left for Kompong Thom and points north and west of there. Or stop and have a snack. A yummy scrumptious sampling of big hairy fried... spiders! Yes, this is the famous spider town of Cambodia. Bon appetite! You won't have to look far for the spiders. This is a small town and where all the taxis and trucks stop you'll see vendors walking around with platefuls of the critters.

photo: Jay Perrin

Provinces Guide



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