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