Kampong Cham is the capital of the province of the same name and the third largest city in Cambodia. With its Mekong River location and relatively close proximity to Phnom Penh (123km) and Vietnam, Kampong Cham has always been an important trade and transportation hub. The highway from Phnom Penh is in excellent condition. You can get here in just under two hours by road or by the bullet boats that are a main mode of transportation between towns on the Mekong River. Either way it’s a nice fide, with views of the rural countryside or river area, depending on which way you go.
The town itself is quaint and charming with its bustling morning river scene and wide boulevard streets beside the river. There are a few worthwhile attractions nearby and with its location on the way by boat or road to Kratie, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces; it’s a nice jump-off point.
Kampong Cham is a mix of the old and the new, with a new temple being built in and around old ruins and the big ferry boats taking people and goods to the other side of the Mekong, right next to the construction of the first bridge ever built here.
Because there is little foreign investment and no massive tourism (almost every foreigner who comes here is a backpacker), this city is quite poor with a few modern buildings though not lacking in French architecture from the colonial period. It is similar to many other Cambodian cities, being rather dirty, with garbage a common sight. The people of Kampong Cham are very friendly and open to engaging with tourists.
If recent projects seem to be improving the state of things here (relative to other Cambodian cities), remember that both PM Hun Sen and former Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara are originally from this province.
This province is located in the eastern heard of Cambodia bordering following provinces: Kratie to the Northeast, Vietnam to the East, Prey Veng to the South, Kampong Chhnang to the west and Kampong Thom to the Northwest. Due to its advantageous location with the mighty Mekong flowing through the whole province, Kampong Cham has not much to fear of water supply.
The sprawling township of Kampong Cham stretching lazily along the west bank of the Mekong River has much to offer, from temples to deep forests of numerous rubber plantations (a legacy of the French colonial period) to peaceful stalls along the river where visitors can sit back and soak in the atmosphere over a beer or fresh coconut. Kampong Cham is also located at a crossroads. It is the gateway to exotic Mondulkiri Province through Kratie, and it’s a common port city on the mighty Mekong. Via the national highway No. 7, the province is easily to enter and to explore.
The province is divided up into 16 districts, with 173 communes and 1,748 villages. Its geographic location is 12.00°N and 105.46°E.
Kampong Cham is the capital of the Cambodian province of Kampong Cham. It is the third largest city in Cambodia with a population of 1,914,152 people (2007) with 928,504 male and 985,648 female and is located on the Mekong River. Kampong Cham is 123 kilometres northeast from Phnom Penh and can be reached by either boats or a recently constructed asphalt road. It takes about 2 hours by vehicles or 2.5 hours by boats from Phnom Penh to the city of Kampong Cham.
Cambodia has sun almost year round. The average temperature is around 27 degrees Celsius; minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months during the year.
General information about the climate:
- Rainy season starts from May till October with the temperature of 27-35 ºc and with humidity up to 90%
- Cool season starts from November to March with the temperature of 17-27 ºc
- Hot season starts from March till May with the temperature of 28 ºc-36 ºc
In an effort to entice foreign investment, the province is offering generous business concessions to those who wish to invest in rubber plantations inside the country. Kampong Cham and Kratie have an abundance of red soil and water resources, which create ideal conditions for the cultivation of rubber.
Generally, the people make their living from rubber and cashew nut plantation, fishing, rice farming and producing a rich array of fruits in fertile orchards, including durian, rambutans and lychees.
How to get there:
This is a nice option for you travel along the Mekong. Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham takes two hours and costs 10,000 riel. The boats depart just north of the Japanese Bridge (around 150m) on the Phnom Penh side of the Tonle Sap River.
Kampong Cham to Kratie is a three-hour boat ride and the cost is about 15,000 riel. The boats usually do not continue on to Stung Treng, as the water level must be very high to enable the boats to clear all of the small islands and clumps in the river between Kratie and Stung Treng. The boats usually do not even go during the rainy season, as there are not many people travelling on this route.
The cost for taking a motorcycle with you by boat for a section of the trip is the same price as for a person. It’s not recommended, though, as the porters who load and unload the boats are a hassle to deal with and if they happen to drop your motorcycle in the river (a real possibility), it’s your loss and not theirs. If you have a motorcycle, ride it. It is not recommended to combine the two modes of transportation.
Hoh Wat Gentling Bus Company and Sorya Bus Company (168) have air-con buses to and from Kampong Cham on a regular schedule every day. Their main bus terminal is near the southwest corner of the Central Market (or New Market) in Phnom Penh. The trip is 6,000 riel. In Kampong Cham, bus arrivals and departures are at the Kampong Cham Market. Please see the Getting Around chapter towards the front of the book for all bus schedules.
As it is quite cheap and quick with the air-con buses from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, there is not much of a reason to take a taxi. A shared taxi from Kampong Cham to Kampong Thom is 8,000 riel. The road is in good condition. The share taxi do not go all the way to Kratie at this time, only as far as Snoul, the small town that is the juncture point for the road to Kratie and to Sen Monorom town in Mondulkiri Province. In Snoul, there are only sometimes share taxis plying the route to Kratie. If you do not have your own motorcycle as transportation, your surest bet is to take the bullet boat if you want to go to Kratie from Kampong Cham.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham
As mentioned earlier, the highway from Phnom Penh is in excellent condition; you take Highway No 6 from Phnom Penh (crossing the Japanese Bridge) and go to the roundabout in Skun comprising a stature of children holding a bird. Highway 6 continues on to the left, going to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. For Kampong Cham, you veer to the right and follow Highway No 7. A scenic option to this is to follow the river road on the eastern side of the Mekong River (if own vehicle). It takes a bit more time but if you have time it’s worth it. Security is not a problem.
Until the new bridge over the Mekong River is finished, you still take the big ferry across if you want to explore the eastern side of the province or continue on to Kratie or Mondulkiri Provinces by motorcycle or vehicle. It is 200 riel per person and 400 riel for a motorcycle.
Kampong Cham to Snoul and Kratie or Sen Monorom
The motorcycle ride from Kampong Cham to Snoul is not with the best road equipped, but it’s doable. Just before you reach Snoul there is a junction in the road with a police box on the right side. Follow the road to the left and you are on the highway to Kratie. You go through the town of Snoul just ahead where there is food and fuel.
Back at the junction by the police box just before you get to Snoul, following the curve to the right takes you to Mondulkiri. About 7 km past that curve, you come to a four-way junction. Turn left there and you are on the dust highway (laterite surface) to Sen Monorom. Fuel and drinks are available at the four-way junction and 60km later, so you can bypass Snoul if you like. The road from Snoul to Sen Monorom is generally in good condition. It is only a dirt road but it’s nice and level, because it was put in for the logging trucks. The road gets quite tricky during the rainy season, however, when the clay gets wet and it becomes similar to riding on ice. The scenery is beautiful and you are passing one of the remotest places in the country.