Getting from Battambang to Koh Kong is not for the faint of heart. This trip, no matter how you do it, is long and grueling. But if you’ve got a few days to spare, it makes for an excellent adventure into one of the most remote corners of Cambodia.
If you’re going to try to make the trip, you have essentially two options: on your own by motorcycle, or by a combination of buses or cars. The motorcycle route is also possible on a good mountain bike, but requires a high level of fitness and is not to be taken on lightly.
Getting there by car and bus
Car and bus is by far the most straightforward and safest way to make the trip from Battambang to Koh Kong through the Cardamoms. Starting from Battambang, you’ll want to get a bus to Pursat. This can be done by talking to any of the companies that offer buses to Phnom Penh. Note that a minivan is far less likely to want to drop you off in Pursat, so you’re better off getting a bus. Expect the trip to take up to two hours. Sorya 168 will take you from Battambang to Pursat for $4.
Once you arrive in Pursat, head to the Psar Chas, the central market, or look for taxis waiting on Road 5. If you get there early enough, before 10 a.m., you should be able to find a shared taxi all the way to Ou Som for $10, or $12 in the rainy season. Only try to get to Ou Som if you arrive in Pursat early in the day. Taking the road up to Ou Som late in the day is not advised. The road is in very bad condition, especially in the rainy season, and taxis may get stuck.
If you get to Pursat late, you should still be able to get a shared taxi to Pramaoy/Veal Veang for 25,000 or $6.25.
Once in Pramaoy, Metapheap Guesthouse offers simple yet clean rooms for $5 a night. It’s located on the right hand side right after the main roundabout as you enter town from Pursat.
In Pramaoy, you can find taxis waiting at the roundabout in the morning. If you’re lucky, you can get a shared taxi up to Ou Som for $5 to $10. The drive from Pursat to Ou Som is three and a half hours in the dry season and can be up to seven hours in the wet season.
Once you arrive in Ou Som, you’ll want to stay at the Ou Som Community Based Tourism Homestay. It is on your right-hand side as you arrive in the village. The owner, Mr. Lim is incredibly friendly and can organize trekking, trips to waterfalls, and transport to Koh Kong. Cost of a bungalow is $6 a night, or you can sleep in a hammock with mosquito netting for $2.
It’s worth it to spend a day or two up in Oh Som, either trekking and visiting the surrounding wilderness or just spending time in the village.
Getting a taxi from Ou Som to Koh Kong is easy, and Mr. Lim will organize it for you. Expect to pay $10 for a seat in a shared taxi that leaves at 7:30 a.m., or you can pay for a private taxi for $50 to $60. The drive from Ou Som to Koh Kong takes about three hours.
The whole trip is definitely an adventure at any time of year, but especially in the rainy season. Don’t expect to make it from Battambang to Koh Kong in one day. And anyway, why would you want to?
From Battambang to Koh Kong by motorcycle
If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want to tackle the trip on your own, you can drive it on a motorcycle. A dirt bike is obviously the best choice but the locals make it up there on a Honda wave, so perhaps so can you.
You can follow the route outlined above, from Battambang to Pursat, then onward through Ou Som to Koh Kong, but there is another, more beautiful and rugged route that is only possible on a motorbike.
To take the adventurous route, head out of Battambang along Road 57 to Pailin. Turn left at the turning point for Samlout, about 45km out of Battambang. Before you reach Samlout, the road forks. You’ll want to take the left fork, heading out towards a village called Phum Thnot. This village has the only bridge across the river in this valley.
It’s best if you can speak a little Khmer, as staying on the road to Pramaoy from there requires a few turns. Google Maps can find the route for you as well, but sometimes Google gets it wrong. Stay on the widest dirt road and head towards that mountain ridge. Eventually you’ll come to a T-junction with a market. Take a left and follow that road around to the mountains, staying to the right.
The road up into the mountains is unforgivingly steep but mercifully short. After the top you’ll descend through a long valley in the mountains. Continue straight through there and after another 60 km you should reach Pramaoy. If you reach Pramaoy before noon, you can make the drive up to Ou Som.
If you reach Pramaoy in the afternoon, better to wait until the next day. Definitely do not try to drive to Ou Som in the afternoon if it is raining. Take a room at the Metapheap Guesthouse instead.
The road up to Ou Som is rugged, very steep, and can be extremely slippery when wet. Expect for the drive to take at least two hours, possibly more. Once you reach the lake, there are two ferries that will carry you and your moto across the lake for 5000 riel ($1.25). From there, it’s only another 5 km to the Ou Soam Homestay.
From Ou Som to Koh Kong is another 120 km. The first 50 km or so are unpaved, but well packed. The road is used by Chinese workers servicing three massive dams. After 50 km you’ll reach a concrete paved road. You can follow this concrete, despite what the signs say, all the way down to Koh Kong. Expect the drive to take three or four hours.
And there you have it. If you’re looking for an adventurous trip to take during your next long weekend, head up to Battambang and then make the journey through the mountains. Just make sure you set aside enough time to make it through and get back home before you need to head back to work.
Sorya Bus Company
Ticketing: No. 744, St. 106, Preak Mohatep Village, Battambang
T: 092 181 804; 053 953 904; 081 908 004
Right-hand side just after the roundabout, Pramaoy, Veal Veang, Pursat
T: 015 989 680