Takeo: How to get there, where to stay, and things to do

Looking to get out of Phnom Penh life for a day, or spend a quiet weekend away? Takeo province may not be the most obvious tourism destination, but it offers a host of interesting things to do, and is a short two-hour drive from Phnom Penh (or a longer train journey) . Here are just a few highlights of Takeo province, plus details of how to get there and where to stay.

Small offerings at Takeo’s Wat Phnom Borei.

Things to do in Takeo Province

Operated by the Wildlife Alliance, the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center is just 25 miles (41km) outside Phnom Penh and offers a safe place for the care and rehabilitation of animals that were caught in the illegal animal trade. With animal ambassadors ranging from elephants to gibbons, you can feel good knowing your visit will not only brighten your mood, but also support conservation and education. Tours are available year round; however, the vans are not air conditioned so they may be uncomfortable during the hottest part of the year. There is a fair amount of standing and walking. You also have the option to buy a ticket and guide yourself around at a comfortable pace. Continue reading

How to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia

If you’re headed to Thailand after Cambodia, you won’t necessarily need to get a visa in advance. Thailand offers a 30-day visa-free stay for 56 nationalities that can be extended once for an additional 30 days for 1,900 baht, which is about $60.  If you’d like to stay longer, or if you’ve already entered Thailand a few times, you’ll need to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia.

Bangkok Royal Palace

Heading to Thailand?

How to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia

If you are planning to get a visa for Thailand while you’re in Cambodia, there are two ways to do it. If it is your first Thai visa, you can take you passport to any local travel agent in Phnom Penh and they can get it for you. Most Cambodian travel agents will not deal with customers with multiple visas who may be trying to live in Thailand illegally. If you are thinking of trying Cambodia for a visa run from Thailand, know that the Phnom Penh embassy has a reputation for being quite strict. Continue reading

Review: Nattakan direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice-versa)

If you’re looking for the most painless way to cross the Thailand-Cambodia border overland, the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap is the way to go. There are currently only three truly direct buses (meaning you leave your luggage on the bus while you cross the border and catch the same bus on the other side). Not having to switch buses takes a major headache out of the journey. Nattakan, the first company to ply this route, is the least expensive option. It had been a while since I took this trip with them, so I bought a ticket and tried it out.

Here’s the 2019 report on the Nattakan direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap:

Nattakan direct bus stop

At a glance…

Because there are a few segments to this journey, I’ll break this post up into sections to make it easier to digest. Continue reading

How to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa) in 2019

There are a couple of easy ways to go from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) in 2019. There are options to fit every budget, but some are nicer than others. Right now the road is in great condition and it’s a smooth ride, unlike in years past. The journey by road usually takes between 5 and 6 hours, depending on your mode of transport if you go by road.

Giant Ibis bus Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Check out the view on a Giant Ibis bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Ways to travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

  • Taxi: Costs $65-100. Most comfortable option. Best balance of price and convenience. About 5 hours.
  • Bus: Costs $6-15. Smoothest ride and best views. About 6 hours.
  • Mini-bus/van: Costs $9-12. Faster than the bus, but more cramped. About 5.5 hours.
  • Plane: Costs $30-120. Fastest method, but domestic flights are unreliable. About 1 hour.
  • Ferry: Costs $35. Best scenery, if you sit outside. About 8 hours, sometimes more.

Continue reading

Road trip from Kampot to Kampong Trach

No matter how much you love Kampot, sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day and go explore some caves. Kampong Trach is an easy 26 miles (43 km) road trip down National Road 33 past Kep, and is easily accessible from either Kampot or Kep. There, you’ll find the most well-known cave system at the Kampong Trach Mountain Resort, plus the Kampong Trach Water Cave and the Sankar Sana Cave.

Road trip to Kampong Trach

From Kampot, it’s an easy road trip to Kampong Trach.

If you’re traveling by moto, finding the caves on your own can prove a bit of a challenge as there is no signage coming into Kampong Trach town on NR33, for either the caves or the town itself! Just follow the green road signs towards Phnom Penh and Chhuk (neither of which you will pass on the way to the caves). However, if you keep a keen eye, you will notice roughly 25 miles (41 km) out of Kampot town that you are entering Kampong Trach, because the traffic will seem to move a bit more slowly and be more tightly packed. Slow down and watch for the Kirisela Guesthouse on your left, a multi-story building easily recognized by the orange siding and True Money sign. Turn left [here’s the map location of where to turn], and a few meters down the road you’ll see a dentist sign on the left. This is also a great time to check any mapping app on your phone if you happen to be traveling with one, because you probably won’t have phone reception for the entire journey. Continue reading

A guide to Battambang’s art galleries

In the last decade Battambang has experienced something of an artist revival, in no small part thanks to Phare Ponleu Selpak, an non-profit organization there that provides hundreds of students with arts training and education. Explore the town’s art scene with our updated guide to Battambang’s art galleries for 2019.

Lotus Gallery Battambang

Khchao Touch’s work on display upstairs at Battambang’s Lotus Gallery.

Lotus Gallery

In its latest incarnation Lotus Gallery exclusively shows the work of Khchao Touch, a Cambodian artist and the gallery’s co-owner. She and her partner, Darren Swallow, have made Lotus into a local community hub of sorts. “Those that are meant to find us, do,” says Darren, referring to the fact that there’s not a lot of signage outside. Look for the bicycle covered in plants that is rolled out when they are open. Darren, who also mans the downstairs coffee bar, knows everything about the art scene in Battambang and will happily tell visitors about Touch’s art-making or anything else they want to know about what’s going on in town. Continue reading

Bokor Mountain by minibus tour

Visitors to Kampot are often told they should rent a moto and head to Bokor Mountain. And while Southeast Asia has a reputation as being an easy place to learn the finer points of moto driving, not all of us have an inner Evel Knievel. Luckily, when Bokor is calling it’s possible to take a minivan tour of Bokor Mountain and let someone else do the driving!

Sampov Pram Pagoda

Sampov Pram Pagoda at Bokor Mountain.

Chan Rath Tours offers package tours starting at $13 and include a Bokor Mountain tour during the morning, and a sunset cruise on the Kampot river at dusk. There are other tours offering a similar itinerary in town, but I went with Chan Rath Tours. For this tour, called ‘The Bokor National Park Tour’ you’ll meet in Kampot town at 8 a.m., or you can request a pickup from any guesthouse out of town for a small per-person fee. As the tour leaves quite early, be certain to arrange any transportation to the pickup location the night before. Continue reading

Crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia (at Poipet)

The border between Thailand and Cambodia at Poipet has a terrible reputation, but it’s not quite as bad as you may have been led to believe. It’s true that if you’re coming from Thailand towards Cambodia you have more chance of being scammed than if you’re going in the other direction, but knowing in advance what to expect will make the border crossing relatively painless.

Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland

Get the skinny on crossing the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland.

The process of crossing the Poipet border has a few steps:

  • Get stamped out of Thailand
  • Apply for a Cambodia visa
  • Get stamped in to Cambodia

In between most of those steps are several common scams that I’ll also go over. Continue reading