Kayaking the Green Cathedral in Kampot

Boasting one of the most beautiful rivers in Cambodia, Kampot has kayaking that is suited to both beginners and those looking for a challenge. For skilled kayakers, the Tuek Chhou Rapids located 10 kilometers from Kampot town offer a bit of a challenge. For those of us just starting out or preferring a more laid back experience, roughly 5 kilometers from Kampot town is a lazy offshoot of the Tuek Chhou River known as the Green Cathedral or Green Loop.

Kampot river Green Cathedral

Green Cathedral

The Green Cathedral is named for the foliage the lines the waterway. Along the way, you will pass through areas where the plants have grown to a size that allows them to touch leaves across the water, forming a peaceful canopy that filters out a bit of the blazing Cambodian sun. As Kampot grows, more guesthouses and residences are springing up and threatening the canopy. For now there is still a good amount of nature to enjoy, but don’t wait too long to make your trip. Continue reading

A visit to Anlong Veng, the last Khmer Rouge stronghold

The small town of Anlong Veng, along the Thai border, would not likely feature on many people’s Cambodia travel itineraries. But there are good reasons for the adventurous and the curious to make the 150-kilometer journey north from Siem Reap.

Pol Pot cremation site

One of Cambodia’s most alluring tourist attractions.

Nestled at the bottom of the Dangrek mountain range that forms a natural border between Cambodia and Thailand, modest Anlong Veng could easily be mistaken for countless other rural backwaters across the country. Like them, it has cheap guest houses, shops selling Chinese mobile phones, roadside BBQs, and seedy karaoke bars clustered near a covered market.

But there are also stunning mountain views to be enjoyed and an abundance of rustic tranquility. More important, Anglon Veng offers plenty of historic interest. This was one of the final strongholds the genocidal Khmer Rouge retreated to after their regime was overthrown in 1978. It was also the place where their leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. Shortly thereafter, what remained of his army defected to the government troops they’d been fighting for two decades. Continue reading

Review: Mekong Express Siem Reap to Battambang (and vice versa)

I had the pleasure of traveling between Siem Reap and Battabang on Mekong Express recently, so I thought I’d give a much-needed bus review from the road. Now of course I  use the term “pleasure” loosely, as the road between Battambang and Siem Reap is not a pleasure by any stretch of the imagination (but don’t worry, the buses are completely acceptable).

Mekong Express minibus old sty

The Mekong Express mini-bus that plies the Siem Reap to Battambang route.

Mekong Express Siem Reap-Battambang at a glance…

Schedule: 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (both directions)
Ticket price: $7
Trip duration: 3 to 4 hours
Vehicle type: bus or mini-bus

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Compare all buses between Siem Reap and Battambang or book a taxi!

There is no direct road from Battambang to Siem Reap, and all buses instead route through Sisophon and Banteay Meanchey province. National Road 5 has been under construction since 2017 and although it’s said to be finishing soon, in 2019, the current trip takes between 3 and 4 hours and parts are a bit bumpy. Once the resurfacing is complete the trip should take a little over 2 hours. 

Mekong Express is a foreigner favorite. They are known for safe driving, without the crazy lane changes and other ridiculous maneuvers that are commonly seen on the roads in Cambodia. Mekong Express has gotten a new fleet of buses for the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap bus trip, and if you wondered where the old buses went, well, they went to Battambang. Continue reading

The “hero rats” of Siem Reap

Looking for something to do in Siem Reap that’s just a little bit different? Consider going to visit the APOPO hero rats of Temple Town and see how these giant rats are trained to sniff out landmines in Cambodia.

hero rats Siem Reap
This bad boy hero rat is capable of sniffing out landmines across Cambodia.

The idea of a “hero rat” may sound strange, since rats are traditionally thought of as carriers of disease, laboratory subjects, or class pets fostered out to students on the weekend until being accidentally flushed down the toilet by a particularly hyperactive child. Yes, the humble rat is rarely given credit for being the intelligent mammal it really is, capable of both learning and altruistic behavior.

Those talents are being nurtured by APOPO, a nonprofit organization started in Antwerp in 1997 by Bart Weetjens and Christophe Cox, who had the idea of using rats’ ability as scent detectors to find landmines and other unexploded ordnance that remain buried in places recovering from war. APOPO’s first training facility for mine-detecting rats opened in 2000 in Tanzania.

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Spelunking in Kampot with Climbodia

While Kampot is generally known as a pleasantly sleepy town, popular for its happy pizza-seeking backpacker scene, it offers much more for those who are a bit more adventurous. You can drive a scooter on the long and winding road up Bokor Mountain, kayak around the Green Cathedral loop in the Preak Teuk Chhu river, or venture out to the salt flats or visit the famous pepper farms and salt flats. Or, you can climb and spelunk over, around, and through the caves of Phnom Kbal Romeas.

Climbing Kampot…for when sitting by the river just isn’t enough.

While it’s possible to visit the site on your own, we signed up with Kampot-based adventure company Climbodia, which offers half-day tours for everyone from novices to experienced climbers. We opted for their best-selling Discovery Tour, which includes a variety of activities, including via ferrata, abseiling, caving, and top rope climbing. It turned out to be a great choice for beginners who want to explore the mountain while getting to sample a variety of climbing activities.

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Phnom Penh’s water taxi (isn’t it wonderful?)

Phnom Penh’s greatest tourist attraction may be its least expected — the new commuter-focused water taxi linking Takhmao in the city’s south to the main riverside area and further north along the Tonle Sap River.

Phnom Penh water taxi
“Pete bloody loves the water taxi, and so will you”

The water taxi is a very different experience from Phnom Penh’s tourist staples — the Royal Palace, the National Museum, and the Khmer Rouge sites, S-21 and the Choeung Ek killing field. Adding a trip along the water to their itinerary will give visitors to the Cambodian capital a whole new view of the city.

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How to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (and vice-versa) in 2019

The trip between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is relatively painless. Here’s a round-up of the best options for 2019 (hint: we prefer private taxis) to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and vice-versa. The journey take between 4 and 7 hours. The later in the day you leave, the longer the trip will be due to traffic; around dusk it can take an hour or two just to get out of Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville at a glance…

*Taxi: $60 4 hours, reserve online in advance
Giant Ibus bus: $15, 6 hours, buy ticket online
Mekong Express van: $12, ~5 hours, buy ticket online
Post Office van: $8, ~5 hours, buy tickets online

Compare all buses between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville taxi

One of our favorite Sihanoukville taxi drivers.

Taxi

Private taxis are the fastest way to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, and usually cost between $50 and $60. In high season the prices can climb even higher. Taxis can seat four people, but be warned that they don’t usually have enough room for a ton of luggage. Most of the taxis that go between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville are Camrys, and the drivers aren’t afraid to hit the gas. Expect to get there in around 4 hours or less, although we’d advise you to keep your eyes closed. Later departures will take longer due to traffic.

You can book a taxi online in advance, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. In fact, if you book online you can get an SUV taxi that seats five for the same price around $60. There is also the option to book a 7- or 10-seat minivan.
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Kampot sunset boat cruises

As the sun slowly sinks in the horizon, Kampotheads and tourists alike find themselves drawn to the riverfront. Luckily, there is no shortage of sunset vantage points thanks to the sunset tours offered by a plethora of boats docked south of the Fish Market down to the Old Bridge. But how do you pick the sunset cruise that’s right for you? In this post I’ll give some suggestions on picking the right Kampot sunset boat cruise, plus some tips for getting the most out of it.

Kampot sunset cruise

So you want to take a sunset boat cruise in Kampot?

Each boat is staffed with friendly ticket sellers ready to point out the benefits waiting aboard. In the event you don’t see smiling faces seated next to the gangplank that piques your interest, there is sure to be a large board listing all the important information. Continue reading