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

Cambodia scams: Poipet border scams (and how to avoid them)

The Thailand-Cambodia border is known for scams, and the border crossing between Bangkok and Siem Reap (at Aranyaprathet on the Thai side and Poipet on the Cambodia side) is especially bad! If you know what to expect before you go, it’s entirely possible to avoid the scams and have a painless border crossing. Here are the most common Cambodia border scams:

avoid Poipet border scams

The Poipet border is known for scams, but they are easy to avoid!

Visa assistance scam

Before you arrive at the border, your bus company may stop in Aranyaprathet and suggest that you allow them to handle your visa application for an added fee of between $5 and $20. They may make it seem like you must hand over your passport and let them process it for you. This is not true. They will also tell you that it will save time. This is also not true. They will usually tell you the charge in Thai baht, or half in baht, half in US dollars, to make the charges more confusing. Continue reading

Cambodia bus review: Mekong Express, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Mekong Express is one of the most long-running and popular bus services in Cambodia, and they have routes all over the country. In this post, I’ll review the new Mekong Express buses on their Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route, and give a full rundown of what you can expect.

Mekong Express bus in Cambodia

Mekong Express have all new buses. But how do they stack up to the competition in Cambodia?

Mekong Express bus review in a nutshell

  • Time Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (and vice-versa): 5 to 6 hours
  • Cost: $12
  • Pros: New buses, commitment to safety
  • Cons: Stops to pick up additional passengers
  • Booking: Online seat reservations

When I moved to Cambodia many years ago, Mekong Express was *the* bus company that all tourists and expats preferred. But then Giant Ibis arrived, with their services aimed squarely at foreigners, and Mekong Express, with their increasingly dilapidated fleet, struggled to compete. So when I saw a brand new Mekong Express bus drive through Siem Reap the other day, I was shocked. What was this gleaming white chariot? Could this really be Mekong Express? Determined to learn more, I booked a couple of tickets and hit the road to Phnom Penh. Continue reading

How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap

If you’re coming from Bangkok to Siem Reap it’s worth doing your homework. There are several ways to travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap in 2018, and most fall into one of two categories: “fast and expensive” or “cheap and annoying.” Flying is fast and expensive and going overland is cheap and time-consuming (but offers considerable fodder for amusement). In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap as well as what you need to know about visas and the border.

At a glance…Bangkok to Siem Reap

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

Your chariot: The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to take a taxi, the easiest way to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok is by direct bus. Direct means that you don’t have to change buses at the border or haul your luggage over the border — it stays on the bus while you get your visas. While many buses advertise themselves as direct buses, there are only two companies that are true direct buses: Nattakan and Giant Ibis. Continue reading

Cambodia’s National Library in Phnom Penh

The National Library in Phnom Penh, which stands next to the iconic Raffles Hotel and opposite the Lycée Descartes, is another wonderful example of the French-colonial architecture that once dominated the area near Wat Phnom and the railway station.

Cambodia National Library

Cambodia’s National Library.

The single-story library, with its columned portico and Greek-inspired statuary, is surrounded by what was once a lovely garden. Even though the grounds are now a carpark and Amazon coffee franchise, nevertheless the library has an air of calm that’s rare amid the hustle and permanent construction that dominates much of the city.

Inside, the library’s central room contains the reference section, stacks of newspapers and magazines, rows of reading desks, and the dusty remnants of the old filing system. One side room, with a rather elaborate spiral staircase, houses the Patrimonial Section, where Cambodians can trace their family history. Continue reading