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.
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.
History and art lovers will enjoy exploring Phnom Chisor, Chisor Mountain Temple, another attraction easily accessible from NR2 and just 12 miles (20km) from the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center. This Angkorian Period temple is located on a lone hill in the midst of the Takeo rice paddies. As beautiful as the temple is, those with accessibility challenges may find it better to take a pass on the climb to the top. Boasting roughly 220 steps, Phnom Chisor is best enjoyed in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not as strong. Packing a parasol to carry on the climb is another way to help keep your temperature down and your skin safe.
Takeo City is perfect for perambulating. You will find clear sidewalks and crosswalks, which are (surprisingly) respected by drivers. Take some time at the end of the day to visit the park on for a spectacular sunset view. On the southeast corner of the lakeside park is where you can find a wonderful selection of street food vendors showcasing fish, crabs, and other shellfish. Lovers of freshwater lobster should make the trek in the rainy season for the best quality selection of the year.
Just 18 miles (29km) outside Takeo City down Road 126, the sweeping views at Reaksmey Maharah Pagoda are a great reason to get out of town. The roads leading there are in good condition and easy to navigate so even inexperienced moto drivers can feel confident getting there. There are stairs to the top of the mountain if you want the exercise, or you can drive all the way up! On your way back to town, stop at one of the soup vendors on 126 for a cheap and cheerful meal to replace some of the calories you just burned off.
Angkor Borei district is the perfect base for visits to Wat Phnom Da, the famous Funan-period temple, and Wat Phnom Borei, 2 and 5 miles (4 and 8km) respectively. It’s about 60 km by road from Takeo City, but yearly flooding means it’s only accessible by a 45-minute ferry in rainy season. If you’re driving, the dry season offers nicely packed red road travel to both temples and the opportunity to enjoy a cool drink or home-style meal at one of the stilted grass hut restaurants on the ring road around Wat Phnom Borei, the less popular of the two temples. The climb at Wat Phnom Borei is quite steep and not advised for those with mobility challenges. You will be pleasantly surprised to see Phnom Da’s steps allow for a pleasant, easy climb.
Phnom Da’s historical importance cannot be emphasized enough and being in the presence of such an ancient structure is something that truly needs to be experienced. There are signs in Khmer and English on the grounds providing more information on the site. You can also skip the climb all together while still getting a history fix by visiting the Angkor Borei Museum in town to see some of the smaller archaeological finds from the area.
Where to stay in Takeo
Accommodations and restaurants in Angkor Borei are aimed at local travelers so you will not find upmarket resorts or hostels. Sokha Angkor Borei Guesthouse on the main road through town offers very clean, modest rooms at $7 for a fan room and $10 for an air-conditioned room. As of this writing, it seems to be one of only two guesthouses in town. Just a few doors down from the guesthouse is the local branch of the Seoul 7 Spicy Noodle chain found throughout Cambodia.
Takeo City has a larger selection of guesthouses. The best price in town is found at Nita Guesthouse with $5 fan rooms. The guesthouse shows a bit of age, but offers a large shared balcony and will help keep you on budget. Those looking for something with more amenities should visit the Daunkeo Guesthouse just down the road that has deluxe rooms complete with coffee and tea-making facilities, air conditioning, and mini-fridge for $25 or snag a standard air con room for $15. Food options range from street food to upmarket restaurants, take a wander to get a better idea of what is available as some restaurants are only open seasonally.
How to get to Takeo
Travelers preferring to let someone else handle the driving can hop on the train from Phnom Penh, Kampot, or Sihanoukville to Takeo City. Ticket prices are quite competitive with bus prices (starting at $4 from PP with the highest cost currently being $7 from Sihanoukville) and allow you the flexibility of bringing your moto ($5) or bicycle ($2) so you can fully explore the province on your own time table. Catching a bus to Takeo City is now much easier than in the past; however, as ticket prices and bus company routes in the area fluctuate, it is best to inquire with your guesthouse directly or with a tour company as to availability rather than trusting the internet.
You can get from Angkor Borei from Takeo City by ferry for $35 for a roundtrip ticket or $30 one-way year round. Don’t worry if you have a moto or bike, the ferry drivers will happily take them on board. If you want to drive between the towns, dry season is the time to go unless you are confident driving on mud slicks and navigating the smaller ferries on your own as they are unavoidable in some places. Bus travel between the two towns is limited to local minivans or taxis and can be arranged at your guesthouse. There is no train station in Angkor Borei.
If you’re driving, head south from Phnom Penh on National Road 2 (NR2) leads to Takeo’s provincial capital of Krong Doun Kaev, also known as Takeo City, only 47 miles (75km) away. Alternately, traveling south on NR2 and then turning eastward on Road 203 will lead you to the historically important Angkor Borei, 51 miles (82km) away. Since NR2 completes the 75 mile (120km) distance from the Phnom Den/Tinh Bien border to Phnom Penh, Takeo City, sitting just an hour north of the crossing, offers a nice spot for quick lunch if you’re passing through. When travelling from the coast, hop on NR3 and head east for 54-116 miles (87-187km) depending on your point of origin and destination in Takeo.
Planning your trip to Takeo
A trip to Takeo offers a wide range of outdoor adventures, but during the rainy season it can take a bit of planning as a good portion of the province finds itself underwater. In as little as two days a perfectly good road can turn into a perfectly good lake. Packing mosquito spray is a must. Plan ahead if you have specialty medical requirements because Phnom Penh is the closest option for emergency services. Taking the time to brush up on at least basic Khmer will enhance your visit greatly. No matter what your reason is for visiting Takeo province, you will be happy to find the same same but different Cambodia that you love; smiling faces, gorgeous landscapes, and more food than you could eat in a weekend!
Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC)
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $5/adult and $2.5/child, English speaking guide starting at $10
T: +855 (0)95 970 175
Dok Por village, Rovieng commune, Samraong District, Takeo Province
Angkor Borei Museum
Open daily, 8 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Hours subject to change, $1 entrance fee
Angkor Borei Village
T: +855 (0) 12 201 638
Prek Ta Phor village, Kork Thalork commune, Angkor Borei District, Takeo Province
Wat Phnom Borei
Angkor Borei District, Takeo Province
Takeo City/Krong Doun Kaev
T: +855 (0)97 749 2491
Sokha Angkor Borei Guesthouse
Angkor Borei Village
T: +855 (0)77 505 055;(0)93 505 054; (0)71 549 5055