Highlights, things to do and sights of Kampong Cham, Cambodia

Highlights, things to do and sights of Kampong Cham, Cambodia

Kampong Cham isn't a city chock full of tourist attractions, but it's colonial charm and atmosphere will endear itself to you.

There are a few temples to see in the area, including one of the country's mass graves.

Those seeking plenty of activities to keep themselves occupied will become bored within a day. But still there are a few interesting things to do.

- The Bamboo Bridge and Koh Paen, located a few blocks south of the bridge spanning the Mekong, is a solid bamboo structure built to Koh Paen island across the Mekong. On the other side is endless Cham and Khmer villages, entirely poor mounted on stilts. This is a great place to drive along if you want to check out the people of the land. The bamboo bridge can even withstand trucks, so don't worry about whatever you're taking, just be careful not to fall into the river.

- West of the city are a pair of mountains, with temples on top of them. To get there follow the Highway 7 to Phnom Penh for about 7 km and turn right when you see the hill on the right hand side, a gate and a road leading to the top. This is Mountain Pros. Take the road leaving to the right at about half way to the top of Mountain Pros to go to Mountain Srey. It makes an easy ride on a bicycle but road traffic can be heavy (for Cambodian standards).

The Mountain Pros has a dull peak and is approximately 30 metres tall. There are a series of temples at the top, with the centrepiece being a five pagoda temple. There are outlying temples, most of which are ruined and falling apart. Sip at a sugar cane juice from one of the many stalls on the top while watching the monkeys fooling around and stealing bananas from the vendors tables. The Mountain Srey has 308 steps running up it, with a ruined temple at the top. There are no monks in this one, but there are several women and old men who collect donations from visitors. Between the two mountains lies one of the country's many killing fields where the Khmer Rouge dumped countless bodies, though in this case it's nothing more than a cement shed and a pile of bones.

- Nokor Wat. An Angkorian temple dating from the 11th century, containing a standard assortment of Angkor architecture. Some of the mausoleums are open to tourists and contain piles of bones and skulls from the Khmer Rouge's genocidal reign. Inside one of the buildings is a very elaborate series of wall paintings, depicting torture and executions (of a religious nature), followed by scenes of heaven and the afterlife. This is not always an accessible building, as a Monk has to unlock it for you to enter. He usually does, though your driver may ask you to refrain. To get there by bicycle follow the road to Phnom Penh for about 1 km and turn left when you see a dusty road going down through a gate (there's also a sign). The visit to this site can easily be combined with a trip to the mountains Pros and Srei.

- If you are interested in traditional Cambodian dances, there is a daily performance at 5 p.m. in the Wat Nokor (Nokor Bachey Temple) by the children and teenagers looked after and educated by BSDA, a Non Governmental Oranization (NGO) located at the temple site and managed by the monks. Entrance is free, donations are certainly welcome. No need for reservations.

- There is also a French lookout tower on the other side of the river, once used for monitoring river traffic. It's still standing but in a decaying state. You can climb the stairs inside the tower and have a good view on the bridge, the Mekong and the small village next to the tower. The stairs are difficult and dangerous to climb, however.

- An abandoned US airstrip that has been used by B52 bombers is a short distance west of town. To get there take the Highway 7 to Phnom Penh for about 3 km. Just before the factory on the left hand side (looks a bit like a prison) there is a dirt road going to the right between street vendors and two red-white striped poles. Follow this road for about 2.5 km. There is not much left to see apart from the pavement of the airstrip and two decaying buildings next to it - a pillbox and the control tower probably. Leaving the airstrip on the left (west) will eventually lead to Mountain Pros and Srey. Going right (east) to the end of the strip and turning right again will lead you back to Kompong Cham.

- Buddhism and Society Development Association, N° 5, Nokor Bachey Temple, Ampil Village, Ampil Commune, Kampong Siem District is a registered NGO running several charitable projects for the local community. This includes Mekong Kampuchea's Kids project (a street children's theatre) Natural Resource Management and livelihood project (Food security and livelihood for Single Women and poorest of the poor), Education project (School For Life, vocational traning and life skill), Health Project (HIV/AIDS Prevention and Harm Reduction of Drug Abuse project), and as well as Social Accountability Project (Good gorvrnance). There are opportunities for volunteering your help as well.
www.bsda-cambodia.org

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