Surf Cambodia

 

Angkor Highway Hi, my name is Jim, I manage the Hotel California. I have a passion for Cambodia and its rich heritage, wonderful people and beautiful places to explore. Srey Yeein from Prey Veng Province above Surf's Cambodia on her Krabai, I choose to surf the country on a 250cc motorcycle as seen left on the way to Odar Meanchey Province from Siem Reap Province on an ancient road. Many visitors don't spend enough time or only make it to Angkor Wat and the beaches at Sihanoukville. This country has much more to offer to the adventurous at heart. A 250cc motorcycle isn't required to visit some of the places that follow, though it does offer freedom. Many of our customers have been to some of the following places and I encourage many more to make the effort to visit them. Mini busses, Shared taxis, Motos driven by locals are some of the options available. As the country develops, more roads are in place, and with better accessibility some of these places won't have the charm they do now. I want to share some of my journeys below and hope to enrich your Cambodia experience with some of the same.
Prasat Koul This is a Prasat (old temple) in the village of Koul between Siem Reap and Samroang. The villagers had told us they never have foreign visitors. As we traveled between Siem Reap and Samroang, we not only passed this site but two others as well. On the main road we also crossed a massive Angkorian Bridge. People in the countryside are really genuine and friendly and photo opportunities are endless. My philosophy is anyone can push the button on the camera, but as one of my guest George says... you got to be there to get the shot. Just ask Srey Yeein on the water buffalo above who by the way received this pic a year later when we took a day trip back to her village for no other reason than to check in on her!
Preah Khan This is a Prasat at Preah Khan. Not to be confused with Preah Khan in Siem Reap, this temple is near the village of Ta Seng on the east end of Ancient Angkor Highway 66 from Siem Reap. Due to this temples remoteness, and the looters ability to work un noticed,  it has been badly pillaged of many of the stone reliefs that decorated the temple. We were told by villagers that compressors and power tools were used to rob the temple. It is one of 3 temples that adorn the "Bayon" faces on the structure. Bayon in Siem Reap and the temple at Banteah Chmar are the others. Ox cart is the best way to get here as it was rough going on our 250s, but some travelers have seen this traveling on the back of a moto. One can reach Preah Khan from the east traveling from Kampong Thom.
Angkor Bridge This is one of many ancient bridges that scatter the country side connecting what once were the Temples and commerce centers of the Khmer Empire. This span is located west of the town of Kuav on Route 66 connecting Beng Melea and Prea Khan.
Angkor Bridge This is another bridge located near the West Baray of the Angkor Wat complex. Spending some time around Angkor Wat rather than the two to three days many visitors spend getting "Temple Burnout" can offer plenty of rewarding experiences. Angkor Wat is GIANT! There are sites that go unvisited due to the limited amount of time spent there. Banteay Srei, the Roulos Group, K'bal Spean and many of the minor Prasats that dot the country side around Siem Reap are well worth visiting.
Battambang Battambang is only a five hour bus ride north of Phnom Penh. Cambodias second largest city has 5 sites well worth visiting and is relatively easy to travel about. I recommend you spend two days there exploring some of the temples there. Phnom Sampauv on the route to Pailin is picturesque from the ground as well as  on the mountain top. The Temple to the left Ek Phnom, is north of Battambang and one must endure a beautiful country tree line road adjacent to a nice stream in order to get there.
Banteay Toup Sisophon is only an hour drive north of Battambang. Sisophon is a good starting point to get to Banteay Toup Left and Banteay Chmar. This will require an overnights stay, but once you spend a day visiting Banteay Toup and Banteay Chmar to the north, you will be glad you made the effort. Hiring a taxi is the best way to get to these two sites. Banteay Toup is about 9 Kilometers to the south of Banteay Chamar.
Banteay Chmar The Temple of Banteay Chmar displays the Bayon Head on its structures. This temple like Preah Khan was hit pretty hard by looters but still has long walls of relief work depicting the Khmer Empire's past. Prasat Mebon also located in Banteay Chmar boast an enormous man made baray. There is a Silk Weaving Center/School to the left as you arrive to Banteay Chmar. Good quality silk and a good cause.
Preah Vihear Preah Vihear Temple on the Thai border is easier accessed from Thailand, but can easily be reached by car on a new dirt road from Anlong Veng. New guesthouses in Anlong Veng are springing up taking away the remoteness of this town. Anlong Veng also is the burial place of Pol Pot, the murderous leader of the Khmer Rouge regime.  The border crossing with Thailand is open in Anlong Veng now as well. There is a nice country road to Siem Reap from Anlong Veng that will take you past Banteay Srei, north of the Angkor Complex.
Wat Nokor Much easier to access is the town of Kampong Cham up the Mekong River from Phnom Penh. Boat service has been terminated to Kampong (port) Cham but busses make this two hour journey frequently from the Central Market. Ancient Wat Nokor left is on the outskirts of town. There is a Prasat on the hill at Hanchey about 20 kilometers to the north of town on a beautiful country road adjacent to the Mekong. Kampong Cham also has a colonial French tower on the otherside of the Mekong and a couple of nice temples on the hills entering the town. This is worth a nights stay and much of the aforementioned can be done in a day. Spending more time one can visit the waterfall at Haung through rubber tree plantations, and another 3 Prasats at Prey Nokor about an hour east of Kampong Cham.
KratchehTemple Wat Sasa Mouy Roy (100 column temple) left is a nice excursion up the Mekong from Kracheh (Kratie on many maps) Getting to Kratcheh is easy by boat from Kampong Cham. Kratcheh is also the viewing point for the endangered Irawaddy fresh water dolphins that make their home in the Mekong. There is a viewpoint and boats to take visitors to see the dolphins. Relaxing Kratcheh also has some very nicely preserved French colonial architecture. 
Trapeang Preh Trapeang Preh is one of the most remote sites I have visited. It borders Kracheh and Kampong Thom Provinces. It must have been a stop off point between Sambor Pre Kuk and the Mekong River. We took a trip from Kampong Thmor, up the Hun Sen Trail through a village of Tumring then spent the night at Mot's house in the village of Pouroung near Phnom Chi. The next day we headed through the jungle and made a stop at Trapeang Preh. There we found 3 damaged Prasats. From Trapeang Preh, we continued east through the jungle until we hit the Mekong River at the village of Yeav across from Sambor (Wat Sasa Mouy Roy). From there we put our bikes in a boat and crossed the Mekong and spent the night in Kracheh.
Kampot Kampot near the coast 3 hours south of Phnom Penh is already experiencing change. New road construction will make this journey much more easier. Here is a Prasat in a cave in one of the mountains outside of  Kampot. Many come to Kampot to visit the abandoned casino on Bokor mountain. Suffice to say, I would have given the casino a miss due to personal travel preferences, but did eventually go with friends have taken in breath taking views from the mountain. Kampot is a quiet sleepy town and a great place to relax. Nearby Kampong Trach also has caves to explore.
KohTonsai Kep Beach is east of Kampot. Koh Tonsai (rabbit island) to the left is a nice getaway and can be reached by hired boat from Kep. Some people stay in Kep although Kampot is only 20 minutes away. In Kep, destroyed abandoned villas line the hillsides. East of Kep along the southern route near highway 2 is the site of Phnom Bayuang. Here there is a Prasat on a hill top. Though quite a climb, it has breath taking view of the marshlands to the north and Vietnam to the south.
Angkor Borei Angkor Borei is an old Funan period site. There is a museum here and Prasat Phnom Da 4 k south of town. Angkor Borei can be accessed in a day from Phnom Penh or by boat down old canals from Takeo. Taking the road to Angkor Borei, you will pass the site at Phnom Chissor (day trips page).
Koh Kong You don't like people or temples? Cambodia has plenty of natural getaways. Koh Kong on the coastal border from Thailand has uninhabited islands, rivers, beaches, casinos, and the waterfall to the left. Most westerners blow right through Koh Kong enroute to Thailand or Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri provinces to the east/northeast offer the travelers the natural escape from civilization as well.
Pnong Villagers Mondolkiri Provice to the east is rich with waterfalls and hill tribe villagers. Here P'nong girls bringing home firewood near Dac Dam village.
Hilltribe Village P'nong houses in Dac Dam Village near Sen Monorom.  Trekking on foot as well as by elephant is popular in Mondolkiri.
Preah Theat at Rokka Kampong Thom Provice is full of ancient temple sites. Preah Theat in the town of Rokka is Cambodia's answer to the leaning tower of Pisa.  Located just seven kilometers south of town this 10th/11th century prasat depicts Javanese reliefs on one of its lentels. Prasats such as these dot the route between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.   Unfortunately they are seldom visited by tourist due to their in accesibilty on bus routes. Many adventure minded tourist will hire a motodop or a moto and venture out of provincial towns to take in some of these rewarding sites.
Sambor Pre Kuk Sambor Pre Kuk had it been located anywhere else in the world would command great tourist numbers. However it is overshadowed by the Angkor complex located two hours north west.  It is a 7th 8th and 9th century temple site with many prasats that have carvings depicting Shiva and Vishnu.  Well worth a visit when traveling by bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. From either direction, get off the morning bus in Kampong Thom, and travel north to the temples about an hour out of town.  An overnite stay is required in Kampong Thom.
Ko Ker. Pyramid Ko Ker (locals say Ko Kay) is the next temple complex to be ruined by the increasing tourist arrivals to Cambodia. Siem Reap and Angkor were once tranquil places like Ko Ker located 130K north east of town. Major road construction is taking place making the 85+ temples more accessible. It is a double edged sword. Preserve the beauty of a place or increase tourism so the locals can work their way out of poverty and enjoy western luxuries like TV and traffic jams. See this site as soon as you can as it will soon lose the remote isolation it now enjoys. Stay on paths as the area is still being de mined.  It can be done as a day trip from Siem Reap, but leave early to allow time at the other temples and Beng Malea on the return.
Neakbua.jpg (12448 bytes) Neak Buos (locals nek bo) is located about 9 K east of Choam Khsan at the base of the mountains bordering Thailand , however it's a grueling 2 hour ride on sandy ox cart trails, through canopied forest and in and out of riverbeds. There isn't a large population in the forest to point the way either. We got lost going in and the "easier" road going out still took us two hours to get back to Choam Khsan.   The area is heavily mined so stick to the worn paths. Unfortunately this site is heavily looted and vandalized.
Taiyot.jpg (12010 bytes) Prasat Tai Yote splits the difference between Preah Vihear and Anlong Veng, though an easy find it is also an easy miss. There are many sites such as this dotting the northern provinces along the border with Thailand as well as similar sites in Thailand.
Cyclone over the Mekong Sometimes you don't have to go anywhere. Here a waterspout came to visit us in August 2006. A rare occurrence this waterspout formed where the Tonlesap and Mekong meet. It lasted only 3 minutes but had all of Phnom Penhs riverfront's attention. No casualties but I am sure the fishermen in the boats nearby had racing hearts. Street kids on the riverfront took the opportunity to sell copies of the photograph for a few thousand riel. The picture to the left was also featured in the Bangkok Post.

I hope this small cross section of some of the places off the mainstream I was able to share with you has sparked a little interest and a little more pre-planning for your next visit to Cambodia. There is plenty more! We are a small guesthouse on Phnom Penh's riverside, but we would like to think that we are the biggest contributor to your holiday.   In our lobby we have maps, guide books, photo albums of places we have visited and first hand information not only from me, but locals who have traveled the country and region as well.  Take advantage of our low food and beverage prices while you gain some of the best insight to Cambodia.

Click here for an A4 size printable poster for more off the beaten path sites around the country.

Temple Poster

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