It has been described as ‘The hidden gem of Cambodia’ and we couldn’t agree more- here’s our highlights of Kampong Cham.
Despite being one of Cambodia’s largest cities with a population of over 41,000, Kampong Cham tends to slip under the radar of most travelers. However, spending even a short amount of time in the city will leave even the most dubious visitor in love with all that the city and its surroundings have to offer.
Kampong Cham is a provincial city in central Cambodia 3 hours from Phnom Penh with the Mekong River running directly through the province, boasting the impressive Kizuna Bridge which was built in 2001 as the first bridge across the Mekong.
While the Kizuna Bridge alone is a sight to wow anybody (and crossing it in a tuk tuk is another experience entirely), the city has far more to offer, so we have compiled a few of our favourite experiences in and around Kampong Cham to hopefully share our love for this city with anyone else who chooses to travel here.
How to spend your evenings in Kampong Cham
Kampong Cham comes alive at night. There is no shortage of restaurants or relaxed bars and guesthouses, here are some of our favourites as well as how to get the most out of the city at night.
Moustache and Nico is a firm favourite, offering delicious French food at the same low prices that you typically find all over Cambodia- you will leave here feeling exceptionally well-fed but also extremely smug after enjoying a substantial meal for under $10.
The city’s friendly atmosphere is reflected perfectly at the Smile restaurant. Run by BSDA (Buddhism for Social Development Action), this place offers a tasty mix of Khmer and Western food which can be eaten inside the restaurant or on the sofas placed overlooking the Mekong River. An added bonus is that you will be supporting BSDA who, through this restaurant, are helping vulnerable young people to learn a trade by employing them here.
If you are looking for a slightly more lively way to spend your evening, we would recommend the Kampong Cham Sky Bar. The stock of drinks is somewhat unpredictable but the views are beautiful and the staff take music requests so you can create any atmosphere you want!
Arguably our favourite thing to do after the sun goes down is to simply stroll along the Mekong promenade. The riverside is lined with flowering bougainvillea trees and statues, the road Is full of a wide variety of street food stalls and the promenade is transformed into a lively setting for Zumba classes and aerobics lessons.
Cross the Koh Pen Bamboo Bridge
Something every traveler in Kampong Cham must experience! The bridge connects the mainland waterfront with the Koh Pen ‘bamboo’ island where those who have crossed the bridge will find huts and hammocks to rent as well as a variety of flower-covered structures that locals and tourists alike can be seen to be taking pictures with. This is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Mekong and is something that can be enjoyed alone or with company.
The bamboo bridge is washed away every rainy season and then rebuilt each year; an almost unimaginable feat of engineering. For 2000 riel (the equivalent of 50 cents) you can walk across the bridge in the dry season, just be careful not to lose your flip flop!
Temples around Kampong Cham
Anyone visiting Cambodia will most likely be looking for temples to visit and Kampong Cham certainly does not disappoint. There is a rich variety of temples and pagodas in and around the city featuring stunning architecture and their own individual features.
Wat Hanchey is a temple located just outside of Kampong Cham and is definitely worth the trip (if you can brave the steep steps that lead up to the temple!). Breathtaking views of the Mekong coupled with the brightly painted statues of fruit dotted around, friendly monkeys at the entrance to the temple and elaborate architecture make Wat Hanchey an unmissable trip in our opinion.
The temple at Wat Hanchey partly owes its vibrant atmosphere to the fact that it is still inhabited by practicing monks. If you are looking for a more traditionally historical temple trip, we recommend Wat Nokor which was built in the 11th century and is no longer inhabited.
The Sunflower Fields
Wandering through row upon row of 6 foot sunflowers in the Cambodian sun is most definitely a few hours well spent. Don’t forget your camera for this trip! We visited the sunflower fields in the late afternoon before sunset to avoid the blazing midday sun and spent around an hour there which we felt was enough time for us personally. However, the fields are extensive and you could easily spend longer there if you made your way further into the seemingly never-ending sunflowers.
Hanchey Bamboo Resort
This resort exceeded all of my expectations. Picture open views across the Mekong, bamboo bungalows nestled in the greenery and a crystal blue pool. Lots of people stay at this resort and spend their days hiking in the surrounding hills which leaves the resort itself quiet and serene during the day; I spent a weekend there and was the only person by the pool on multiple occasions. The food is delicious, the staff are friendly and the facilities are absolutely spotless. For added zen, try the morning yoga class in the open meditation room with panoramic views. This is somewhere that could be enjoyed either alone or with company; I went alone for some true relaxation and it was perfect in my opinion.
Mekong Bamboo Hut
For the ultimate relaxing lunch, the Mekong Bamboo Hut is the place to go. Lounge on cushions on the decking overlooking the Mekong while you sip on drinks served in whole coconuts and snack on freshly prepared food. The whole experience here reflects living simply but well. Our only regret was that we didn’t stay for the whole weekend in the riverside hammocks!