We left Veun Kham in Laos on May 26 around 9 a.m. and
headed by boat to the immigration border post at Dong Crorlor on the other
side of the Mekong River, where the local staff of Christinair Tours
Cambodia waited for us. They had come up the Mekong River by a speedboat
from Stung Treng, 50 kilometers from the border and the commercial hub into
the north-eastern mountains of Cambodia.
many heads of the naga guarding the old stone bridge of Bantey Kdei.
Immigration formalities took an hour until our visas were
cleared without any hidden costs. Bundled into a speedboat to Stung Treng,
we passed an overwhelming river landscape with an endless string of forested
islands and rapids. After one hour, the flat profile of Khmer fishing houses
appeared at the confluence of the Sesan and the Mekong River. Not far away
is a third river coming down from the Boloven Plateau in Laos called Sekong.
We landed safely at the busy river port area and climbed
the steep bank towards the small river town. It was only a short walk to the
popular Sok Sambath Hotel, where rooms are available for USD 5 upwards.
traditional transport pony seen in May 2004.
It was decided that we continue our survey trip by boat
to Kratie on the following day, because Highway 7 leading to Kratie is still
under construction and there is not much to see along the way besides jungle
and the remnants of a road that was target practice during the Indochina
After a lunch and Angkor Beer, we used the remaining
afternoon to explore a pre-Angkorian brick temple on the west bank of the
Mekong River. Prasat Boran is the only edifice which has conserved a
complete type of two room building. In front of the temple is a shady area
where the Shiva bull Nandi is kept.
the sacred bull of Shiva at Prasat Boran near Stung Treng.
The next day, we used the daily bullet boat from Stung
Treng to Kratie. The ticket costs 32,000 riel in local currency (1 USD =
4000 riel) and the overloaded boat left for the 4 hours down river trip
around 7.30 a.m.
We arrived in the port of Kratie and had our lunch at the
local Mekong Restaurant. Boarding our waiting minibus, we had a short city
tour and started for the journey towards Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh, more
than 300 kilometers away. Pepper and rubber plantations can be seen all the
Pot’s grave is a new tourist attraction in Cambodia.
Arriving in the river town of Kampong Cham, the hometown
of strong man Hun Sen, we crossed the new Mekong Bridge and visited the
temples of Wat Nokor Bachey and Phnom Pros, Phnom Srei. The last 100
kilometers had endless emerald green rice fields studded with picturesque
ancient stone bridge of Bantey Kdei near Angkhor.
Finally at 7 p.m. we arrived at the Phnom Penh Restaurant
Row just before crossing the Japanese Bridge and had a sumptuous Khmer
dinner in one of the better restaurants.
Highly recommended in Phnom Penh are the Thai-managed
Juliana Hotel and the low budget Hawaii Hotel in the town center. Next
morning we departed on Highway 6 to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, some 290
black spiders, offered by a sales girl in a restaurant at Skon.
We had our lunch in Skon, where one special side dish was
grilled black spiders. Further on, the excellent road to Kampong Thom passed
the 11th century Khmer sanctuary of Kuhak Nokor which is totally built in
laterite and features a Cham style library. There is also the temple
mountain of Phnom Santuk.
After leaving Kampong Thom, the road got rougher and
there is much grading work to be done. Just before sunset, we passed the
“naga” bridge of Banteay Kdei, which is a monumental reminder of the
abilities of the Angkor architects. Arriving in Siem Reap around 7 p.m. we
had a speedy check in at the newly opened Borei Angkor Hotel, centrally
located on Highway 6 near the center of Siem Reap and only a short drive
away from the huge Angkor temple complex, a UNESCO
Anlong Veng market place, near the Thai-Cambodian border. That’s the main
road leading through the village.
World heritage site and one of the cultural wonders of
Don’t miss out on the opulent USD 11 p.p. Khmer dinner
buffet at the Bayon II Restaurant just opposite the Borei Angkor Hotel.
The next day Philip Set Kao, General Manager of Borei
Angkor, showed us around his very hospitable and comfortable property, which
has 51 deluxe rooms in the main building. But what would a trip be without
seeing Angkor Wat, and the most famous sunset in the whole of Siem Reap.
As there is still no direct flight from Siem Reap to
Chiang Mai, I had to return again overland. My first stop was the former
stronghold of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime. The 120 kilometers long and
dusty stretch of road passes the intriguing Banteay Srei temple and Kulen
National Park. Having a local lunch in Srei Noi, I reached the market of
Anlong Veng after a 4 hours ride. A staunch motorbike driver brought me from
here another 15 kilometers to the Thai-Cambodian border of Sisaket’s Chong
Sa-Ngam in the middle of the Dangrek mountain range. Nearby, the grave and
house of Pol Pot, are new tourist attractions promoted by the Ministry of
Tourism in Phnom Penh.
Back in Anlong Veng, the motorbike driver took me on
another dusty road for two hours through degraded jungle west along the
Dangrek Mountains to the border town of O’Smach, a recent
battleground-turned casino area, opposite the Thai border market of Kap
Choeng in Isan’s Surin Province. As O’Smach has just a few seedy
guesthouses, I opted for the last minibus ride for 100 baht from the border
to Surin and overnighted in the basic Sang Thong Hotel.
Early next morning, I took a local bus for 93 baht via
Buriram and Maha Sarakham to Khon Kaen, where I had a meeting at the Sofitel
Raja Orchid Hotel, regarding the up-coming international symposium on “The
Changing Mekong” on July 27-30, this year. An air-conditioned 12 hour
night bus brought me back to Chiang Mai for 307 baht.
For further information, contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard
Hohler by email [email protected]