Kampong Cham - The Strange Attraction in Cambodia

Comparing with Siem Riep and Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham is not really a tourist hub. However, it is considered as an ideal destination for travellers who want to escape the hustle and bustle in the modern life and experience something new and different. Kampong Cham gains the nice fame with tourists by its picturesque landscape, ancient temples as well as the peaceful and laid-back life.

A Little about Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is one of the three largest provinces in Cambodia. According to the explanation from the local, Kampong means “the side of a river” and Cham represents Cham ethnic of Champa, so the name of this province can be understood as “the habour of the Cham”.

In the past, some Muslims moved from Borneo to Cambodia and established the population of ethic Cham. When Cambodia was under the reign of Khmer Empire, the Cham was dominant in controlling the country for a short time until the King Jayavarman VII defeated them. This epic battle was depicted through sculptures on the walls of Bayon and Banteay Chhmar temples.

Kampong Cham is the hometown of the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

What to See and Do in Kampong Cham?

Kampong Cham is the mixture of old and new. Thus, there is no doubt that several interesting things are available for fulfilling  travellers’ expectation in “the habour of the Cham”.

1. Ko Paen Bamboo bridge

One of the highlights in Kampong Cham is a long bamboo bridge which was built across the Mekong River to lead to Koh Paen island. It includes multiple layers of soft bamboo strips put on the stilts. When the river is in the rainy season, the bridge is usually damaged by water. It is only rebuilt and used in the dry season, which makes it different with the others.

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In addition, it’s great place for you to have hilarious experience by riding bicycle along the bridge as the local usually do in their daily life. Watching sunset from this bridge is another special thing you should not miss.

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2. Wat Nokor

The ancient temple complex Wat Nokor or Banteay Prey Nokor is located far 1200 m from the town of Kampong Cham. It was built in the reign of King Jayavarman II to worship Hinduism gods. The beautiful architecture is a notable feature in this complex. The four laterite walls surround five ancient towers, which makes many people think about the famous symbol of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Although the enclosures are damaged by war and nature, almost parts of the wall are fairly intact, for instances, some entrance gates which was decorated with beautiful patterns and sculptures. This complex leaves strong impression on visitors by its ornaments in ancient style, stupas, towers in Khmer architecture and stunning statues such as four-hand statue of Preah Norey, lions, dragons. 

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The impressive image is a new Buddhist temple standing in contrast to the ancient buildings. That is an evidence for the relationship between the past and the present as well as the combination of the old and the new in Kampong Cham. It completely contrasts with the old structures which were built in laterite stone and black sandstone around it. Standing beside the main ancient tower the new temple has it own beauty with the yellow tiles and decorative patterns on its roof. Going inside the temple, travellers can find variety of colorful Buddhist murals on the wall and ceiling. Many columns are decorated with the painting of dragons, which makes this place more impressive and charming. 

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3. Wat Hanchey

Located on the top of a hill, Wat Hanchey will not let you down with its beautiful structures and the breath-taking view over the Mekong river. This religious site was built in 7th or 8th century to represent Khmer’s belief about Mountain Meru and Hindu gods. Chenla-era brick sanctuary dating back to the 8th century is one of outstanding buildings in this complex. The outer layers seem to be destroyed due to the weather. Thus, what we can contemplate now is a weather-worn red brick structure without any decoration. However, we can still see the original shape of the sanctuary and find the well-preserved inscriptions in ancient Sanskrit on the lintel. Besides, Wat Hanchey is also famous for the new Buddhist temple built in Khmer architecture, statues representing mythical hero or creature, stupas and giant fruit sculpture.

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4. Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey

Located far 7km from the provincial town of Kampong Cham, the two hills are one of the main attractions where Buddhist temples were erected on the top of each. Phnom Pros of 30 meter height is home of Wat Savankiri Rattanak Phnom Pros. The main high-five peak temple was built in the form of Banteay Srei temple in Seam Reap. Moreover, there are two pagodas, Buddha statues and a stupa which is 15 meter height near the temple. When Cambodia was under the rule of Khmer Rouge, Phnom Pros was used as a prison. Thus, it’s not surprising when tourists can find the Kampong Cham Killing field between Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey.

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Not far from the North of Phnom Pros is Phnom Serey in which you only can reach the top by climbing over 308 steps of the stairway. On the top of the hill is the ruined temple. It’s also a place offering you the good view of rural regions in Cambodia. Coming to these attractions, you not only can escape the hustle and bustle life, enjoy the fresh air, contemplate special structures, but also can hear the legend about the origin of the two hills.

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