Located on the central lowlands of the Mekong River, Kampong Cham is a laid-back province in Cambodia. It borders the provinces of Kampong Chhnang to the west, Kampong Thom and Kratié to the north, Tbong Khmum to the east, and Prey Veng and Kandal to the south. Its capital city has the same name of Kampong Cham which means ‘Port of the Chams’ in Khmer.
Kampong Cham was an important trading post during the French period, the legacy of which is evident as you wander through the streets of chastened yet classic buildings. On December 31st, 2013, the former Kampong Cham was officially divided into two provinces marked a political move by the ruling party. Today, all land west of the Mekong remains Kampong Cham, while land east of the river becomes Tbong Khmum province.
Because of little foreign investment and no large-scale tourism, Kampong Cham is quite poor and less-developed with few modern buildings, though there is abundant of French architecture from the colonial period. However, with the completion of a modern Kizuna Bridge, the first bridge to be built over Mekong River in Cambodia which connects the country's northeastern regions to the city, the city has begun a slow recovery from decades of decline.
Kampong Cham is one of the most highly-populated provinces in Cambodia, where most residents consist of ethnic Khmer and a sizeable Cham minority in Cham community. Like the rest of Cambodia, the religion in Kampong Cham ranges from Islam, Muslim to Christian.
The real charm of Kampong Cham is said to be reflected evidently in normal life and local traditions. On weekends and special occasions, tourists can enjoy the Apsara dancing, a Cambodian traditional art performance. The dancing is usually performed behind Nokor Wat by children and teenagers from non-business organizations for free. To get deeper insights of locals, you can visit a local market where people sell a plenty of household goods, fresh meat, foods, drinks and other more. Here you will feel the bustling atmosphere of daily life among Kampong Cham people.
Beyond a stopover to tourists who are in transit to elsewhere in the country, Kampong Cham is a great destination to spend a couple of days discovering its rustic atmosphere and quaint charm. The captivating city is the best place to get a feel of the ‘authentic’ Cambodia. While remnants of French colonial rule remain, modern developments have done quite a bit to give the city a more contemporary look. The real charm of Kampong Cham lies with its people who are always hospitable, happy-go-lucky and warmly welcome to tourists.
Phnom Srey and Phnom Pros temples in the Twin Holy Mountains
Strikingly, it’s easy to identify the French influence in the town when you visit French Lookout Tower lying silently on a side of the river. It was used for controlling river traffic but now, it is quite old. To be careful, tourists will climb the stair to reach the highest of French Lookout Tower. From here, you are treated to a great panorama view of vast river and green fields.
The ancient beauty here is represented through Nokor Wat, a modern Theravada Buddhist pagoda built in 11th century. To reach this place, follow the road to Phnom Penh and then take the left fork about 1km from the town. Going through a dirty road, you will see the ancient pagoda. Tourists can identify that Nokor Wat was built based on Ankorian architecture and made of sandstone and laterite. The highlights of inside area are ancient paintings describing torture of religious nature and charming scenes of heaven also.
The average temperatures are high with the warmest weather in April and the coolest in December. The cool season occurs between November and March, when January is the driest month. By contrast, the time from May to October is rainy season in which the wettest month is October. If you’re not a fan of rain, you should avoid the wet period due to a high chance of precipitation. The best time to visit Kampong Cham must be June and July.
Sunset view in Kampong Cham
For those depart from Phnom Penh, there are daily buses offered by Sorya and GST services. It takes you around 3 hours to get to Kampong Cham with only US $7 one-way ticket. The Sorya offers more frequent buses every day and you can buy your ticket at the counter.
Most minibuses leave from or stop for a short time at the petrol station close to the Mekong bright roundabout. This vehicle offers a little more comfort and speed than a bus does.
Slow boats are cheaper, slower but safer than speedboats. Moreover, slow boats are scheduled on a fix route while speedboat no longer offer frequent schedule anymore.
Kampong Cham has road links in good condition to major Cambodian cities, so it’s convenient to travel by your private means of transport. It is proactive to control your itinerary, but driving via the highway may insecure and make you feel exhausted.
There are several banks where you can exchange money, which mostly accept dollars and Thai baht only. It’s highly recommended to make a transaction at Cambodia Public Bank because of its trust and flexibility. Besides, money changers are available throughout the province, particularly in and around the markets. They will give you a slightly better rate than the banks but you have to ask around for the best deal.