The KampongThom province is in the southeast of Cambodia and sits between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which makes it easy to reach along national highway No 6. This region was once regarded as a convenient place to lay over on a journey between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but is now an attraction in itself and a great place for tourists to visit to experience the charming market town with the ability to easily explore the most attractive temple sites in the country, the friendly locals, the market fruit vendor's and the statues in riverside park.
A visit to KampongThom on the Cambodia Adventure Tours is certain to appeal to those travellers that wish to avoid a lot of the hustle and bustle that is noticed in the main tourist sites throughout Cambodia, yet still wishes to explore spectacular locations, including the countryside.
Travellers that visit this area make it possible to explore the pre-Angkorian Chenla capital and Sambor Prei Kuk, and get to experience the two major temples of Prei Kuk Temple and Sambor Temple. This town is relatively compact which makes it possible to easily discover by foot - although there are plenty of motorbike taxis to make it easy to travel between sights within the town.
The rich countryside and grasslands that surround KampongThom are very important for the conservation of local wildlife. This region seems to attract plenty of endangered species such as Manchurian Reed Warbler, wintering Palearctic passerines, the Bustard of Bengal Florican, as aware as plenty of water birds that live near the Tonle Sap. A stop at KampongThom on the Cambodian travel packages gives a perfect opportunity to get a first-hand view of the rural life in Cambodia and watch the fishermen work on their small-scale farms, ox carts, and on water.
A boat ride on the Stung River is a real possibility to get a view of the local sights and the local activities that take place off the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake.
Late in the day, there is an evening market that is set up close to the market hall. This gives the traveller a place to buy foreign and local dishes. Plus, for an authentic Khmer restaurant dining experience, a trip to the tourist friendly Arunras Hotel makes it possible to experience some fine foods.
The pleasant climate in Cambodia makes it a perfect country to visit throughout the year. Cambodia has a tropical climate that is warm and humid with an average temperature of 27°C; this can fall to a minimum temperature of about 16°C. The cool and comfortable time to travel on the Cambodia Package Holiday and explore the sights is December and January when the temperature is usually in the region of 20°C to 28°C. For those that prefer to avoid travelling in the rainy season; this can take place from May to October with a temperature range of 23°C to 30°C. If travelling in the rainy season, make sure to pack the extra supplies such as a light waterproof jacket. Also, the most intense heat is experienced during the month of April which should be avoided by those that prefer the cooler climate.
The province of Kampong Thom is about 15,061 km² in size. It is bordered by Siem Reap and Preah Vihear to the north, with Kratie to the east, with Kampong Cham to the south, and Kampong Chhnang to the west. It is split between 737 villages, 81 communes and 8 districts.
The province is split into two main parts that include about 70% of the surface area consisting of plateaus and forests which are very rich in natural resources to assist with forestry, agriculture and animal husbandry. The other 30% extends to the Tonle Sap Lake which is great for fishing and rice cultivation to fully support the needs of the local area.
How to get there
The road network in Kampong Thom is quite a basic, but is linked along the national highway No 6 with Siem Reap (150km) and Phnom Penh (165km). A great benefit of being linked by this major road is the frequent bus service that travels to and from the major cities. The popular bus companies include Capitol, G.S.T. and Sorya with 5 or 6 services per day. The cost to travel by bus to Kampong Thom is in the region of $1.5 to $2.5.
Travelling by share taxi can help to shorten the travel time to arrive in Kampong Thom. This isn't always the most comfortable form of transport and the cost is usually in the region of $3-$6.
Where to stay
Despite Kampong Thom being off the main tourist route, there are still plenty of hotels and guesthouses that can cater to the increase in tourist trade on the Cambodia Package Tours.
A stay at the Vimean Sovann Guest House is certain to offer one of the best places to relax while in town. This guest house has many of the basic amenities, such as mini fridges, hot water showers, flat screen TVs, balconies and simple but well decorated rooms. This four story building is modern and bright with the very friendly and English speaking staff. They can help with organizing travel and tours, and also help hire out bikes for about $1 per day.
A long running establishment can be found at Arunras Hotel & Restaurant, which is quite large with 58 well maintained, spacious and clean rooms. Most of the rooms have an old-fashioned style and the friendly-staff are great at helping with sight seeing arrangements or ongoing travel. There is an attached restaurant that serves plenty of Western and Khmer food.
The Sakun Lalita Guest House is great for the budget traveller or backpacker with its rock bottom prices. Even though it is quite small this two-storey villa has clean and light rooms, with several having balconies attached. The team at this guesthouse are very welcoming and friendly, but English doesn't seem to be their forte.
By booking a room at the Mittapheap Hotel you get to stay at a standard Khmer guesthouse with simple and clean rooms that are quite bright compared to alternatives in town. This guest house is well placed in a central location off the main road, so less noisy. But still within easy reach of the main attractions in town.
By booking a place at the Stung Sen Royal Garden Hotel it is possible to enjoy a great location close to the river. This is a great place to stay for a night or longer. The rooms are clean and spacious and include a hot water shower, fridge, TV, fridge, western-style bathroom and air-con. The cost to stay in this hotel is about $20 to $25 per night – with the size of the room having an influence on the price to pay.
One of the finest places to stay on the Indochina tour packages is Sambor Prey Kuk Hotel, but still at a price that is great for the budget travellers. Most of the rooms in the hotel are well maintained with TV, air-con (or fan) and western-style bath. The cost is $4 to $8 per night with a fan only and $6 to $10 with air-con switched on.
Eat and drink
Despite the size of Kompong Thom the eating opportunities are still quite reasonable with a choice of upmarket restaurants, local cafes and a fine evening market. Plus, there are at least two cocktail bars in town for the traveller to visit.
For guests at the Arunras Hotel, there is a large attached restaurant that has a very busy trade with a lot coming from the passing bus trade. The menu mainly consists of a variety of Khmer dishes with a choice of a few basic western dishes. The noodles or fried rice dishes cost $2 upwards, with other mains increasing to $5, which can include the western-style sandwiches and burgers.
A cheaper alternative close by is the Chinese-Khmer Phum Bayon which is found on Bracheathepatay Street, which also serves the local Khmer dishes.
The Kompong Thom Restaurant is well located on the riverbank to give great scenery and is found to the right just before crossing the bridge. This restaurant has a full bar with cold beers, so great place to stop for a drink. The main dishes cost in the region of $4 to $6, with drinks like a frozen margarita at $3.
One of the fancy and upscale places to eat is the Reaksmay Restaurant that serves plenty of Chinese and Khmer fare, as well as a few dishes consisting of western food.
For guests at the Stung Sen Royal Hotel it is really easy to appreciate tasty food at the attached Super Soup Restaurant and offers everything imaginable in relation to soups.
Kampong Thom has plenty of common markets that trade in the everyday goods like foods, garments, etc., as well as the more specialist handicrafts like statues, traditional Khmer clothing and bags, and silk shirts.
A great place to visit for stone handicraft is the Ka Kos Village in the Santhuk District which is approx. 16 km from the centre of town. By travelling on National Highway No 6 by tuk-tuk or taxi it is possible to reach the scene of statue making that includes a wide range of figures made in stone with the intended to sell to the international and domestic markets.
Things to see and do
Sambo Prei Kuh Temples
By adding the Sambo Prei Kuh Temples to your travel itinerary makes it possible to explore some of the finest temples in the local region. This area is quite large and includes over 100 temples constructed with solid brick, sandstone and laterite. This region has been used by several kings and maintained the site while also adding more monuments and temples throughout their rein.
Built in the Prei Kmeng style, the Andet temple is constructed much like a single brick tower and located close to a modern Buddhist wat. It was built in the seventh century under the guidance of Jayavarman I.
Wat Kuhak Nokor
A visit to the 11th century site of the Wat Kuhak Nokor makes it possible to explore a series of sandstone and laterite structures that are still relatively well maintained and surrounded by an impressive 3 meter height rampart. This 200 m² park has many structures that are similar in style to the Tonlé Bati temple.
Home-stay in Baray District
For the traveller on the Cambodia tour packages that really wants to experience the authentic rural life in Cambodia, a homestay in the Baray District is certain to appeal. This homestay tourism experience is based in a Khmer village that includes a community-based program that helps to capture the day-to-day life in the heartland of Cambodia. This type of travel experience includes plenty of activities beyond sustaining the ethnic houses including watching traditional dance performances, learning silk weaving, watch farmers tap Palm trees and ride on a bullock cart.
A visit to the Ka Kos Village in the Santhuk District which is approx. 16 km from Kampong Thom via national highway No 6 gives a great opportunity to watch the local craftsmen in action as they use local rocks to make various figures and statues for home decoration. These statues are created to sell to the international and domestic markets. Beyond the stone handicraft, there are plenty of other handicraft activities to see in the local area on the Cambodia travel packages such as traditional Khmer bags and clothing (silk shirts).
Bird Sanctuary of Boeng Tonle Chmar
The Bird Sanctuary of Boeng Tonle Chmar is a vast area that expands nearly 400 hectares which includes an interconnecting network of channels that lye along the Boeng Kla Lake that has plenty of flooded forests.
In addition to the local bird population, there are also many people living there on the river in floating houses who are required to move up and down the river according to the level of water in the flooded jungle forest.