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North-western Cambodia

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : North-western Cambodia
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Sunrise at Angkor Wat

North-western Cambodia is a region of Cambodia and includes the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and the part of Stoeng Treng to the west of the Mekong.

Cities

  • Siem Reap - the largest city of the region and gateway to Angkor
  • Anlong Veng - grim reminders of the Khmer Rouge including Pol Pot's grave, and Ta Mok's derelict house. Also close to a border crossing with Thailand in the impressive Dangrek Mountains
  • Poipet - an interesting squalid town known for its infamous border crossing
  • Sisophon - a transport hub in the middle of nowhere, with its own quirky attractions
  • Samraong - hinterland transport hub with connection to Thailand

Other destinations

Understand

The north is dominated by the Dangrek Mountains which form the natural barrier between Cambodia and Thailand. Much of the southern part of this region is very flat and fertile leading towards the Tonle Sap - Cambodia's great lake.

Siem Reap is by far the largest city, Sisophon and Poipet both small towns, while Anlong Veng just feels like a large village.

Much of north-western Cambodia live in abject poverty, with the province of Siem Reap being one of the poorest in the country, despite the valuable Angkor Archaeological Park being located within. Like the other regions, infrastructure is a new concept in North-Western Cambodia, with only the national highways paved. Out of the towns, electricity is obtained by using car batteries, at a high cost. Despite the obvious negative effects that a lack of development can have, an advantage (if there was one) would be that the region has been largely left alone by tourists, so those who do tread off the tourist trail get an insight into Cambodia's beautiful struggle.

Get in

By plane

The region is served by Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport [1] (IATA: REP | ICAO: VDSR) which has has frequent domestic flights from Phnom Penh and is internationally linked from the following destinations:

By land

The region is linked by road to three Thai border crossings.

National Highway 5 and 6 were completely re-surfaced in 2009 and run from the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border crossing to Sisophon (1 hour) and Siem Reap (2-3 hrs).

National Highway 67, re-surfaced in 2009 runs from the Thailand/Anlong Veng border crossing, south to Siem Reap (2 hours).

National highway 68, re-surfaced in 2011 runs from the Thailand/O'Smach border crossing south via Samraong to Kralanh (2 hours), where it joins National Highway 6 for Siem Reap

National Highway 6 from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (5 - 7 hours) is a popular route by bus.

By boat

Hydrofoils ply the route across Tonle Sap Lake from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (6 hours), stopping stopping at Kampong Chhnang, UDS20-25/person.

One boat a day leaves Battambang in Cardamom and Elephant Mountains, destined for Siem Reap (5 - 8 hours). The duration of the trip depends on the level of the river and lake.

Get around

If you're only making your way between towns in the region, then the days of rough, impassable roads and adventure are over. Most main routes are now paved, with the exception of only a few.

By Bus

There are a range of bus companies serving all towns large enough to be worth visiting.

By Taxi

Where the bus companies don't go, one should usually be able to travel by taxi. For the best chance of success, organize your taxi the night before, otherwise an early start may be needed to secure a place in a share-taxi.

By Pick-up Truck

It's not as simple to organize a pick-up truck as it is a taxi, but they have a different market - budget outside tickets. Used for passengers and cargo, pick-up trucks head everywhere, providing a broad network, linking most every lonely village. If it wasn't for these banged up wagons, most of the region wouldn't have access to affordable transport. Simply stand on the edge of the road, and flag the first one down.

By Kuyon (tractor)

For those outside town trying to cover a distance of 15km or so, hitching a ride on a local tractor can be as simple as flagging the first one down. Be aware that this is, effectively, hitch hiking, and comes with the usual dangers. USD$0.75 per 15km would be appropriate.

See

  • Angkor Archaeological Park - These magnificent ruins of several ancient Khmer cities cover some 400 sq km and house one of the world's great monuments, Angkor Wat.The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 and UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
  • Koh Ker - If Angkor doesn't quash your appetite, this unique temple 90km north east of Siem Reap - recently cleared of land mines, is worth a day trip.
  • Banteay Chhmar - This temple complex, 60km north of Sisophon, is a remote site, home to some extremely quiet ruins.
  • Tonle Sap - The largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia, of major conservation importance, and home to several floating villages.

Do

Eat

Drink

Stay safe

  • Landmines

North Western Cambodia is home to the infamous K5 mine belt, a (land) mine field 700km long and 500m wide, that runs parallel to the border with Thailand. Although parts of this minefield have been cleared, much remains. When travelling in remote areas, never stray too far off the road or track, it's just not worth the risk.

Get out

Thailand

Three of Cambodia's six overland crossings with Thailand are in this region:

  • Aranyaprathet/Poipet The busiest land crossing into Cambodia on the Bangkok - Siem Reap road. Long the stuff of nightmares, the roads are now paved all the way from Poipet to Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.




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