Pursat is the capital of western Cambodia's Pursat province. It is indistinguishable from Cambodia's other small provincial capitals. This sleepy town holds marginal interest, though may be used a base for visits to the Tonle Sap Lake or Cardamon Mountains.
Fully paved National Highway 5 runs northwest from Phnom Penh via Pursat to the county's second largest city, Battambang. All buses between Battambang ($2.50 from Pursat) and Phnom Penh ($5 from Pursat) will stop here. Buses run every half-hour in the morning and early afternoon. Buses take 4 hours to Phnom Penh and 1.5 hours to Battambang. All the major bus companies service Phnom Penh. Sorya and Capitol Tour are the most reliable big names. Capitol Tour runs the lastest afternoon departure from Phnom Penh at 2:00pm, and sometimes 3:00pm.
Central Pursat is easily covered foot. Motodops hang around the market, bus stations, train station, and sometimes along the highway. A ride anywhere in town should cost around 1,000 riel. A day trip to Kampong Luang or elsewhere can be negotiated for $10 or more. The occasional tuk tuk can also be found. The Phnom Pech Hotel rents small motorbikes by the day and half-day.
Like all of Cambodia's former railway towns, Pursat hosts a charming French-built railway station that has decayed into a slum, which gives the area an interesting vibe. The railway is currently being restored, with services to resume in 2013.
Walking the town will let its provincial dusty chams shine on any visitor. Children will scream "hello" at any passing tourist. Locals may invite you for some food or karaoke.
- Kampong Luong (Floating village on Tonle Sap Lake), (28 km east of Pursat along Highway 5). 1. Once your at Kampong Luong, you'll find that the local community has set up a central organisation offering three different boat trips that all last 1 hour and have fixed prices starting from $9 for 1-3 people.
- Bamboo train, (Cross the central bridge in town to the east, turn right into Street 146 (after the Total gas station) and follow it until you hit the railway). Motorbiks may take you there for 2,000 riel, however it's easy walking distance from the central bridge in Pursat. According to local tuk-tuk drivers, there's trains only from about 10am to 2pm. Going from Pursat to the east the train will be filled with locals and goods. Calculate at least $8 to be brought back to the departure point or be brave and go on until you meet another one or find somebody that takes you back to Pursat.
Common to any society that has emerged from food shortages, provincial Cambodia lacks a culture that reveres cuisine and instead favours sustanance. In short, don't expect more than a cheap meal rice and some gristly meat. Stalls and cafes around town offer similar nondescript human fuel.
The Phnom Pech Hotel
- Phnom Pech Hotel, Road 1, Pursat, Cambodia, ☎ 052951515. This hotel is about 200m North from the main bridge on the westbank of the river. The prices range from US$6-15. Rooms usually equipped with Western bathroom, cable TV and fan or air-con depending on the price. There is an attached restaurant serving decent food.
- Thansour Thmey Hotel & Guesthouse, St 102 at the corner to Highway No 5 (Just around the corner from where most buses would drop passengers. Second street to the west if you cross the central bridge to the west), ☎ 012 962 395, . Thansour Thmey offers basic rooms in the guesthouse ($5-7, fan, western toilets and TV, en-suite bath although sometimes without sink and with huge gaps under the doors which makes the mice happy) and midrange options in the "New Thansour Thmey Hotel" ($8 fan, $13-25 air-con). Has computers with reasonably fast internet access and a separate restaurant with English menu.
- Pursat offers access to the Cardamom Mountains, giving it potential for eco-tourism.
- Phnomh Penh Sorya and Rith Mony have ticket shops just west of the central bridge, Capitol is only a few more metres farther.