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North-western Cambodia

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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.


  • Siem Reap - the largest city of the region and gateway to Angkor
  • Anlong Veng - grim reminders of the Khmer Rouge 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[edit]


Sunrise at Angkor Wat

The region's north is lined by the Dangrek Mountains which form a natural barrier with Thailand. To the south is very flat and fertile land which leads towards the great Tonle Sap Lake.

Control of much of this area has often passed between the various regional powers. It is now part of Cambodia thanks to the French, whose sabre rattling forced the Siamese into relinquishing it (along with Battambang) in 1907. The region had been Siamese since 1867, thanks again to the French who gave it (and Battambang) to Siam in exchange for unobstructed French control over the remainder of Cambodia. Before then, a nominally independent Cambodia existed as a vassel state of Siam and Vietnam.

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

Much of north-western Cambodia is characterized by poverty. Siem Reap province is one of the poorest in the country, despite its valuable temples. Infrastructure construction has been booming, though only since around 2008; this makes many older reported journey times and maps hopeless outdated. Outside the towns, car batteries provide expensive electricity to village homes.

For now, development means only the blazing of asphalt trails through remote areas. The growth of businesses and expanded tourism will surely follow, so make sure to explore off the tourist trail and get a genuine insight into Cambodia's beautiful struggle.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

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[edit]

The following roads are all paved:

By boat[edit]

Hydrofoils ply the route across the Tonle Sap Lake from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (6 hours), stopping stopping at Kampong Chhnang, US$20-25/person.

One boat daily runs beteen Siem Reap and Battambang in the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains region (5 - 8 hours, depending on the water level, boats can become grounded in the dry season).

Get around[edit]

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[edit]

There are a range of bus companies serving all towns large enough to be worth visiting. The larger the town, the more regular the service.

By taxi[edit]

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[edit]

It's not as simple to organize a pick-up truck as it is a taxi, but they have a different market - budgets outside tickets. Used for passengers and cargo, pick-up trucks head everywhere, providing a broad network, linking most every lonely village. If it weren'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)[edit]

Local transport: slow, bumpy and very fun

Short trips outside towns can be made by hitching a ride on a slow, rustic, local tractor. Just flag down the first one heading your way. This is effectively hitch hiking, and comes with the usual dangers. USD$0.75 per 15km would be appropriate.

See[edit][add listing]

  • 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 sate your temple appetite, this pre-Angkorian, landmine-free site 90km north east of Siem Reap is worth a day trip.
  • Banteay Chhmar - A remote-but demined-temple complex 60km north of Sisophon. The road is unpaved but easily passable in the dry season, this puts many people off and makes the trip more rewarding for those that make it.
  • Tonle Sap - The largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia, of major conservation importance, and home to several floating villages.

Do[edit][add listing]

Siem Reap hosts an vast array of things to do beyond its temples. Ride horses, elephants, jeeps. Visit museums. Take cookery classes. Shoot things. Watch apsara dances. Get massaged. Take a boat on the Tonle Sap. Learn Khmer.

Outside Siem Reap the main pastime is marvelling at being in the middle of nowhere (much of Cambidia's development is focused on its south east): watch rice fields being burnt, planted, harvested. Stare at starry skies away from city light polution.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Siem Reap hosts the region's gastro-centre. All tastes and budgets are catered for. Elsewhere it's the usual provincial fare of soups, fruit, rice, meat, and veg.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Similar to the dining scene. Dry martinis can only be found in Siem Reap and the casinos near the border crossings. Every two-bit hut will serve cold water, cola and beer; local style coffee (cold and sweet) can be found just about everywhere.

Stay safe[edit]

  • Landmines

North Western Cambodia is home to the K5 mine belt, a 700km long, 500m wide band of landmines that runs parallel to the Thai border. Although parts have been cleared, much remains. When travelling in remote areas, never stray off the road or track. It's just not worth the risk.

Get out[edit]


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.


Battambang, the main city of the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains region is 3-4hrs away from Siem Reap by bus or a drip trip on a boat.

The Mekong Lowlands and Central Plains are best reached on National Highway 6. The first major town in that region is Kampong Thom.

Cambodia's rugged east is best reached via Kampong Thom. The hardy should be able to cross the Mekong directly from the North-western region to Stung Treng on a trip via Tbeng Meanchey.

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