Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : North-western Cambodia : Anlong Veng
Anlong Veng is a district and small town in the Oddar Meanchey province of Cambodia. Its sole claim to notability is its connection to the later days of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen and Khiev Samphan, the leaders of the organization, all had homes here. The district also holds the graves of Pol Pot and Ta Mok, as well as the remnants of the structure where Pol Pot was convicted of 'crimes against the Cambodian people.' What might otherwise be an overly morbid itinerary is redeemed by the stunning mountain scenery. There is a border crossing with Thailand's Si Saket Province 13 km north of Anlong Veng town.
From other parts of Cambodia, transport is by share-taxi, pickup-truck, or motorbike. Share-taxis connect with Siem Reap, Samraong, and Tbeng Meanchey, among others; however most roads to Anlong Veng are unsealed and may be impassable to share-taxis during the wet season. The road from Siem Reap to Anlong Veng has recently been paved.
From Thailand, transport to the border can be arranged from Si Saket Province or Surin Province (the border crossing is in Si Saket Province, but the nearest town is Khu Khan in Si Saket Province). From Surin train station to the border takes about 1.5 hours. On the Cambodian side of the border, moto-taxis and pick-up trucks are available in the tiny bazaar.
The town itself is easy enough to cover on foot. Moto-taxis are eager to take the town's few visitors to the sites listed below for $7-15.
Pol Pot's House: Not much left here but a shell of a house, overgrown with foliage and 'decorated' with profane graffiti. Water storage tanks, an underground chamber and a nearby pond round off the excitement. The motorcycle ride to the site is the real attraction, passing through field and jungle in the Damrek Mountains. You will see Cambodia's iconic 'Danger! Mines!' signs on many of the trees; do not, under any circumstances, venture off the road! Unfortunately, these mines are still regularly killing and maiming Cambodians.
Ta Mok's Mountain House: Graffiti artists have been at it again with this little shell - this time, mostly young lovers proclaiming their eternal fidelity. Considering the amazing views from this site, it's not surprising that it should have become a regular 'make-out hill!' Oddly enough, there are not one but two tiny spirit houses nearby - ostensibly, recent additions. A guesthouse has also been built less than 100 meters away, taking advantage of the view. Those who don't fancy a night up here can relax with a beer in one of the many hammocks. (The landmine warning applies to the road here as well.)
Ta Mok's Town House: The best-preserved of the KR houses, Ta Mok's house in town overlooks the eerie lake that Brother Number Four created himself. Murals of Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear, as well as a map of Cambodia and a strangely bucolic scene of bathing elephants decorate the walls and are, as yet, undamaged by graffitistas. For extra fun, see if you can count all the toilets in the various buildings.
Pol Pot's Grave: Prepare to be underwhelmed! A tin roof and a sign urging visitors to keep the area clean are all the tribute given to Brother Number One by his country. Oddly enough, a Thai lottery winner has erected a spirit house on the site in honour of the former Khmer Rouge leader, who, he claims, appeared to him in a dream with the winning numbers. A small pack of children often materialises when visitors arrive.
Ta Mok's Grave: Visited the day after his burial, Ta Mok's gravesite seems poised to become a much more grand monument than Pol Pot's. Awaiting further details.
Anlong Veng Lake and Spillway: This man-made lake was conceived and carried out by Ta Mok. Many large trees were killed by the flooding, and their trunks jut skywards like huge gray bones. The lake itself is unsettling to look at, but local people love the spillway created in the rainy season. Fishing, boating and the general splashing around are all on tap here, with just as many spectators as participants.
An interesting few hours can be spent touring all the above sites, with plenty of vista stops and little encounters with surprisingly friendly local people. Moto-taxi drivers can arrange an itinerary.
The market has the requisite cheap clothing, rambutans and motorcycle parts. There are a few pharmacies.
Khmer rice plates can be bought in various places; just look for the lidded silver cookpots, have a peek inside them and point at your favourite. There are also a few more formal restaurants.
Places selling soft drinks and coconut water often have beer in their coolers as well.
There are a few guesthouses in town, in addition to the place near Ta Mok's mountain house. Ask the moto-taxi drivers for advice.
Raksmey Angkor Guesthouse: A bit small and run-down, but run by a very nice family. Fan and attatched toilet for $5.