Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : Cardamom and Elephant Mountains : Koh Kong
Koh Kong is the capital of Koh Kong province in Cambodia'sthe Cardamom Mountains. It is 8km away from Cham Yeam, which is connected by Cambodia's southernmost Thai border crossing to the Thai town of Hat Lek.
Koh Kong has an airport but it's not currently used for commercial passenger flights. Runway is in a less than desirable shape (May '08) and airtravel will not commence commercially for a while. It is one of Cambodias greenest and most eco friendly province, with its town being very little, but surrounded by Asia's biggest tropical Mangroves, beautiful islands and mountains. Koh Kong Island is opened to the public now for day trips, and will offer the possibility to stay there starting November 2012.
Koh Kong is linked to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville by highway 48, which branches off National Highway 4 at Sre Ambel. The road is paved and complete with 5 bridges. It's a good scenic drive through some of Cambodia's least developed and unspoiled regions - the Cardamom Mountains. Minibuses and tourist air-con buses to and from Koh Kong leave mainly in the mornings. Afternoon departures depend on demand. Tickets to Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville should cost arounf 25000 riel (US$6.25). Sihanoukville travel agencies often ask for US$8-10.
There is no longer a boat from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville. It stopped in 2009 although some travel agents in Thailand still sell travel tickets for the (non existent) boat.
The border is at Cham Yeam, about 10 km by road northwest of the town. It faces Hat Lek in Thailand. Motos (US$2 to 2.5), shared taxis and taxis (US$9 to $10 for the entire car) run between the town and the border. Drivers will ask for more (asking for 400 baht is common) - don't let them. Negotiate in dollars rather than baht, baht prices always work out more expensive.
If you take a tuk-tuk from the border, you will have to pay 6-7 dollars for the trip, depending on your negotiations skills. You can share the costs if you travel with someone. If you take a Taxi, driver will ask you to pay 100 bath or 3 dollars each and he will wait till he has 4 people on board. You do not need to pay toll fee for passing the bridge in tuk-tuk or taxi. It's included in the price.
If you take a moto it might be possible that you have to pay toll a fee for the bridge (1400 riel for a moto), which can be paid in riel, USD or baht. The rate is stated on the toll booths: it's better to hand over your money at the booth so that your fare is not impacted later.
Current exchange rate is 1 USD = 4000 Riel
Your driver will likely offer to exchange money to riel at overall poor rates - just politely refuse, there is no legal requirement to change any foreign money into Riels and the US Dollar is the de-facto consumer currency of Cambodia. There is of course a legal tender in Cambodia. In Koh Kong, and other border provinces, Thai baht is also accepted, but you'll get better rates if you exchange baht rather than shop with them.
If you're continuing further into Cambodia, beware of overpriced bus tickets: US$15-30 or more - do not agree to this. Agencies may tell you that the normal price is US$25 or 30, and, as such, USD15 is a big bargain - this is not true. The proper price to Phnom Penh is 25000 riel (US$6) if you get a ticket for US$8 you are doing well!
While problematic officials are increasingly less common, there are some old tricks that may be worth being aware of.
After you get your passport stamped with the Thai exit stamp, walk down the road, and the arrivals office is on the left side of the street. Ignore the fake quarantine station . If you allow the touts to direct you there, they will take your temperature, give you a bogus form and ask for 20-400Baht. You do not need this form and you will not be asked for it when you apply for your Visa or entry stamp.
The fee for a tourist visa is US$20. You may be asked for 1000-1300 baht (about $30 USD) or for $20 with an additional 100-300 baht fee. If you pay, you'll likely have your visa very quickly. Insisting on paying only $20 may lead to being made to wait, though the visa will come. Arriving early can help, as in the late afternoon a corrupt official knows that a delay could result in missing onward transport, which makes the bribe seem more attractive. Whenever you arrive, be polite, say hello (sue-saw-day) and thank-you (awkunh) in Khmer and you should find no problems.
Just be aware that $20 (+100 baht for no photo) is all you need to pay and you will eventually be let through. Past scams have included having to pay for a SARS form or for non-production of a vaccination certificate.}}
Cambodian visas are available on arrival. The official building is just after the bridge, to the right of the Traditional Style Arch (see map). Tourist visas cost $20 and permit one stay of up to 30 days.
Alternatively, you can obtain an e-Visa for US$25, which is the same visa as the one for $20 but obtained online in advance. Having an e-Visa saves time at the border but that's all the extra $5 gets you.
$20 tourist visas (T class) are extendable for one month only ; anyone wanting longer stays and multiple entries in Cambodia will need a $25 business visa (E class, valid for 30 days and extendable once in Cambodia). Confusingly, E class visas are unrelated to the online visas. They costs $25 and require no extra documents or fees. Make sure the officials know that you know this.
Once you have your visa, brush off the touts and go to the arrival window to get your entry stamp into Cambodia.
From the immigration, you have to find your way down a small rugged road to the river. The first few motocycle taxi drivers will speak English well and ask for 400Baht. Ignore them, and keep on walking down the road. In about 250 meters there is the main group of taxi drivers, where the standard fare to Kokong town is 50B (including the bridge toll of 11B). It takes around 10 minutes to reach the center of town.
Motobike taxi around town costs 1000 riel.
Around Koh Kong, there are islands, mountains, jungles, rivers, waterfalls, a zoo, casino, and a lot more.
Koh Kong Island (considered one of the best beaches in SE Asia). There are no accommodations on Koh Kong Island as it is military run and therefore illegal to spend the night, however day trips are offered by Koh Kong Divers tour centre and some other operators in Koh Kong.
Along highway 4 (Sihanoukville - Phnom Penh), about 30 km south of Traeng Trayoung, 20 km north of the Koh Kong turn-off, there is on the west side of the road a small turn-off which leads to a nice set of rapids called O'bak Retes. Great place to stop.
Day tours and overnight adventure trips to Koh Kong Island and other Islands in Kong Province, Pream Krasop Mangroves(Asia's Largest), Waterfalls & Trekking in the Cardamom Mountainns are available from Koh Kong Divers travel & tours located next to the waterfront bar & restaurant on riverfront road.
Koh Kong Island Resort has recently opened is doors. It is set around a beautiful remote beach, where one can be sure to relax. With 6 deluxe bungalows with AC and terasse facing the sea, and 6 more standard yet comfortable ones, it is a secret nest in the gulf of Thailand.
All the information can be found through their office next to Koh Kong Bay hotel, 200m left before the Thai bridge.
Tel: 0977558988 []
Gecko adventure tours Koh Kong offer overnight camping, night canyoning, trekking to remote waterfalls, experienced guides, all gear supplied.
Fat Sam's bar on the main street in the downtown area is a fabulous place to get an idea about what to do - Fat Sam himself is very helpful and knows the place quite well.
The Blue Gecko Bar
The Aqua Sunset Bar & Resturant has just opened 01/11/09. Riverside bar and restaurant set over the water on the Koh Pow River, pleasant river breeze, popular sunset venue. Full bar facilities, selection of spirits and cocktails, western and thai-khmer food. Also offering a Sunset Cruise every evening.
The Dive Inn. Daily specials from 110 Baht, European, Thai & Khmer cuisine. the largest selection of spirits and cocktails in koh kong
Waterfront Bar & Restaurant. Great pizza's and hamburgers, Traditional Cambodian food and snacks, top place for river and sunset views.
Paddy's Bamboo Pub serves western breakfast and local meals. The pub is next to Rasmey Buntam Guesthouse.
Waterfront Bar & Restaurant – Full bar facilities-Cocktails/Beers/Spirits, Late night opening, good music. Great place to meet other travelers from around the globe and offers great river views and sunsets.
Blue Elephant Bar - Bar and lounge, opens early until late. Offers food, drinks, free WiFi, a nice selection of books in a friendly atmosphere.
There are many guesthouses and small hotels in the central part of town and on the riverside street, partially thanks to Thais who come to Cambodia for gambling (the big casino can be seen on the way from the border). Basic guesthouse room with fan costs USD3-6 (or 100-200 baht). For USD10 and more you'll get an air-con room in a guesthouse or hotel. As often in Asia, the cheapest places and room rates are usually those found "on the spot" on arrival. Motorbike taxi drivers will be happy to deliver you to a guesthouse/hotel of their choice, if you're not sure where to go - just ask them (and notice after while riding there) how far from the centre is it and what's the price. Alternatively, just walk around and look for accommodation yourself - the town is quite small. Further south of the town there is a small group of 12 islands called the Koh Sdach archipelago, this area holds untamed beauty with white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and paradise islands. This is a must for a visitor to coastal Cambodia. Currently accommodation is only available on two of the islands Koh Sdach and Koh Toteung and room rates go from $10 - $120.
Tatai is the next town east, 19 km away. $4 - $5 by motobike, US$10 by tuk tuk.
Tickets to Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville should cost arounf 25000 riel (US$6.25)and should be purchased at the bus station in the center of town. Buses depart around 7AM. There is also a 1PM bus to Phnom Penh.