This morning we left Siem Reap and headed further into Cambodia to Kampong Cham. This was done via a public bus, albeit one that picked up from the main road around the corner from the hotel. Having the front seat of a coach in Cambodia is not for the faint hearted, providing a prime view of some fairly questionable driving antics.
Kampong Cham feels like a smallish place despite being Cambodia’s third largest city. It’s also not very touristy, in complete contrast to Siem Reap. Today I only saw a handful of obvious foreigners. Our hotel was along the Mekong River and the balcony provided a great view. Located in the Mekong is an island called Koh Paen. As we’re still in the dry season, Koh Paen can be reached by a bamboo bridge. Crossing the bridge and exploring the island makes for a nice bike ride. The bridge is an impressive structure and requires a new version to be constructed annually as it is submerged and washed away during the rainy season. Riding across isn’t straightforward due to the bouncy and slightly uneven surface. There’s also the added issue of nothing along the sides of the bridge to prevent you falling into the river. Passing cars make the ride even more hairy! It’s also quite hard work, especially considering the temperature. Crossing the bridge had me sweating more than half an hour of spinning!
Riding around the island gave a nice glimpse of small-town Cambodia life. We passed through villages containing farmland, beautiful temples, stilted houses and lots of smiling and waving children. We only just made it back to the mainland before dusk, which was fortunate as negotiating that bamboo bridge in the dark wouldn’t have been much fun.
We were given the option of visiting a local family for a meal. I was happy to support such endeavors as you usually get some nice authentic food and interesting conversation, both of which rang true. I’ve no idea what the nightlife situation on a Sunday night is Kampong Cham is like but the next hotel had a rooftop bar that provided great Mekong River views. They seemed happy to accommodate us in their plush establishment even though I was wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Back on terra firma