Volume 1 No.7

What's New

Place of Interest

Phrase Of The Month


By: Ann Creevey. Pictures by : Sem Vannjohn. ( December, 2001 Volume 1 No.7 )

This sprawling township stretching lazily along the bank of the Mekong River has much to offer, from temples to deep forests of rubber plantations (a legacy of the French colonial period) to peaceful stalls along the river where visitors can sit back and soak in the atmosphere over a beer or fresh coconut.
Kampong Cham is at a crossroads. It is the gateway to exotic Mondulkiri Province through Kratie, and a port city on the mighty Mekong. The province is Cambodia’s most populous, with over 1.6 million inhabitants, and the people make their living from fishing, rice farming and producing a rich array of fruits in fertile orchards, including durian, rambutans and lynches. Flanked by populous Prey Veng Province, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom and Kratie, and bordering Vietnam, Kampong Cham’s provincial capital is just 120 kilometers north-east of Phnom Penh along National Highway 7, which has been upgraded and is in excellent condition. The newly completed towering bridge across the Mekong is the only one across this powerful river in the whole country, and is expected to open up trade between Thailand and Vietnam through Kampong Cham. The province is divided up into 16 districts, with 173 communes and 1,748 villages. Kampong Cham is easy to reach.
A fast boat takes just two and a half hours, and a minibus or pickup will cost as little as 5000 riel for a seat and is also just a few hours' drive. Phnom Proh and Phnom Srei Less than seven kilometers outside of town, two hills, each with a temple at its peak, stand facing each other. These are Phnom Proh (Man Hill) and Phnom Srei (Woman Hill).

Legend maintains that in ancient times, women had to ask men for their hand in marriage. Unhappy with this situation, the women challenged the local men to a competition. Whichever sex could build a temple on their hill before dawn the next day would win the right to be asked for their hands in marriage. The two groups built furiously all night, but the women tricked the men by building a fire and floating a burning lantern in the sky. The men assumed the light was the morning star and stopped work, allowing the women to pass them and win. And that is why men now ask women when it comes to marriage. The original temples were destroyed in fierce fighting during the war, but they have been replaced, and this is a popular picnic spot for Khmers on weekends. The views from both temples are lovely, and Phnom Proh is home to a band of very cheeky monkeys who entertain visitors in a bid to charm food for themselves. Wat Nokor Time has taken its toll on this 11th century temple. Now incorporated into an active, modern temple, the remaining ruins of Wat Nokor, such as lintels and archways, have been used in the construction of the new temple. The alcoves and hidden shrines make Wat Nokor a peaceful, tranquil and interesting place to wander around, and a large reclining Buddha is a central feature. Rubber Plantation Across the river in Chub rubber plantation, still in use but working at just a small fraction of its capacity, is a reminder of French colonial times when Cambodia was one of the region's great rubber producers. The plantation was once owned by Michelin. Grooves carved into the trees’ bark allow the white sap to run into waiting pots, where it is collected and processed.

English speakers may have to be content with wandering between the straight rows of trees and contemplating the history of this place. French and Khmer speakers may be able to find someone who can tell them more about this place, which was once an important component of Cambodia's booming economy. Mekong River Bridge Any local in Kampong Cham will ask what you think of this towering structure, which was recently completed and was inaugurated early this month. Construction began in 1998 with Japanese funding, and this bridge links Kampong Cham directly to Kratie and Mondulkiri in the east and, eventually, to Vietnam. It is the only bridge across the mighty Mekong in the whole of the Kingdom. Previously, everything and everyone who needed to cross the river had to do so by ferry. Teuk Chha Waterfalls Off the main road to the right at Prey Tatoeng, about 25 kilometers from town, a dirt road twists through fertile countryside alongside canals until it crosses what is actually a dam and reservoir, called Teuk Chha by locals. Begun in the 1960’s, destroyed under Pol Pot and reconstructed in 1996, this beautiful, shady spot is a favorite swimming spot for local picnic makers. The legend of Wat Nokor, Page 9