KAMPONG CHHNANG - The Pottery Province
By: Bronwyn Sloan. Picture by : Nathan Dexter. ( October, 2001 Volume 1 No.5 )

Many people believe Kampong Chhnang is the most beautiful of Cambodian provinces. The province is centrally located on the Tonle Sap in the Tonle Sap Lake region of Cambodia. It can be reached by road on Route 5, the main road to Battambang, and is slightly less than 100 kilometers from Phnom Penh. The province can be broken into eight districts, 69 communes and 546 villages. The last census in 1999 recorded a population of 417,693.More than 85 per cent of the province's population is involved in primary industry. Kampong Chhnang's main industries are fishing and rice growing, as well as pottery. In Khmer, chhnang means pot. There is also a lobster fishing industry. The province is famous for its high quality dried fish. Because of its position and its high number of fishermen, there is a large population of Vietnamese immigrants, but of the total workforce surveyed in the last census, 46.6 per cent cited themselves as migrants from overseas, within the province or within Cambodia. With its green paddy fields, rivers and sugar palm-lined horizons, Kampong Chhnang is a wonderful place to spend a few lazy days and take in the sights of the traditional Cambodian way of life.


Kampong Chhnang Airport Just north of the main town on the road to Battambang, this massive airport was constructed by the Khmer Rouge to transport rice from Democratic Kampuchea's ricebowl to China more effectively. As many as 400,000 people were forced to labor on the site, and of those, 350,000 or more died. The main runway is off limits to tourists, but the massive silos and the outer runways and roads are accessible and still in near-perfect condition. This is largely because they were built using forced labor, who toiled to lay a meter and a half of gravel as a foundation, topped by eight-inch thick slabs of concrete. The Khmer Rouge never had a chance to use it. The Vietnamese army marched into the area and the Khmer Rouge was overthrown just as the airport was on the verge of completion in the late seventies. United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC) used the airport briefly in the early nineties. The airport was taken over for development as a cargo airport some years ago but as yet remains idle.
Independence Monument At the main roundabout just as visitors enter town is a miniature replica of Phnom Penh's famous Independence Monument. And like the original, this monument is to commemorate Cambodia's independence from the French in 1953.


The port area is called Psar Kraom, after the town's "lower market", situated near here. The boat to Siem Reap stops here. Although the dock area itself is not particularly picturesque, it offers great views of Neang Kong Rei mountain across the river. The village on the river itself is a floating Vietnamese village. Just up the road from here is a crocodile farm. Neang Kong Rei Mountain Neang Kong Rei Mountain is one of the most visited places in Kampong Chhnang province, and Khmer tourists especially flock here during New Year. Sightseers and religious visitors, who value the mountain as a spiritual center for meditation, come from allover Cambodia.
There is a path leading to the top of the mountain called Plov Sdach, or King's Path, and there are several caves in the area where Buddhists come to pray. The mountain is believed by some to have the spiritual power to compel those who visit tell the truth while they are there. French Quarter Kampong Chhnang has always been an important stopping point between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and had a strong French influence during colonial times. The legacy of this is a fine selection of colonial architecture, most of which is located in the French Quarter, north of the town's main square. Shady boulevards and large gardens compliment the crumbling but still stately colonial structures of this area. Kampong Chhnang is a slice of the real Cambodia off the beaten tourist path, and well worth a visit.