Preah Vihear Cambodia
Preah Vihear is quite a big northern province of Cambodia. Its capital is called Phnom Tbeng Meanchey. The province itself is named after the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, what is definitely the hotspot of this province. Much of the province is extremely remote and strongly forested. Unfortunately do large logging companies reduce the natural landscape by carving huge tracts of pristine tropical hardwoods out of the locations. It is also one of the least populated provinces in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This tranquil site is popular for the Preah Vihear temple, standing in the vicinity of the borderline between Thailand and Cambodia.
The province has one of the worst infrastructures in the country – there are even no proper Major Roads in existence. Going around this province is not that easy if you’re used to proper roads and usual transportation possibilities, as there are only a few pick-ups or some money-hunting moto drivers to take you where you would like to go.
Whatsoever the province has a lot to offer for those, who are interested in ancient temple structures and remote villages without touristy influence. Here in Preah Vihear you may find three of the most impressive legacies from the Angkorian era: the mountain temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, the 10th-century capital of Koh Ker and the mighty Preak Khan. Koh Ker is nowadays easily accessible from Siem Reap via Beng Mealea, but the other two still remain difficult to visit, requiring long and tough overland journeys and a distinct possibility to spend a night in the jungle. During the wet season these places are more or less unreachable. But there are governmental plans to develop the region for a smooth but constant tourism, building roads and improving infrastructure.
The provincial capital Tbeng Meanchey is due to the state of the infrastructure and it’s geographical location not visited by a lot of foreigners. Most of them don’t make it here worrying about the street conditions and the backcountry feeling of no fast supply in need. The city is sprawling and dusty and consists of little more than two small major dirt roads form South to North. There is nothing interesting in town or to do, so it has necessarily become more a stopover on the way to Koh Ker and Preah Khan.
Preah Vihear province is 13,788 square kilometres big. It’s located in the North of the country and shares its international border to the North with Thailand and Laos, its provincial borders to the East with Stueng Treng, to the West with Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap and to the South with Kompong Thom. The province is blessed with endless natural treasure. With its acres of dense, hilly forests and scrub green vegetation, Preah Vihear is indeed an ideal getaway destination in the lap of nature. The breathtaking views over the Dangkrek Mountains and lush jungle from Preah Vihear temples are famous. population
The current population in this province is about 160,551 people or 1.1% of the country’s total population (14,363,519 person in Cambodia, 2007, provincial government data), with 81,318 male and 78,233 female. The population density is therefore 11.64 people per square kilometre.
The country has a tropical climate - warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travellers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms.
Climate: Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
General information about the provincial climate:
- Cool season: November- March (22-28c)
- Hot season: March- May (27c -35c)
- Rainy season: May - October (24-32c, with humidity up to 90%.)
The province’s economy is 85% based on farming and the remaining other 15% are based on fishing and illegal trading with pristine hardwoods. Because of its border with Thailand, the international trade is also increasing slightly and becoming another important sector of the province’s economy. There is several developing plans from province based NGO’s, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Thailand and Cambodian government itself. The economy and infrastructure of the province was also sustainably destructed during the Khmer Rouge stand and needs therefore a whole new stabile backbone.
How to get there
General Information (Share taxi/Pick-up/Motorbike):
To get into this remote province you have two possibilities, one is a packed laterite Major Road from Siem Reap via Anlong Veng, with a distance of over 200 km (completed in 2003). The other access to Preah Vihear is from Kampong Thom via NH 64, which is about 155km South of Tbeng Meanchey. The last one is probably the easiest and fastest way to go to Tbeng Meanchey. Pick-ups go almost daily in the morning and noon to the provincial capital of Preah Vihear from Kampong Thom market ($2-4 depending if you’re inside or on the back). The comfortable share taxi is the other and faster option for $5-7. The road leading there is in horrendous condition as the logging freeze means no one has done any maintenance for a couple of years. The last 30km to Tbeng Meanchey climb some hills, which may get very nasty during the wet season with small creeks to minor rivers. You can also reach the place on a two to three days motorbike trip from Kompong Thom. Be aware of the road conditions and try to judge your personal experience on dusty, bumpy roads in the jungle.
A new other road has been constructed linking Siem Reap to Koh Ker (attraction side). From there, it's an ardous day ride on badly worn out dirt and sand tracks to Preah Vihear (famous temples).
Motorbike Info (Khampong Thom – Preah Vihear):
Kompong Thom is the starting point for a real adventurous tour to the seldom-visited jungle plains of northern Cambodia. This 2-3 days motorbike ride to Preah Vihear is offered by some of the moto-taxi drivers, who will propose it to you once they spot you getting off the bus ($30-50). With you sitting on the back of the bike, your driver will take you through peaceful villages and rice paddies, passing by friendly locals, spending a night with a local family and visiting the temples of Preah Khan Kompong Thom and Koh Ker on your way up. A part of the journey leads you along an old Angkorian road and over its ancient bridges. The ride itself is hardship, skidding over sticks and stones, through sand oceans and bamboo forests, sometimes fording small rivers. From Preah Vihear, you will head to Siem Reap via Anlong Veng, the place where Pol Pot is said to have died. It’s a worth a ride, but put your motorbike skills on question before you go for it.
Land mines still remain a real danger in Preah Vihear although the temples itself and the access paths have been painstakingly cleared. Stay on the beaten trek, don't venture into any vegetation that has not been cleared recently, and heed the red warning signs, painted rocks and strings marking the limits of the demined area.
Where to eat
With exception of the small market and a couple of food stalls on the street, there are only a couple of eateries in town. In front of the taxi station you may find a couple of small restaurants offering noodle and rice dishes and fresh coffee.
Dara Reas Restaurant:
This place is located 200m west from the roundabout and 1km south from the market. It is a larger garden restaurant that’s popular with well-to-do locals. It offers good grub concerning the so –to-say end of the world and some nice pavilion for small groups. Typical Khmer food.
Mlop Dong Restaurant:
This restaurant comes with reasonable food, and the range of dishes is also heartening for this part of the world. It is quite a popular place for expats living in town, and after dinner this is about the closest thing to a pub this town boasts.
Where to stay
Mlop Trosek Guesthouse: (tel: 012/952035)
A favourite place in this small town, with a large, green garden and clean rooms with attached bathroom and plenty of secure parking if you come with a motorbike. The newly refurnished rooms are lighter and brighter than those near the front and also have genuine lino floors. Prices are around US$4-5.
Prom Tep Guesthouse: (tel: 012/ 964645)
Located north from the market than the first block turning east, this is the closest thing to a hotel in this part of Preah Vihear. The rooms are really spacious and comfortable with standard satellite TV, attached Western bathroom and air-con. The prices range from US$6-12.
27 May Guesthouse: (tel: 011/905472)
This place is near the market situated. One of the very budget accommodations in town, with quite clean rooms including a bath and some of the rooms come with air-con. There are also very small rooms for $1.5 with share bathroom. The only pity is, that it is near the market, so it could get a little noisy in the morning. The rooms come for US$1.5-5.
Phnom Meas: (tel: 012/632017)
This small guesthouse is located east of the taxi station. It features small rooms with bath and TV and bigger rooms with no windows. The price is around $4-8.
As it is quite common in Cambodia even small cities, such as Tbeng Meanchey have at least one market. You may also find a small market in Tbeng Meanchey centre, which is a busy area with local shops dealing the local daily consumer products, like fish, fruits, vegetables, meats and packed products (a lot from Thailand). Most of the food and drink shops are surrounding the market.