The town lies on the Tonle Sap River and also has a great riverside market where you can see typical Khmer products being sold. Another highlight here is the floating village and you can take a boat and go for a tour which can be a great experience if you have never seen anything like this before.
Certainly if you want to get off the beaten track and enjoy a part of Cambodia that offers you a more authentic picture of this fascinating country, then Kampong Chhnang is well worth a visit. As it is only around 2 hours away from Phnom Penh, there is really no reason not to visit as part of a wider trip to Cambodia.
When to go
Kampong Chhnang sits on the water and is surrounded by little islands and paddy fields. In the dry season around November to February the waters dry up and part of the river resembles a big muddy puddle. In the rainy season from June to October much of the area floods, which makes it difficult if you want to go out into the scenic surrounding areas. As a result, the best time to go is from October to December when you will catch Kampong Chhnang at its best when it is not too dry or too wet.
Where to stay
Considering the fact that this is a less-touristy part of Cambodia, you will find quite a good mix of accommodation. Some of this takes the form of guesthouses but you will also find some larger places like basic hotels that are popular with package tours. Many of the better budget guesthouses sit along the main artery of the town on Route 5.
Where to eat
One of the few downsides of Kampong Chhnang is the food. It’s not that it is bad, but that there is not a huge selection and this means that you are stuck with what is on offer.
Many of the restaurants and cafes here serve the same kind of fare, so be prepared to eat similar meals throughout your stay. There is more of an emphasis here on Khmer and Thai food, and although this can be enjoyable as it is authentic, it is not of a similar standard to other parts of the country and this is not a foodie paradise by any stretch of the imagination.
One of the best parts of Kampong Chhnang when it comes to food is the local market which serves an array of weird and wonderful snacks.
How to get around
The center of Kampong Chhnang is small so you can easily walk around and wander along the river banks on foot. If you want to go further afield then it is easy to cycle around and take in all the sights that way. Many guesthouses will rent you a bicycle or a scooter for USD1-5 per day. If you prefer you can get a motodop or a tuk-tuk to take you around and you can also rent these for a full day with a driver for around USD10.
How to get to and from
Kampong Cham is about 2 hours away from Phnom Penh in a taxi, so getting here is relatively easy. There is an airport, but strangely it is never used. As such the closest airport to Kampong Chhnang is Pochentong Airport on the outskirts of Phnom Penh about an hour and a half away.
There are several different bus companies that make the trip between Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh, costing around USD10-12. You can also get a bus to Battambang from Kampong Chhnang for the same price.
As there is no bus station in Kampong Chhnang, buses tend to leave from different areas.
Another way to make the trip to Phnom Penh is to get a minibus which usually costs around USD16 although there is not much different between these and the larger buses and they don’t go significantly faster despite the price difference.
You can also take a taxi to Phnom Penh which costs USD10 for a single seat in a shared taxi and around USD50 if you want to book the whole vehicle.
Boats also run from Kampong Chhnang and cross the river to Kampong Leaeng. These are the local passenger ferries and you can catch one for around USD1. You can also charter a boat to take you around the Tonle Sap and across to Kampong Leaeng for USD15 in high season.
Boats sometimes run to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although the service is sporadic and it shuts down completely in low season and sometimes doesn’t re-open. If you want to see if this service is running then it is best to ask once you are in Kampong Chhnang.
Kampong Chhnang is known as a safe place to visit and violent crime, particularly where foreigners are involved, is low. That said you should always remain vigilant and not carry valuables with you, especially at night.
Take care if you use the passenger ferries or any boats in Kampong Chhnang. Many of these can be overloaded with good and they can, and do, sink. As such it is better to observe before you buy a ticket and if the situation looks unsafe then you should probably give a boat trip a miss.
Cambodia has both malaria and dengue fever so take care not to get bitten. There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever so make sure to cover up by wearing long sleeved clothes and using lots of repellent. This is particularly important around dusk.
There is only basic healthcare available in Kampong Chhnang with a few pharmacies and clinics scattered around town. As such if you are seriously ill you will need to go to Phnom Penh for treatment.