For a supremely relaxing bicycle ride, it’s hard to beat Koh Paen, a rural island in the Mekong River, connected to the southern reaches of Kompong Cham town by an elaborate bamboo bridge (foreigner US$1) in the dry season or a local ferry (with/without bicycle 1500/1000r) in the wet ...
For a supremely relaxing bicycle ride, it’s hard to beat Koh Paen, a rural island in the Mekong River, connected to the southern reaches of Kompong Cham town by an elaborate bamboo bridge (foreigner US$1) in the dry season or a local ferry (with/without bicycle 1500/1000r) in the wet season.
The bamboo bridge is an attraction in itself, built entirely by hand each year and looking from afar like it is made of matchsticks. However, its future is in doubt as a new concrete bridge has just opened to traffic.
The island offers a slice of rural local life, with fruit and vegetable farms and traditional wooden houses. During the dry season, several sandbars – the closest thing to a beach in this part of Cambodia – appear around the island.
"The main highlight of my time in Kampong Cham was the bamboo bridge and the island it led to. The click and clatter of the bamboo strips and the softness of the multiple layers felt like it could give way any minute. You dared not look over the edge and motos and cars would zoom past you creating an adrenalin fuelled wobble in the path as you tried to find your momentum again. It was unique and exhilarating, although be prepared to pay for the privilege – the dollar you pay being over four times that of the local price."
One of the more unique experiences from my time in Cambodia was cycling around Koh Paen, an island situated in the middle on the Mekong River, which, in the dry season is connected to the mainland town of Kampong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge structure.
The bridge is hand built by locals at the beginning of every dry season, and it then taken down at the beginning of the wet season, when a ferry transports people across to the island. From a distance, it looks like a string of matchsticks filling the void between the mainland and the island.
Next to the bridgehead are a few simple restaurants with portable tables under parasols. Some are placed into the river, so that the guests sit in the shallow water.
On the east bank of the island you can see fishermen using massive hand-held nets in the shape of enormous tennis rackets. With their glistening white nets, the lush green grass and the muddy Mekong waters, in the late afternoon light these fishermen can be particularly photogenic.
There are plenty of local wats on the island and locals make a living fishing, as well as growing tobacco and sesame.
Across the island rise tall mud houses, where harvested tobacco is dried by fire, and edible crops of all types grow. Choose your guide well for a biology lesson in pomelos, chillis, sesame seeds, betel nuts and enormous jackfruit.
As is customary in these parts of the world, you are charged a foreigner tax to take our bicycles over the bridge, but it's well worth it if not a bit bumpy! On the other side, you can spend a few hours cycling through small villages, rice fields and farmland and you are greeted everywhere by excitable and smiley children.
At some point these kids have been taught to ‘high-five’ you as you cycle past teh kids and there appears to be no bounds to the enjoyment that they get from this small gesture!
You are pretty overwhelmed by how happy these children seem and how the simple act of smiling and exchanging ‘hello’ can provide them so much visible pleasure.
It is a far cry from the Western world and you suppose, that if tourism ever take off in a big way in Kampong Cham, that this will change soon.
The bridge (when above water) is about a 15-minute walk to the south of central Kampong Cham.
Guest Name: Mr. Mac
N.of Person: 2 pax
Booked: Best Cambodia and Vietnam Highlight Trip
Tour Style: Classic Highlight Tours
Duration: 10 Days