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Kampong Cham

It may come as a surprise that sleepy Kampong Cham is one of Cambodia's largest towns. Set upon the banks of the mighty Mekong River, its name derives from the ethnic Cham, or Chinese Muslims, who inhabit many of the surrounding villages.

Retaining its original charm, this town is home to wide boulevards, French colonial buildings and well-maintained gardens. Arguably the most striking attraction of this peaceful location is Ko Paen Bamboo Bridge, which once held the crown as the longest bamboo bridge in the world. Now it has diminished in size but still regularly becomes a local meeting spot; handfuls of children and adults gather on this traditional stilted construction to chat, watch the sun rise or set and, every once in a while, to catch fish. More unusual wild delicacies are also eaten here, including the notorious fried crickets!

The relaxed river front promenade makes for a scenic stroll and is unmissable during a stay here, but better still are the temples nearby. Many of these date to the 6th century and reveal Cambodia's oldest remnants of Angkorian architecture – a must-see for history buffs! Wat Nokor is the easiest to reach from this town at a mere half an hour walk away from the riverfront and serves as a great example of Cambodia’s well-preserved ancient empire with its exquisitely carved stone sculptures. Those after a more modern feel will not be disappointed either, as more contemporary touches have been added; most remarkably, a Buddhist pagoda inside with its bright tiled roof. If you are lucky, you may catch glimpses of monks and their novices here wandering among the temple in their vivid orange robes.

We recommend including Kampong Cham into your itinerary Cambodia if you are in search of a peaceful retreat where you can meander along the riverfront, visit picturesque Wat temples and experience a more understated glimpse into Khmer life.

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To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson

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