Discover’s guide to the Cambodia less travelled

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Discover’s guide to the Cambodia less travelled
Aqua Mekong

Discover’s guide to the Cambodia less travelled
Jaan Bai, Battambang

Photo: Sam Jam

Discover’s guide to the Cambodia less travelled
Bamboo train, Battambang

Photo: Conor Wall

Discover’s guide to the Cambodia less travelled
Bric-À-Brac, Battambang

Photo: Ellie Dyer

Satisfy your wanderlust by exploring Cambodia’s
lesser-known corners

Bric-À-Brac

Photo: Ellie Dyer
Photo: Ellie Dyer

Set amid the art galleries and historic architecture of Battambang, Bric-à-Brac is an Aladdin’s cave of design ideas that provides a quirky splash of sophistication to Cambodia’s second city. Textile designer Morrison Polkinghorne and cookbook author and stylist Robert Carmack have artfully restored this city-centre building into a fascinating space that celebrates its past, with features such as the vintage, swirled floor tiles carefully retained. The distressed finishes of the three-room bed and breakfast evoke a sense of bygone glamour, yet each unique space is packed with modern comforts, with breakfast delivered to bedrooms daily. Visit the ground-floor boutique to purchase intriguing collectibles from across the region and beyond, from leather shadow puppets to colourful crockery, and discover Polkinghorne’s collection of specialist looms and hand-woven tassels. With charming owners and thoughtful antique flourishes throughout, a stay at Bric-à-Brac will be one to remember.

Tel: +855 (0)77 531 562   Website: bric-a-brac.asia

Aqua Mekong

Aqua MekongThe Tonle Sap river and its surrounding environs are home to rare bird life, fishing communities and photogenic waterscapes. While a number of craft plying its waters offer high-end experiences, the Aqua Mekong – which runs trips from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, on to Siem Reap and back – trumps them all in terms of luxury, design and service. It is essentially a floating five-star hotel with every modern convenience. Launches crewed by professional guides whisk guests to out-of-the-way sights, and there are cocktails, en-suite cabins and creations from award-winning chef David Thompson to look forward to once back aboard.

Tel: +65 (0)62 704 002   Website: aquaexpeditions.com

Mayura Hill Resort

Given the excellent road and five-hour journey time, Mondulkiri is now a realistic two-night jaunt from Phnom Penh. And with its well-appointed rooms, air-conditioned gym and the only hotel swimming pool in the province, Mayura is still the standout option in Mondulkiri. All villas come with sweeping views of the surrounding hills, and the well-groomed gardens give the place a palpable back-to-nature feeling.

Tel: +855 (0)77 980 980   Website: mayurahillresort.com

Terres Rouge

The warm and welcoming rooms at Terres Rouge boast plush touches that visitors have no right to expect in wild Ratanakiri. From outdoor showers and polished wooden floors to the Cambodian antiques and ethnic objects that accent all interiors, returning from a hard day’s exploration is a pleasure. With a spa and swimming pool also vying for guests’ attention, the options for refreshing one’s jungle-jaded legs are simply splendid.

Tel: +855 (0)12 770 650   Website: ratanakiri-lodge.com

Libations Bar

A perfect space for people watching, Libations offers up comfy streetside seating in central Battambang beneath the friendly Bric-à-Brac bed and breakfast. Sip on mint juleps and glasses of sweet kir, laden with blackcurrant liqueur, while supping on delicious platters of French cheese or some homemade rillettes. With its prime position on atmospheric Street 2, settle down and experience the comings and goings of this provincial capital.

Tel: +855 (0)77 531 562   Website: bric-a-brac.asia

Kampong Cham riverside

It’s not a bar per se; more an experience. Visitors to the attractive riverside town of Kampong Cham should definitely consider pulling up a chair at one of the tables set up by vendors on the banks of the Mekong River. Purchase an ice-cold beverage and snack on some of the freshest, tastiest roasted peanuts you are ever likely to encounter. The backdrop of low-rise colonial-era buildings doesn’t hurt the ambience either, making it a great spot to catch the breeze after a day out.

Kinyei Café

Welcoming and cosy, Kinyei Café serves up sumptuous coffees and light meals, including its version of the breakfast classic eggs benedict, from its central location on Battambang’s Street 1½.  And with input from experts at Feel Good Café, a well-regarded employee-owned social enterprise, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better brew nationwide. Watch the world go by from its upstairs lounge or rest tired limbs on the charming outdoor deck, before discovering your artistic side at the many  galleries in town.

Tel: + 855 (0)17 292 119   Website: kinyei.org

Jaan Bai

Photo: Sam Jam
Photo: Sam Jam

A titan of Battambang’s culinary scene, this restaurant embraces its name, which translates as ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer. Steaming curries, twice-cooked coconut-braised beef ribs and eggplant and mushroom dumplings are just some of the dishes offered at the compact eatery, where profits go toward sustaining the Cambodian Children’s Trust. However, its great reputation means this social enterprise is one of the town’s go-to dining destinations, so we recommend booking in advance.

Tel: + 855 (0)78 263 144   Website: cambodianchildrenstrust.org

Mayura Zipline

Bou Sraa waterfall in Mondulkiri province is one of Cambodia’s most famed and cherished natural wonders, inspiring songs and countless family road trips to its impressive double drop. But for visitors who need a bit more bang than the usual waterfall watching, Mayura Zipline provides the opportunity to whizz right across the falls from 100 metres up. After a crucial safety lesson, rangers escort groups up into the abundant canopy of the Bou Sraa eco-park, where seven ziplines await. The 300-metre flight across the falls is one of the most thrilling experiences we’ve come across in Cambodia.

Tel: +855 (0)11 797 779

Bamboo Train

Photo: Conor Wall
Photo: Conor Wall

Hurtling through the Battambang countryside while perched on a bamboo platform rattling along a misaligned single-track railway may (rightly) give health and safety inspectors nightmares, but this uproarious ride is a bone-jangling adventure for the brave of heart. For a princely sum of $5, tourists can perch on a rickety bamboo sheet and take the 20-minute journey down a track banked with butterfly-filled greenery to a local village. Be warned: if you meet another carriage along the way, one party will have to disembark, disassemble their vehicle and wait for the other to pass. But that’s all part of the fun of this very rural roller coaster, though rumours abound that it is earmarked for closure.

Batty Battambang

A large opening in the rock face at Battambang’s Phnom Sampeou is the source of an unusual nightly spectacle. At dusk, huge swarms of tiny bats leave the caves in search of food in the surrounding countryside, appearing like an undulating black river against the darkening sky.

 

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