The Long Haul: Getting to Preah Vihear

By Jody McPhillips

the Cambodia Daily

How hard is it to get to Preah Vihear from the Cambodian side? Pretty hard, and pretty uncomfortable. It’s also time-consuming and expensive.

The trip from Phnom Penh starts with a shared taxi or truck from the Central Market to Tbeang Meanchey, the capital of Preah Vihear province. A seat in an air-conditioned truck cab costs $10, while a seat in the truck bed costs between 10,000 and 15,000 riel (about $2.50 to $3.75).

The roads are bad, and the trip takes six or seven hours, arriving in mid-afternoon. That’s too late in the day to leave for Preah Vihear, which is another six- to eight-hour trip.

Options for the second day of the trip in­clude chartering a truck, which costs between $160 and $200 for the round-trip to the temple. The route goes through the town of Choam Khsan, the closest village to Preah Vihear.

The problem again is time. The trip by truck takes eight hours because the roads are so bad; if you don’t charter a whole truck and  leave early, you will wait so long for a taxi truck to fill with other passengers that it may be dark by the time you get to the mountain.

A cheaper, faster alternative is to hire motor­cycle taxis for about $40 per roundtrip. They travel a shorter distance to the mountain by taking forest tracks and get to its base in about six hours, but again, the tracks are in very poor condition.

The climb up the mountain is alternately  steep and gentle, through beautiful forests alive with birds. Fit climbers can make it up in about two hours; others may want to figure on three. While the narrow climbing trail is safe, the mountain is heavily mined, and the mines are often very close to the paths.

Allow time to make the climb before dark and find a safe place to hang your hammocks, as there are no guest houses. Temperatures on the mountain drop sharply at night, as the temples are built at one of the highest elevations in Cambodia. The temples themselves have been completely demined, officials say.

Three things to consider: the trip by moto is over very bad tracks, full of ruts and sand. Spills are common and both drivers and passengers are sore and surly by trip’s end.

The moto routes also pass through heavily mined areas, some marked and some not. While the rusting military debris along the road is fascinating, don’t stray off the paths for any reason.

Finally, , and the weather is somewhat similar to Bokor National Park. It can get cold at night, with frequent strong breezes and heavy clouds and mists shrouding the structures.


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