Was going to mention my last ride but you beat me to it. thanks. It was a good ride. just enough fallen trees to duck under, just enough mud and just enough sand. plenty of forest and not a lot of people. Nothing overly burdening. I wouldnt go it alone as when adrian got stuck in the mud it was nice to have the extra bodies to dig him out. good for real off road enthusiast and good for guys like me that just kind of cruise along and avoid the strenuous stuff like the cardamoms that al and steven did right after this ride.
following up with peter, steven was curious about the area north of tumring and apparently there are plenty of trails in the area. veer to the right and head towards stung treng or to the left towards t'beng meanchey.
though the temple was in a ruinous state, it is always the hightlight as I achieved my goal I set off to do. the mekong was another hightlight. I dont know if I would attempt this trip in reverse. wtih all the road work that has taken place in the country, its nice to have this remote area to still get off the beaten track.
I take it you guys are seriously acquainted to bike riding in Cambodia. We are hitting Cambodia in a few weeks. Can any of you point us to some good routes, that are big fun but feasible two-up on a Minsk?
In Pnom Penh now, we'll pop by in the Cali2!
Route in Cambodia so far : Voen Kham - stung treng - Ban Lung - Koh Njiek*- Sen monorom - Kompong Cham - PP
From here we want to go Kampong - Bokor - Shihanouk - Koh kong - Cardamom mountains - Battambang - Some temple north of Battambang - Siem reap - Koh ker - Sambor Preah something - Pnom Pen - Vietnam
If the bike holds, we wanna ride it via the Ho Chi Min highway back to Hanoi to sell it Anyone interested, owned by an old lady only to go to church ;-)
The star at Koh Ngek is not about the spelling.... Excited by several reports of crossing the 'kirie provinces we set out to explore this bit. From Banlung to Lumphat was easy, after that the Minsk started overheating in the loose sand an midday sun... we had a hard time getting to Koh Ngiek. The next day, we followed the indication of locals due south, but at some point (after crossing a ramshackle wooden bridge to be more precise) the road turned into a singletrack and started to look really abandoned, apart from one single tire track and a few red bull cans. The total absence of any other tyre track made us doubt about the route, but it was the Minsk who decided for us: overheated because of the 2-up with backpacks, it lacked the power to deal with all the fun climbs and some of the river crossings. We were beaten, for the first time in over 5000 km the Minsk had to give up. We dreaded at the idea of having to go all the way back to stung treng, and then down to Kratie and Sen Monorom. Somehow, the locals in Koh Njek guessed this and proposed to put the old Minsk in the back of a Pickup and drive us there, for a price cheaper than our gas would have worked out. we swallowed our pride to ride the whole stretch, partially because out of curiosity: we couldn't imagine a pickup truck to ride where we were.
The next morning, the Toyota sets of (18 adults 4 kids, 6 bags of rice, our bike and kit) and contrarious to local indications, he made a turn to the northeast after an estimated 15 km, just at the last houses. After 5 clicks tru the forest and 2 dry river crossings, we arrived at a brand sparking new road! straight to Sen Monorom! Altogether we're happy that it worked out this way, as we didn't know about this new road so at least we got to ride some 40 kilometers on the heroic old track, rather than the newly built chicken run ;-) I hope this doesn't take the fun out of the 'Kirie crossing...
btw: if the missus wants the fun, she has to get dirty as well ;-)
Mingh. After crossing the Lao border into Cambodia, you headed straight for Banlung and the "Death Highway" to Sen Monorom?! You are the first to have mentioned a new road between Banlung and Sen Monorom in north eastern Cambodia. Good stuff. You are blazing new roads in Cambodia already.
About a trip via the Cardamon Mountains, you will be blazing another trail here. The road between Sre Ambel and Koh Kong via the four river crossings has been written up many times now, but only the guys who have written the "Adventure Cambodia" books have written about the roads between Koh Kong and Pailin / Battambang. Maybe this one will catch your fancy too? A contributor here put up some pictures of the area earlier this year. See them on
The "Adventure Cambodia" books can be found in Phnom Penh. The road network north of Koh Kong comes out somewhere on the main road between Pailin and Battambang, which is on every map.
After Battambang, you will probably also visit Siem Reap to see the temples at Angkor Wat. This is on the north side of the Tonle Sap lake. How to get to Vietnam from there? If you do not want to use the main highways to return to Phnom Penh, you could head north to Tbeng Meancheay in Preah Vihear province and then follow the track further east to the Mekong River just opposite from Stung Treng. The name of the village on the west side of the Mekong just opposite from Stung Treng is Thalabarivat. For some info about this ride, check in with Paul Hay in Siem Reap. He just recently did this jungle ride with one of his tour groups. See
How to get back to Vietnam from Cambodia? The two fully legal international crossings which have long been open to foreigners are at Bavet / Moc Bai on the old Hwy 1, and at Phnom Den / Tien Bien on the old Hwy 2. The starting point for both of these roads is Phnom Penh.
However, if you are up in the Stung Treng / Kratie area again and you want to look at something new, why not have a look at the newly legal crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam on Hwy 7 to the east of Kampong Cham? Still another announcement about this crossing is below. Simply head east over the new bridge in front of Kampong Cham. At Krek, turn right to get to the border crossing at Tropleng Phlong / Xa Mat. Tay Ninh in Vietnam is about 30KM past this crossing. There are no great sights along this route, but you would be one of the first foreigners to cross at this point. If it doesn't work, it's only about five hours on main roads back to Phnom Penh. No matter which way you cross, your big advantage is that you have Vietnamese papers for your Minsk.
An international bordergate between southern Tay Ninh province of Vietnam and Kompong Cham province of Cambodia was inaugurated on January 16.
The Xa Mat-Trapaing Phlong national bordergate was upgraded to the international level to facilitate bilateral trade between the two neighbouring countries.
Present at the ceremony were representatives from the Cambodian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh and Kompong Cham provincial authorities and almost 1,000 people from the two countries. (VNA)
To expand a bit further on this new crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam... Forget Saigon and the Mekong Delta, unless this is something that you really want to see in Vietnam. A motorcycle ride up or down the old Hwy 1 along the coast in Vietnam is NOT interesting. There is too much crazy truck and bus traffic, and there is not a whole lot to see unless you are into beach resorts.
The road to use on motorcycles in Vietnam these days is the new "Ho Chi Minh Highway", which is essentially the old French Hwy 14 via the Central Highlands. It is on every old map. This old "new" road basically terminates and originates in Tay Ninh, which is what makes this new border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia so interesting. You no longer need to go via Saigon on the way between Cambodia and Hanoi. Tay Ninh is the new junction point.
It is possible that Mingh is going to be the very first to actually do this trip from Kampong Cham in Cambodia to Tay Ninh in Vietnam and then north from there to Hanoi via the Central Highlands in southern Vietnam on the "new" Ho Chi Minh Highway. This same trip is also now valid in the Hanoi to Kampong Cham direction.
Will Mingh be the first to actually do it this way? It looks good, eh?
Thanks for the response
As to the Road Banlung - Sen Monoron:
It's shiny new, but as we found it, a few km southeast of Koh Ngiek, it seemed to continue north to Banlung as far as we could see, but we didn't try. For as much as we understood from the people in Sen Monoron,it's not finished until Banlung. Don't have a map here, but maybe a few bridges need to be built still...
Cardamoms: time (visum expiring in 2 weeks with all of the north still to explore) and power in our bike are advising strongly to give it a go some other time... Seeing the marvellous photos, we're dead envious, but there's just no way we can make it 2 up on a old 125cc...It surprised me to hear that so few bikers have been there, seeing that a few of the dirt bike adventure tour operators in Cambodia featuring the cardamom. It's always good to leave a bit in a country as a reason to come back. We resolved that we come back in a year or so, to make a proper expedition (rent actual dirt bikes in Bangkok, bring gps, tents and the lot) to explore the area.
Tomorrow we're heading out to Battambang, then go try the route north of Sisophon to the bantai chmar (?) temple and from there to siem reap. From there haven't decided yet. Maybe route 66 to Preah Kahn, maybe further north to Preah Vihear. We havent't yet made up our minds as to where to cross the border with Vietnam, but tha Ho Chi Min Route is on our program from day one, when Digby (www.exploreindochina.com) advised ut to try this.
We did a short bit of it ( about a 100k from Hoa Binhn south to Ban Phang, to meet the Na Meo border with Laos) Very nice all, but none of the bridges are ready... there are crossings and short detours everywhere, I'll go into detail with our travel log next time I log in
Happy trails all!
Mingh- Banteay Chmar site is great, but also on the south side of the temple behind the market is a single standing 4 headed bayon head structure. Mok Boun (face 4) on the opposite side of the site is another temple in more ruinous state. accross the street from the front of the temple behind the wat is a large baray with a Mebon temple in the center. should be dry enough to drive accross the baray. South of Banteay Chmar about 7K towards sisophon is the turn off to Banteay Tope. its about 2k east of the main road and on the south side. thanks again for stopping by. always nice to see off the beaten path travelers come thru our doors.
The old Hwy 13 between Laos and Cambodia appears clearly on this old map. After crossing the border, you end up at Stung Treng in Cambodia. The road to Banlung is just to the south of Stung Treng. Move to the very bottom right hand corner of this map, where you can see old Hwy 19. This is the road to Banlung that Mingh just did. Updates about the condition of the old Hwy 19 between Stung Treng and Banlung are encouraged.
See Mingh's post above about the new road between Banlung and Sen Monorom. A new Phnom Penh Post report about the current condition of the road between Sen Monorom and Phnom Penh is on
The central market in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri province, is a vision of
the past-a not-so-distant era when locals lived almost entirely off the
Even in bright mid-morning, it's dark in the slender passageways that
weave through the dusty cluster of wooden shacks and rusty corrugated
iron. The sun shafts through in unexpected places, illuminating a stack
of mangoes, a severed cow's hoof, a fighting cock under a cane basket.
Babies and grandparents swing in hammocks, puppies play in a rubbish
heap, and fish swim lazily in buckets of water before being swiftly
decapitated and hawked, blood oozing, to passers-by.
But step outside, onto Sen Monorom's newly paved main street, and the
tiny provincial capital is bounding into modernity. The past year has
brought the Internet, the first western bar, and increasing numbers of
tourists. Sen Monorom is changing so fast the guidebooks can't keep up.
"Three years ago, it was common to see local Phnong people bringing an
elephant to town from the hill villages to load up with supplies," says
Mariam Smith, a Swedish NGO worker who has lived in Sen Monorom since
2003. "That hardly ever happens now."
What was once a mostly Phnong area is becoming increasingly diverse, as
immigrants from other provinces seek their fortune in the east. Swathes
of the grasslands have become pine plantations, tarmac and mobile
phones have arrived, and new buildings are springing up on every
But the most significant change in the past five years has been the
numbers of tourists to the province, a range of local residents said.
According to Ministry of Tourism figures, in 2000 Sen Monorom received
298 visitors, most of whom were intrepid foreigners eager to experience
a piece of Cambodia's "wild east." Last year, more than 10,000 people
made the trip-9,000 of them Khmer.
This vast increase can be attributed to one thing-the new road from
In 2004, work finished on the once-infamous stretch of road between
Memot and Snuol, cutting the trip from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom-in the
dry season-from 3 days to around 7 hours. In the mid-1990s, the road
was in such disrepair that the quickest route to the capital from Sen
Monorom was a five-day odyssey via Vietnam. The new road made it
feasible for urban Cambodians to take a weekend jaunt to the cooler
climes of Mondulkiri, and numbers increased ten-fold within the space
of a year - from 919 Khmer tourists in 2003, to 8,295 in 2004.
Air-conditioned buses leave the city every day for Sen Monorom, as do
half a dozen fully loaded pickup trucks.
As a result, Sen Monorom is in the grip of a building boom, as
residents gamble on the allure of tourist dollars. In 2001, there were
five guesthouses; now there are 16, plus two hotels and a
spa/meditation retreat. The road into town is lined with newly opened
guesthouses, with least two more under construction. Existing
businesses are feverishly extending their premises in time for Khmer
New Year, when locals expect an influx of more than 1,000 guests.
Land prices are exploding, residents told the Post. Seven years ago,
when Sum Dy bought the land his self-named guesthouse is now built on,
it cost him $1,500. Now, he claims it's worth $80,000. Many people
around town have similar stories. Land that once sold for $20 per meter
five years ago, now sells for $1,000, as locals and immigrants buy up
large sections and subdivide.
Guesthouse owners are banking on the construction of a sealed road all
the way to Sen Monorom, rumored to start in 2007, which will make it
even easier for Phnom Penhois to come up for a weekend retreat. There
is also talk of opening the border with Vietnam at nearby Dac Dam,
which will bring in foreign tourists travelling overland from Dalat
Even without these developments, the pattern of the last few years
suggests this speculation may not be unfounded.
Mondulkiri, with its rolling hills, forests, elephant trekking, and
local hill-tribe minorities such as the Phnong, is a world away from
the bustle of Phnom Penh-and it has the added bonus of much colder
temperatures-"free air conditioning" as one Western resident put it.
For Khmer visitors, the main draw is Bou Sra waterfall, immortalized by
early 70s pop star Sin Sisamuth in the famous song "Teuk Chrous Bou
Sra." The karaoke video, featuring the falls and local Phnong dancers,
inspired many Khmer to visit their country's largest waterfall. The
road from town to the falls was also improved in 2004, so what once
took two and a half hours by motorcycle-and is described in the latest
Lonely Planet as "one of the worst roads in the country"-now sports
four bridges and, in the dry season, only takes an hour. All this means
that for a few weekends a year, at major holidays like Khmer New Year,
every room in town is full.
"Last year, many people came to ask for rooms, but everywhere was full.
They had to drive back to Kratie or Kampong Cham," says Sum Dy, who
hopes to add 12 new rooms to his existing five by April.
Mondulkiri is also being groomed as an eco-tourism destination by the
government and a range of environmental groups.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of dry forest carpet the hills and
valleys of Mondulkiri, one of the last refuges in Southeast Asia for
large mammals such as tigers, leopards, elephants, gibbons, and
Cambodia's national animal, the possibly extinct Kouprey.
Around three quarters of the province is now under some form of
protection, much of it run by the WWF in collaboration with the
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
According to Keo Sopheak, Senior Project Official for the Sre Pok
Wilderness Area Project, part of the 430,000-hectare Mondulkiri
Protected Area, eco-tourism will have an essential role in ensuring
these reserves are economically sustainable.
"Tourism will provide work for the communities, make money to maintain
the protected area and build schools and health centres for the Phnong
communities," he said.
By 2009, the project hopes to run tours direct from Siem Reap's temple
complex to high-end, eco-friendly safari lodges deep in the core zone
of the reserve.
Although "eco-tourism" is something of a mantra here-reverentially
invoked by everyone from moto drivers, to forest rangers, to tourism
officials-there's still a long way to go before the concept is fully
understood in Mondulkiri. Many locals use "eco-tourism" to mean looking
at waterfalls and riding elephants.
So far, the Sre Pok project is the only major scheme of its kind in the
area, and the visitors it will bring, though wealthy, will be a tiny
proportion of total tourist numbers. Illegal logging and hunting are
widespread, and already, polystyrene boxes and plastic bags litter the
rocks at Bou Sra. On the path leading to the falls, stall-holders sell
wild animal parts, believed by many Khmer to have health benefits.
Kong Bunly is a "Worldwide Wildlife Warrior," a ranger in Mondulkiri's
forests, and part of his job is to make sure people know that such
activity is illegal. "Some tourists come to Cambodia to see animals,
not just waterfalls and temples. So we have to protect these wild
animals, because they are important for eco-tourism. If tourists see
dead ones for sale, it looks bad," he said.
Unsurprisingly, on his inspection he saw no sign of the loris
skeletons, elephant teeth, and antelope horns proudly displayed to
visitors just 30 minutes earlier.
Yet despite the inevitable pollution an influx of visitors will bring
to the region, the promise of eco-tourist dollars is a serious economic
incentive for impoverished people to help conserve their unique
wilderness. The industry is already employing people who would
otherwise resort to logging or poaching to survive. "All our staff in
Sre Pok are Phnong," said Sopheak. "Before they were hunters-now they
work for us to stop hunting."
Tourism will no doubt bring further changes to Mondulkiri. It remains
to be seen whether it can live up to the expectations of locals, NGOs
and the government officials alike, and be the magic formula that will
bring in the dollars, and safeguard the environment at the same time.
These pictures were taken before the road crossing between southern Laos and Stung Treng became widely open in 2003. For new pictures of the road between southern Laos and Stung Treng, see
So who will be the first to get some new pictures up about the old Hwy 19 between Stung Treng and Banlung, and about the new road from Banlung and Sen Monomrom? Maybe it will be Mingh? Enjoy your visit.
I was out in the Sen Monorom area about two weeks ago and I can confirm that the road is in good condition all the way from Snoul to SM. All wide, easy graded dirt. Unfortunately, I didn't get any further along the road to Ban Lung and will have to save that for another trip.
All of the maps show the road to SM branching off Highway 7 about 12km north of Snoul. In fact, you are better off heading south from Snoul towards the VN border for just over 6km and turning there. It's the only sign-posted intersection on the road, although the sign wasn't much help. The first few kilometres are the worst bit of the road, but even then there's just a few potholes to watch out for.
It's all scorched earth until you get out past the town marked as Leu on some maps, about halfway between Snoul and SM. Then the forest comes right up to the sides of the road, and we even saw langurs crossing the street! After years of driving in VN, I've only ever seen monkeys in cages at Cuc Phuong national park.
I asked around in Sen Monorom about whether there was another road out to Kratie but we were sent back down the same road to Snoul. As you come down from SM, you get views into VN and can even make out Nui Ba Den near the Cao Dai complex. We left SM late morning and made it to Kampi in time to catch the dolphins and the sunset over the Mekong. Monkeys and dolphins in one day -- Cambodia rocks!