Another natural area is the more distant and remote Phnom Nam Lyr Wildlife Reserve which is adjacent to the Vietnamese border. This area is just 100km from the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City! There is one good track into the area, from the old Dak Dam village (the new Dak Dam is to the north), but you will need a good vehicle and you will need to...more
There are three wildlife areas accessible from Sen Monorem, two of which are on the route in to the area from Phnom Penh.The first is the Snuol Wildlife Reserve and the almost adjacent Siema Biodiversity Conservation Area. Don’t be put off by the view of these areas from the road: the dust generated from the passing road traffic disappears after a...more
Don’t expect too much here, although there are fabulous views from the summit of the hill to the NW town, especially at sunrise and sunset. As this area was heavily bombed in the 1970s, it is recommended to go up the main track only. There is a Bunong shrine at the top, but our Bunong interpreter was fairly condescending about it, suggesting that...more
All the guest houses also provide food, but the menu is fairly repetitive.Particularly recommended for food are the Arun Rea II, the Prich Kiri and especially the Prich Chida. See Guest House listings for details of location. At Prich Kiri, there is a nice terrace – spoilt only by the begging of the family’s collection of dogs – and the Prich Chida...more
Despite being recommended by several guide books, we found Long Vibol to be pretty much bottom of the pile in Sen Monorem. The grounds and the eating area are pleasant - better than most, in fact - but the food was dry and uninspiring. There was all you wanted to drnk as long as it was jasmine tea or beer. Sigh.There are a whole lot of places in...more
Half way up Sen Monorem's main street lies the Middle of Somewhere Bar, the most obvious expat joint in town. To be honest, I never felt quite comfortable with the MoS Bar...and I'm not really sure why. The bar gets good reviews from ravellers (see the message board on the wall) but it seems a bit isolated from Sen Monorem. At one point, one of the...more
A few days after writing these tips and I have already had e-mails asking if you can cross the Cambodian-Vietnamese border in this area.The honest answer is I don't know, but my guess is that it would not normally be possible.There is a good track to the border near old Dak Dam village. I haven't been on the road the last kilometre or so, but from...more
There is a bus service to Phnom Penh, via Snuol and Kampong Cham every day (several times) and the guest houses will make arrangements for you. Tickets can also be bought at the bus office on the main street (just by the curve of the hill). I don’t know where the pick-up/drop-off place is in Phnom Penh (we came here by car) but it is a tough...more
The airport at Sen Monorem is not - as stated in the guidebooks - out of operation. There are no commercial air services, but there are both government flights (very occasionally) and flights operated by the MAF NGO using small planes. If you have contacts with MAF or other NGOs, you could try to see if you could buy a spare seat on a flight. A...more
Sen Monorem can provide the basics but that is really about it. You can buy tinned and dry goods from any of about 10 stores on the main street or market street (which is the dusty street that runs to the south near the top of main street). We bought things like batteries, biscuits, fruit juice, coffee and sweets easily enough. It is best to completely avoid Chinese-made batteries as they are just hopeless: they may cost half as much as Panasonic or Energizer, but only last for about 1% of the time. It always amazes me how these Chinese battery companies, with such badly made products, stay in business. While on the subject, it is possible to buy all kinds of incredibly badly made Chinese electrical products here, as elsewhere in Cambodia and SE Asia. With their spray-on painted chrome buttons and bad fittings, they represent the utter worst in manufactured goods. Stuff this badly made is actually hard to find even in China these days. Given the contempt we observed for these goods (by the sellers!!), it does not bode well for future Chinese exports. Laughably, the boxes for these truly awful products are plastered with the word “Quality”.
In the 1970s, the Sen Monorem and Ou Reang areas were fairly heavily bombed – for reasons still not well-known. The area to the north of the runway – in what is now a tree plantation – was heavily hit, including possibly one strike from a B52 so it may be wise not to wander off the beaten track here. The only other place in town known to be hit is...more
With the occasionally ferocious high winds in the area, the practice of burning fallow and last year’s grass can get out of hand very fast. We came very close to being burnt out of the Arun Rea II guest house when the burning of a neighbouring field got out of hand. The fire spreads incredibly fast, and with flames 50 feet high, can be very...more
There are three lakes in town, two large ones to the north of the ridge and one in front of the Mondolkiri Hotel. All attract large numbers of birds. About 1km north of the runway on the road to Busra is a small but fascinating lake and wetland that is difficult to access properly, although the neck of it laps up against the road. It is small and possibly seasonal, but again attracts a lot of interesting birds and insects.
Mountain biking is definitely a possibility in the area. To the south of town, the big plateaux create an area which is simply beautiful, and because the tracks generally keep to the ridges (not a single bridge between Sen Monorem and the old Dak Dam village at the border), it makes it an easy ride. If you are looking for the tougher tracks, simply head off the ridges into the forested valleys (but do heed the Warning tips: this is an area with very real risk of unexploded wartime bombs).
Do also remember that this is a sparsely populated area, so use a good map (not easily available but 1:50,000 maps are available in Phnom Penh) but also remember that the topo survey is from 1967 and many of the roads and tracks have changed.
Equipment: It is also possible to buy a mountain bike at the big moped shop in town.
The dry season – and hence the most popular and easiest time to visit – is from November to May, and the rest of the year is extremely wet. The road between Snuol and Sen Monorem becomes very difficult and turns into a sea of red mud. However, the dry season sees almost constant high winds, often strong enough to bring down branches and roof tiles....more
The Internet has now arrived in town and the local access point has opened up a wireless service that reaches much of the town. The wireless service can be very sporadic though, and pages load very slowly. If you don’t have a computer with you, there is an Internet Café on the main street and the same guy packs his stuff up and moves up to the Arun...more