Oddar Meanchey is one of the smallest provinces of Cambodia located in the far Northwest bordering with Thailand. Its name means Victory Province and the provincial capital is called Samraong. This area was formerly known as Phanomsok, a province of Thailand, which was ceded to French Indochina in 1906, and now remains a part of Cambodia. This province is also a recent creation that was carved out of Siem Reap Province, which the government did not control for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
The countryside is covered by the Dangrek Mountains (or escarpment, as they are sometimes called), which was an optimal shelter for the Khmer Rouge to hide. It is a very remote province that has been a notorious place, because this is where he nastiest of the nasty Khmer Rouge made their last stand. The diabolical Pol Pot and his seemingly bloodthirsty henchmen, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan holed up here for the last years of the Khmer Rouge’s existence (another of the henchmen, Ieng Sary, already worked out a surrender and defection deal with the government in 1996)
Pol Pot died mysteriously here, after a supposed power struggle within the power elite (he had Son Sen and his family murdered) and after a controversial show trial. The debate focused on whether it was real or just a sham staged for the outside world to try to legitimize remaining Khmer Rouge figures. The trial took place in the power centre of the Khmer Rouge, the village of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot died mysteriously after he was sentenced to house arrest and the international community began real efforts (for the first time ever) to capture and put this butcher on trial.
His henchmen had more than enough reasons to believe that he wasn’t dead at that point, because a Pol Pot on trial, as the ringleader most responsible for the genocide wrought upon his fellow countrymen, would probably have tried to shift portions of the blame (rightfully in the case of these guys) to the rest of the power elite.
The Khmer Rouge kept fragmenting after that and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan worked out a surrender-amnesty deal with the Cambodian government and Ta Mok (also called The Butcher) was subsequently captured and is still awaiting a trial in Phnom Penh. As of March 2000, the United Nations and the Cambodian government finally seem set to come up with an agreement on putting the top surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime on trial in Cambodia, with assistance from and in a partnership with the International Community. Stay tuned though, as this has been a real political football with seemingly more concern for one-upsmanship and personal gain than justice for the dead and surviving victims of Khmer Rouge brutality.
The international border is 14.5 km from the circle in Anlong Veng (Anlong Veng-Choam-Choam- Srawngam and O Smach-Chong Jom). There are plenty of tanks and tank shells to look at along the way and also a strange site in the form of a boulder that had Khmer Rouge soldiers carved out of the sides of it- they have all been decapitated since government forces took control of Anlong Veng. Anyway, it’s an interesting little ride to a low-lying part of the Dangkrek Mountains. The road is in fairly good shape with the exception of the climb up a rocky hillside near the border.
Oddor Meanchey province is 6,158 square kilometres big. It’s located in the far Northwest of the country and is bordering to the North with a lengthy borderline to Thailand, to the East with Preah Vihear, to the West with Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap to the South. In the North the province consists of the re-known Dangkrek Mountains, which are more or less the hill foods of the massive mountain range (the real Dangkrek Mountains) coming from Thailand. There is a nice interesting wildlife sanctuary called Kulen Promtep in the Southeast of the province. The rest of the province is an agricultural used strip, where the illegal logging of the 1980s and 1990s shows its rampant face.
The current population in this province is about 102,835 people or 0,7% of the country?s total population (14,363,519 person in Cambodia, 2007, provincial government data), with 52,650 male and 50,185 female. The population density is therefore 16,7 people per square kilometre.
The country has a tropical climate – warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travellers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms.
Climate: Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
– Cool season: November- March (22c-28c)
– Hot season: March- May (27c -35c)
– Rainy season: May – October (24c-32c, with humidity up to 90%.)
The province’s economy is 93% based on farming and the remaining other 7% are based on fishing and trading. Because of its border with Thailand, the international trade is also booming and becoming another important sector of the province’s economy. There is several developing plans from province based NGO’s, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Thailand and Cambodian government itself. The economy and infrastructure of the province was sustainably destructed during the Khmer Rouge stand and needs therefore a whole new stabile backbone.
If you wish to go to Anlong Veng you best come from Siem Reap via Major Road No 64 (distance: 142km). The time of journey vary depending on the season between 4-6hours. The easiest transport mean is a share taxi, which will charge you around US$4-5. Anlong Veng is also connected by reasonable roads to the provincial capital Samraong (US$4) in the West and Prasat Preah Vihear to the East.
You can book a Private Taxi online in advance for a few dollars more.
The road to Siem Reap is in good condition, but driving in Cambodia is still challenging in the extreme, and should be attempted only by experienced riders. Speeding taxis, slow cows, and oblivious children are the norm. The trip calls for a dirt or road bike, no smaller than 250cc. It can be made in a day, but two days with a layover in Kampong Thom is a more relaxed alternative and allows time to visit the pre-Angkorian ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk. Leave Phnom Penh via the Japanese Bridge and follow National Highway No 6 75km to the North. You’ll reach the Skun intersection (Skun is known for its exotic foods – check out the fried spiders, turtle eggs and more at roadside stands.), where you have to turn left and follow NH 6 to Kampong Thom – about 2-3 hours. In Kampong Thom, the Arunreas Hotel (062-961294), Stung Sen Royal Hotel (012-309495) and Mittapheap Hotel are all decent mid-range places. Arunras Guesthouses and Restaurant next to the hotel is the place to eat cheaply.
From Kampong Thom to Siem Reap the trip takes another 2 hours. From there you?ll have to search the Major Road 64 to Anlong Veng. This will take you another 6h on bumpy unpaved dirt roads through monotonous dry forest changing sometimes to jungle sections. Going to Samraong: (Share Taxis/Pick Up/Motorbike) Heading west on the NH 6 from Siem Reap you’ll reach an intersection after 51km. Turn right and you enter after some 100m a small town called Kralanh (US$1.5 from Siem Reap or Sisophon). From here you take another pick up or share taxi to the North on laterit-paved and bumpy Minor Road 68 (US$2-3, 2-3hours, 65km). Sometimes you can find early taxis leaving to Samraong from Siem Reap (US$4-5).
You can book a Private Taxi online in advance for a few dollars more.
As Samraong isn’t big at all you will easily find the central market with several food stalls around offering saucepans of pre-cooked food for around 2,000-3,000 Riel a serve. Unless the pots are still hot, it’s a good idea to have them hear your servings up again so that you don’t get more than you bargained for like getting sick. If you would like to go more for some sophisticated food, check the Santepheap restaurant (one of the best in town), where you might find some proper dishes, but don’t expect Western food.
The best restaurant in town is only open for breakfast and lunch. A friendly English- and French speaking Cambodian gentleman and his family run it. They can make up most Thai Khmer dishes that you may wasn’t and also serve a good breakfast of eggs, French bread and coffee. The restaurant scene in Anlong Veng is similarly limited as in Samraong. There are several local food stalls around the central roundabout offering some local dishes at very reasonable prices mostly its typical Khmer and Chinese noodle dishes.
As it is quite common in Cambodia even small towns, such as Samraong have at least one marked. You may also find a market in Samraong centre, which is a busy area with local shops dealing the local daily consumer products, like fish, fruits, vegetables, meats and packed products. Most of the food and drink shops are surrounding the market.