The quest for the hidden temple in Kampong Cham
Kampong Cham is famous for its bamboo bridge. Unfortunately we came at a wrong time: in wet season the bridge gets washed away and that’s all we saw – a few remnants of its summertime glory. Luckily it didn’t spoil all the fun. We walked randomly across town and encountered a small carnival, watched men playing petanque (this time taking it more seriously with a scoreboard and everything) and drank coconuts next to the river. We also discovered a strange little neighbourhood filled with luxurious villas and attended a wedding in the evening (from the boardwalk that is).
The next day we rented a motorbike and drove off into the countryside in search for an old wooden Buddhist temple. Sacred Wat Maha Leap is one of the last remaining wooden pagodas left in the country. More than a century old (with a beautifully painted wooden roof), it was only spared devastation by the Khmer Rouge because they converted it into a hospital. Many of the Khmers who were put to work in the surrounding fields perished here; 500 bodies were thrown into graves on site, now camouflaged by a tranquil garden.
The search for the temple turned into a real quest. We drove through many muddy paths to first find another Buddhist temple where we were greeted by a the cutest kids ever. While we were searching the grounds (looking for the wooden temple) they followed us everywhere and we could hear their giggles echo through the buildings. I took the most beautiful photo of them while they were peeking through one of the temple’s windows.
We continued our route and eventually managed to find the wooden temple where a young Buddhist monk swept the floors for us (there was a sufficient amount of guano on the floors, on which we had to walk barefooted). The place was just stunning and we were so happy to have found it. Instead of returning home immediately we decided to look for a nearby weaving village as well. There we bought the typical hand woven Cambodian krama. Our little trip turned out to be quite a success… until the rain came and the roads turned into a giant mud slide. We got home safely (and slowly) but had to be hosed down (together with the motorbike) to remove all the mud.
Kampong Cham travel information
- Transport: in by bus from Siem Reap and out by bus to Kratie. Motorbike rental at Lazy Mekong Daze.
- Stay: The clean and well maintained Reasmey Cheanich Hotel.
- Food: Local food with a kind owner at Lazy Mekong Daze. We also ate well at Smile Café but the many bugs flying in in the evening (and landing in our food) prevented us from coming back.
- Things to do: Walk the town, go search the wooden temple (aka Wat Maha Leap) & buy a krama along the way. We got a good map at the place where we rented our motorbike.