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Text and pictures by Bernhard Heiser

    Part 15:  Preah Vihear  -  Mototrip from Siem Reap
This little two-day trip happens in december 2003, after visiting a friend in Phnom Penh. I decide to visit Preah Vihear from Siem Reap. I heard about a new road between Anlong Veng and Preah Vihear ant want to check it out. During my evening walk around the market in Siem Reap there are plenty of motos offering me a short city ride. When I say "okay, let's go to Preah Vihear tomorrow", they usually start to laugh and tell me they have never been there before. Finally I meet one who is really interested, but has never done this trip either. I invite him for a Cambodian icecream. That gives him time to think about it and we can talk about the itinerary. He does not know about the road and I tell him that I want to go via Anlong Veng.
At seven in the morning we meet at my guesthouse. I can feel that he is more excited about our little adventure than I am.... We have to cross the Angkor complex first, but we don't have to pay the entrance fee. It's great to be here again and to see all these magnificient ruins passing by. But we have no time to stop here - we want to be at the temple before sunset. When we pass Banteay Srei (km 34), the road turns into then usual red dust thing, but we can still go fast. After Kobal Spien it changes to very rough and we have to drive zig-zag around huge potholes.
The landscape is breathtaking. We ride through huge forests and green plains. A while after we pass the small village of Srenoi we have to stop with a flat tyre. Luckily we can find someone to fix it after pushing the bike back for a kilometer. We hope it will do for a while, but in Anlong Veng we have to buy a new tyre.

While the bike is being repaired in the mechanics shop near the Anlong Veng market (photo), we have lunch in a small restaurant nearby.

We have made 128 km so far, it's 1pm when we continue our ride. At the market we turn right near the antenna and soon we leave Anlong Veng behind us. Now the road is perfect, even the steel bridges have been finished now.
We pass the villages of Trapeang Prasat and Trobnub Dach. However, the most time we ride through complete emptyness, not even houses can be seen.
Along the road many of the red "Danger Mines" signs are warning of leaving the road. In a village I take of photo of this billboard teaching the locals about dangers and different kinds of landmines.

It takes only 2 hours to reach Sra'aym, now we have 208 km. We have a break in one of the small restaurants near the roundabout. While we do the last 27 km to the mountain, we see a couple of big bikes returning from Preah Vihear.

We raech the base of the mountain at 4pm after 235 km. Wow, what a ride.

The new road to the temple is partly finished, but it is to steep for the small bike. We leave it here the "base camp", the owner of a small drinkstall will take care. We need about 2 hours to climb up the mountain, maybe the hardest time ever in my drivers life...

We ask around for a guesthouse or some place to sleep. Finally we gladly accept the offer of some Khmer guys who work here (one of them as a photographer) to sleep in their second room. They also cook for us and we spend the evening talking with them.

It's great to be here during nighttime when everything is quiet. We seem to be the only "tourists" except some young Khmer students who came from Phnom Penh. We meet them later that night in the small cave at the mountain top and have a beer together.

The next morning. I get up before sunrise to catch this magical moment with my camera. The whole place still seems to be sleeping. Only the temple and me, for about an hour or so. Wow, that's not Angkor...

The Thai border opens at 8 am, so the first tourists will not make it here until 9am. The umbrellas of the drinks and souvenir vendors are still closed, nobody is around.
I have to wait for 15 more minutes until the sun brings some color to these beautiful carvings.
I enjoy my time up here wandering through the old temple doors, climbing up the walls and soaking up the atmosphere. The rising sun changes the colors of the whole place from minute to minute.
Some parts of the temple are still a real wilderness, that makes it so unique!
Now it's time for some great views. Here is a huge, mainly demined area east from the top. The top left part of the photo (the next mountain) is already Thai soil.
This is the view down south with the new road in the valley.
It's 8 am now, time to walk back to the base camp again.

When we get back to the bike, we decide to take our breakfast in Sra'aym, here they don't have much to offer. The trip back is without any problems, we reach Anlong Veng for the lunchbreak.

Before we continue with the harder part of the trip back, we have a look at Ta Mok's house. We have to ask around a little, but everyone here know's the place. It's located next to the lake on the photo. I'm surprised to find something like a museum here, they even sell tickets for foreigners.

We reach Siem Reap at 5pm and I am really glad to get off the bike and have a shower.


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© 2004 by Bernhard Heiser
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