Situated on the west bank of the Mekong, the mellow town of Kompong Cham has little of the bustle that you’d expect of the biggest city in the northeast. Its small commercial port doesn’t exactly hum with activity, and the riverfront, in the shadow of the massive Kizuna Bridge – thrown across the river in 2001 courtesy of the Japanese, is pretty quiet too since road improvements have led to the demise of most river transport. The place has a distinct charm though, and enough low-key attractions to occupy a day or two. Its few Western cafés and bars are packed in the evenings with tourists who are stopping over in town, on a slow journey through the country.
A few hours can be happily passed exploring the streets of the colonial centre and visiting Wat Nokor, known locally as Nokor Bachey, just outside the town, a modern pagoda built within an eleventh-century temple. In half a day you can follow the Mekong north to Phnom Hann Chey, a quirky hill-top pagoda with fabulous views of the river and some old prasats, while a day-trip will get you to the pre-Angkorian site of Banteay Prei Nokor, surrounded by a massive earth embankment, where a few ruined towers still stand, with a visit to the rubber plantation at Chup on the side. Pleasant boat trips can also be made to villages up and down the Mekong.