Kampong Thom is ideally situated on the NH6 which runs around the eastern shores of the Tonle Sap, making it a perfect half-way stop between the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh – It is 150kms north west to the Temples of Angkor, and 165kms south to the capital.
Numerous bus companies ply the road between Cambodia’s two main tourist destinations, meaning that finding transport to Kampong Thom is never an issue, and the journey takes roughly four hours from each. Buses such as Sorya, Capitol and GST generally leave from the Central Market in Phnom Penh at 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, and stop in Kampong Thom for around 45 minutes and then depart at 12:00, 13:00 and 14:00. Public buses cost US$2 to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, tourist buses US$4 each way… see Phnom Penh transport for contact details.
Most stop in Kampong Thom for a meal or bathroom break and to pick up and offload passengers. Arunras Hotel has become the default stop for many long distance tourist buses, mainly because they pay commission, and always has tickets available. It is just as easy to jump aboard any bus and pay the wandering fare collector to save yourself a couple of dollars. You can also flag down, theoretically, any one of the public buses and pay once inside, but the speed, traffic and what is being eaten or watched on the TV at the time may have a say whether you are picked up.
Shared taxis can be found at the ‘taxi park’, opposite the official bus station – you won’t have to search too hard to find it. There are obviously faster, making the respective journey is around 2.5 hours, but you do lose some of the fun of being onboard a local bus, which can be either a good thing or bad depending on your patience and sense of adventure. The added benefit of taxis is that they usually drop you at your desired destination.
There are a few minibuses now plying the route, with prices somewhere between taxis and full sized buses. These have a tendency to become really crowded as private operators squeeze as many dollars as they can into their vehicles. Shared taxis cost US$5 per seat to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, or the whole car around US$30.
Anyone choosing to make the former ‘dancing road’ journey north to Tbeng Meanchey (Preah Vihear) can find a moto or pick-up truck easily enough from the taxi park, though an inside seat on the latter (US$3) is highly recommended. Outside, you can suffer sunburn or drench yourself in the back with 20 others (highly entertaining) in what used to be the default mode of transport across the country, although the potential to go flying during a sudden stop should be taken into consideration.
This road had recently been sealed so pick-up trucks will soon be done away with except for the poorest of locals. Shared taxis (US$6-$8) are a far safer, if less authentic, means of transport, while some moto drivers offer a journey to Siem Reap via Preah Vihear and Anlong Veng.
Getting around in Kampong Thom
It really is easy to wander the small inner city on foot, although several guesthouses offer bicycles for rental, notably Arunras and the Araska restaurant. There are also a number of bicycle shops north of the bridges on Street 103 where you may be able to wrangle a multi-day deal. Running east to west across the town centre is Pracheat Thepatay Street, which stretches around one kilometre to the river in both directions. Wandering the numbered streets is both simple and a good way to get an up-close view of the local community.
The Elephant trampling a Tiger statue marks the southern end of the city on the NH6, while over the bridge the local stadium is the northern tip. For short trips around town, and further afield to Sambur Prei Kuk or the many countryside attractions, there are always plenty of moto drivers milling around. Prices vary with distance and bargaining is expected. Motorbike hire is limited and largely unnecessary given the price to hire your own driver, but ask at your hotel if you really want to do it yourself.