A few months ago I heard about a new homestay experience in Kompong Thom, a rapidly growing city about half way between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. It was just recently, on our way back from Phnom Penh that Brandon and I had a chance to stop in Kompong Thom and try this new experience. It was…interesting.
The truth is that everyone has a romanticized idea about the homestay experience…it involves delicious local food, conversations about life and values with your hosts long into the night and a wonderful nights sleep in the peace of an electricity-free village. Unfortunately, most homestays in our experience have none of these things. In fact they usually involve mystery meat, a lovely family that speaks not a word of English and a rather restless night of bugs, roosters and babies!
Brandon and I have an advantage, we both speak at least enough Khmer to chat, albeit briefly, with our hosts, but we both agreed, that put into Western travelers shoes the homestay experience could be a rather scary one.
With that said, I loved Sambor Prei Kuk and the amazing 7th century Pre-Angkorian temples it houses. After checking in to the homestay we headed by tuk tuk to the temples. Here we were met by our guide Bunteng, and had a delicious lunch of noodles and vegetables. We then set out on bicycles to explore the temple complex. Though there were more travelers here than I had thought there would be, it was still a very peaceful experience compared to the temples at Angkor Wat. Our guide pointed out fantastic details and I have to say that riding on dirt tracks on our bicycles from temple to temple was a real highlight for me. In the evening we even rode our bikes back to our homestay and when mine got a flat tire (I’m on a diet, I swear!) he just dropped it at the nearest house and borrowed their bicycle…it was a nice community moment!
The next morning we took an oxcart ride to some more distant temples, not the most comfortable form of transportation, but it did feel local and an adventure and I got to drive!
All in all, it was a fun experience and I liked being able to see the temples without feeling rushed and knowing that we didn’t have another long drive after, BUT, make sure you look at the photos below of the toilet, “shower” and keep in mind the things not pictured…crying babies, very loud roosters and rather large bugs!
We are offering the two-day Kompong Thom Experience and we are also offering a great Siem Reap to Phnom Penh one day tour that stops in Kompong Thom and visits the amazing temples there, but doesn’t spend the night. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.