It’s been a while since I wrote about my travels. As you know, I’ve been more focused on building up my consultancy and coaching practice in London and Phnom Penh respectively, and have been blogging mostly on the subject of self-development.
Last month, though, I was invited by a fellow resident of Impact Hub to stay for one night at a eco resort in the province of Kampong Cham, Cambodia. The resort it located in the village of Hanchey, and has close ties to the organisation Buddhism for Social Development Action that trains staff in hospitality.
I thought it’d be fun to drive over on a moto (Honda Wave Alpha 125cc). A long-distance bike journey was something that I’d always wanted to do, and Google Maps told me the journey would take a little over 3.5 hours - long but not arduous.
We had aimed to set off before rush hour, but those of you that know me will know I’m not an early morning kind of guy! We ended up leaving just past 9, and caught the tail end of rush hour - it took us an hour to get from just south of Russian Market to just across the Japanese Bridge, at which point we discovered a flat tire. Thankfully there was a repair shop a minute down the road, but it took another 20 minutes to fix the tires (but like $2) and we were finally on our way!
The actual drive was pretty great. The roads were fantastic - possibly the best roads I’ve seen in Cambodia. I’d been nervous because the road conditions in Cambodia are famously poorly maintained and full of accident-causing potholes. The Honda Wave isn’t a huge bike though, and it felt unsteady in the winds at times when we hit speeds above 60 or 70 km/h. I think I need to learn how to ride the big bikes in future!
Perhaps it was that nervousness, but the entire journey ended up taking almost 7 hours or so, including a stop for lunch at Skun at around the midpoint. Some of the landscapes and views were absolutely breathtaking, although I was very focused on trying to keep the bike steady and avoiding giant lorries to really appreciate it. The last leg of the journey though, as we headed north from Kampong Cham city, was stunning. The road there was through several tiny roadside villages, and the lack of vehicles meant that I could really relax and enjoy the scenery too.
The resort itself isn’t very well signposted but the Google Maps directions were thankfully accurate.
Hanchey Bamboo Resort is built on top of a hill and overlooks the surrounding areas and the Mekong river. It comprises of several private ensuite bungalows, which are all very spacious and had an air of luxury to it, a dorm, a large pool, restaurant and yoga / meditation hut. The buildings are largely made from bamboo, sourced locally from the region, with the walls made from dirt.
It was the nicest eco resort that I’d ever been to in Cambodia, which I guess is reflected in the price tag of more than 80 USD per night in a private bungalow (my stay was complimentary).
Give me complimentary mosquito spray and I'm a happy man <3
On arrival, and actually even driving up to the resort from Kampong Cham city, you instantly feel more relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. The stress of working and living in the city melted away instantly and I felt a certain peacefulness on the ground. How much of it was due to the beautiful nature surrounding the resort and how much was due to the deliberate focus of the resort on mindfulness and yoga, I couldn’t tell.
The general manager and owner of the resort came to show us around the place and informed us to our delight that there would be no one else staying at the resort that night. We’d have the place to ourselves in peace and quiet.
We had a little play around in the pool with some beers (I was a little worried that they might not serve drinks due to their connection with the Buddhist organisation, but that fear was unfounded) and enjoyed a delicious set dinner as the sun began to set.
There isn’t really much to do at the resort, apart from relaxing by the pool and taking strolls in the grounds. This is pretty much similar to other eco-resorts I’d been to in the past, although I was thinking a pool or table tennis table would have been a welcome evening activity. Or perhaps an outdoor exercise area! Kim, the general manager, informed us that usually they offer yoga and meditation classes every morning before breakfast free of charge to the guests, but the teacher was currently away.
We ended up going to bed at 8am and sleeping for 12 hours straight! I think maybe I was stressed out from the moto ride, but I slept like a baby.
After breakfast, we were recommended to drive around bamboo island and the villagers that live there. There is a boat that takes cars, motos and people across from the mainland to the island. There’s no schedule, but the boat leaves when there’s enough people on board. We had to wait around 15 - 20 minutes before the boat departed. A round trip costs 6,000 riels (I think), which you pay when you leave the island. Again the place is surprisingly well-marked on Google Maps.
After spending half an hour driving around the island and observing village life from a distance, we headed back to Hanchey to check out and set off the Kampong Cham city to grab lunch before making our way back to Phnom Penh.
If you’re in Kampong Cham city, I’d highly recommend Smile restaurant, located by the river. Coincidentally, it turned out that the owner of the restaurant is the same as the owner of Hanchey Bamboo Resort and we were surprised to bump into him there too! The food was delicious and affordable, with good service too.
One of the most iconic “attractions” in Kampong Cham city used to be a bamboo bridge that connected to Kaoh Pan, an island just off the city. I was looking forward to seeing it, but it was nowhere to be found. Apparently with the construction of a nearby concrete bridge, the owners of the bamboo bridge decided to take it down as it was too costly to maintain. I was gutted to miss it, but also found it quite interesting to experience progress.
I really enjoyed the trip to Hanchey Bamboo Resort, both the novelty of driving there and the peace I felt during my stay at the resort itself. I thought it would be an excellent place to hold retreats in the future, though I might suggest that they add a few activities that people can do in the evenings to pass the time, for those who don’t want to go to bed at 8pm!