Svay (pronounced Swai) Rieng is on of the smallest and sleepiest Cambodian provinces that just happen to have one of the country’s busiest highways running straight through – National Highway No 1, which links Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam just after you cross the Mekong River by way of the Neak Loeung Ferry. It is also one of the poorest provinces of Cambodia due to the poor quality of the land. Most of the provincial population eke out a subsistence living based on farming and fishing.
Svay Rieng is the provincial capital, a sleepy town just 43 km from the Bavet border crossing. This is a fairly prosperous place as a result of the border trade traffic, business people and travellers passing trough. The town is a very friendly place and makes for a pleasant overnight stop whether coming from or going to Vietnam.
Svay Rieng town is situated near the Waiko River and its vast, scenic marshlands, the result of a wide stretch of the river drying up significantly over the years. It’s a pleasant setting and one that can be enjoyed at several different spots along the river and marsh. A bridge over the Waiko, not far from the main part of town, bears a plaque that states prime minister Hun Sen donated the bridge.
During the long Vietnam War, American forces believed that this was the place, where Vietnamese communists had their intelligence headquarter. For sure there were undoubtedly a lot of Vietnamese communists hiding especially in the South of Cambodia during much of the war, but there wasn’t a strategic centre like the Pentagon here. In 1969 the Americans began unauthorised bombing in this area and in 1970 joined with South Vietnamese forces for a big ground assault.
Where to Stay
Tonlay Waiko Hotel:
This is the biggest hotel on side just 300m off the town including a restaurant and a nightclub. It was renovated in 1999 and now remains the best option in town. As the National Police Chief owns it, you can feel totally save. They offer quite spacious rooms with attached Western bathroom, satellite TV and video, air-con and fridge for about $10-25.
This is one of the nicest guesthouses in town even if its room’s look quite used (old). The staffs are very friendly and eager to help in any way. They have rooms downstairs without windows and upstairs with one. The rate is $4 without bath and $5 including bath.
This is a fairly new place with rooms that feature two beds and a Western bath. The rooms are US$ 10 with a fan or US$ 15 with a/c. Going there you might have the impression of an old Soviet exterior.
The Three Guesthouses:
All on different sides of the same corner, these guesthouses have more than the location in common. They all have fairly well cleaned rooms and are US$ 4 a night without a fan, US$ 5 with.
Getting There & Away
Share taxis leave Phnom Penh from the Chbah Ampeau taxi park to head to Svay Rieng. The fare from Phnom Penh to Svay Rieng is 8,000riel. Grab an extra space for a bit more comfort (costs you more). Hour Lean Bus Company operates a daily direct connection from PP to Svay Rieng (cost $2, 3 hour ride).
If you come from the Bavet border crossing with Vietnam it might be a little bit difficult to find a taxi, as most of them prefer the more lucrative option of taking foreigners all the way to Phnom Penh. Try to find a taxi with other travellers and to stuff yourself for a 1-hour trip into the taxi ($1-2).
Phnom Penh to Svay Rieng:
This trip is a fairly easy lone for motorcycles, as you can easily skirt the potholes that slow down the cars. Keep those eyes open, though, as the share taxis that ply this stretch from Phnom Penh to the Vietnam border all seem to be trying for the Cambodian Land Highway Speed Award. They do fly and they don’t let a little thing like a motorcycle hinder their flight.
Where to Eat & Drink
There are some cheap food stalls around Phsar Svay Rieng for those, who want a faster and budget feed. Snack stalls are opening at late afternoon till the night along the river.
The following three restaurants are just east of Monument Circle and quite close to each other. They are all open throughout the day, starting at the crack of dawn with Chinese noodle soup and omelettes with French bread. All have signs and menus in English, and pleasant staff.
Svay Rieng Restaurant:
It’s a pleasant, small restaurant with Khmer and Chinese food.
This doublewide restaurant is very popular with the locals. They have some Western food as well as the usual Khmer and Chinese fare.
Rasmey Nimol Restaurant:
This corner restaurant catches a breeze better than the other two. They also serve up good food.
Serei Pheap Thmai Retaurant:
This is the one with the deck overlooking the water mentioned earlier. They have good food and the staff can speak English.
Boeng Meas Restaurant:
This nice little wooden restaurant is built on stilts near the riverside and is considered to be one of the best in town. All Khmer favourites are clearly listed on the proper English menu and the service is swift.
What to Do?
Bavet International Border
Located 48 kilometers from Svay Rieng provincial town is the international border with Vietname. The Bavet checkpoint is the main international border crossing for people traveling between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.
Bavet’s main attractions are two casinos that are within short walking distance of the border. This casinos are very popular with foreigners crossing the border. There is also a market, Psar Nat, where goods are transferred between Cambodia and Vietnam.
Brasoth Center is located in Prasout Commune, Svay Teab district, about 1.5 km (10mn) from Provincial Town. Operation of Sporting Facilities.
Prey Ba Sak
Prey Ba Sake Located in Svay Rieng District at the Southeast of the provincial town in the distance of 8.5 kilometres from the provincial town. The area of Prey Ba Sak has 84 square meters and borders river of Vag Ko at the North and the East, village of local people at the west and the South.
The resort of Prey Ba Sak can provide income to the state and attracts local visitors to spend their visit and pleasure there. So, the resort is trending to develop for local visitors in Svay Rieng province due to their tradition, and for international tourists due to the real Cambodian culture and civilization. Prey Ba Sak located on the hill, the former place of ancient temple, which was completely damaged by war. Nowadays, in order to change this place to be the attractive site for local and international tourists, the provincial tourist office should initially rearrange the place and statues for local visitors to worship during festival days or their travel. Prey Ba Sak is the place, which has the most complex forest among others in Svay Rieng province.