So you’ve landed in Stung Treng, and you’re asking yourself the exact same question that I did, ‘what to do in Stung Treng?’ Luckily for you I’ve done all the ground work and discovered all the exciting activities you can get involved in while visiting this extremely underrated tourist location in Cambodia. Read ahead, book your trip and marvel in the natural wonders, beautiful landscapes, local culture and adventure activities!
Still not convinced? Let me throw a few examples to inspire your wanderlust. First there’s watching the sunset on the almighty Mekong River as extremely rare and endangered fresh water dolphins swim around you! Or maybe you’re more interested in grabbing a sea kayak and paddling your way down the Mekong and through the wetlands, home to the eery flooded forest and over 100 species of birds. Take a longtail boat all the way to the Sopheakmith waterfalls and on the way stop off at one of the local communities and get involved in a home stay. Wake up in the morning, lazily swinging side to side in a hammock as the sun rises above the Mekong and starts a new day. The list goes on!
“You might even be fortunate enough to come across an English class in the afternoon and be invited in to basically run the show.”
Stung Treng City
To visit this beautiful region it’s best to station yourself in the province’s namesake city. Most bus routes in Cambodia make their way through Stung Treng and there are a host of guest houses and hotels to choose from. The city is small, but there are enough interesting things to check out if you decide to stay the night. The main centre of Stung Treng City is situated along the Sekong River, an arm of the river that extends off the Mekong, which is a sweet spot to look out at over your balcony with a cold beer.
In town, close to the centre are a number of Buddhist pagodas. These religious sites are based around some craftily designed and constructed Buddhist architecture. It’s also home to many monks who are studying and living on the ground. Pop your head in and say hello, they’re generally pretty friendly, albeit a little shy. You might even be fortunate enough to come across an English class in the afternoon and be invited in to basically run the show. That’s what happened to me, and of course I willingly obliged.
Travel That Gives Back
When in town be sure to also check out the Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center, a youth program aimed at training disadvantaged Cambodian teens in the trade of ecotourism. As well as training the youth they also offer accommodation between $6-$8 and do meals, all which is prepared and organized by the students as part of their vocational training. Profits go back into the program and local projects, so it’s awesome to see a locally ran project having such a positive impact in the community.
And if you’re looking to help further support the local community (and pick up a beautiful handmade silk garment) try to get out and visit Mekong Blue. An extremely worthwhile nonprofit organization that helps women who suffer from domestic violence, sexual assault and poverty to develop workplace skills in textile manufacturing. They have a store inside the property, or you can visit them online. Visit their site for more information.
“Think of it like the 4,000 Islands, except many years ago, before tourism really set in and washed away some of the authentic exploring and thill seeking”
Heading Up The Mekong
After exploring the city for a day it’s time to get stuck into some real adventure activities. Head over to Xplore Asia to check out some of the trips you can do, or hire a motorbike/bicycle and take off on your own adventure. There’s a number of itineraries you can take depending on what you want to see. I recommend giving yourself at least two days to complete a trip. You’ll be heading up to northern Cambodia, so if you’re already on your way to the 4,000 Islands in Laos there shouldn’t be any excuses to skip this. Think of it like the 4,000 Islands, except many years ago, before tourism really set in and washed away some of the authentic exploring and thill seeking.
Whether you go by guide, or by yourself, the only ways to head up are by river or by road. Along the way stop at one of the many of the indigenous communities (such as O’Svay) for a homestay or continue on up to Preah Rumkel where you can get your dolphin, local community, waterfall and stunning sunset fix all in one.
If you want to do things a little different ask your boat driver to take you to some of the Mekong River islands that pop up all the way along the enormity of the river. You can camp at some of the deserted islands, especially in the dry season when the river is low, which is a cracking idea if you’ve got a crew together and want your own private island for the night!
“This trip, although costing a little more than you might budget for, is one of those times that you just need to pay it to experience it”
Details and Prices
Before exploring prices let me just say that this trip was one of the most memorable I’ve experienced in my many years of travel. As professional budget backpackers sometimes Christine and I get so hung up on stretching out the dollars that we forget to enjoy the places we visit. This trip, although costing a little more than you might budget for, is one of those times that you just need to pay it to experience it. After all, what are you doing on the other side of the world if you can’t get out and explore the place. Here’s a few different pricing options to see what works with your wallet;
If you go it without a guide you can find someone to organize a long-tail boat from Stung Treng to take you towards the Laos border: stopping along the way at indigenous communities, RAMSAR wetlands, flooded forest, fresh water dolphins and the waterfall). It’ll set you back $90USD, which seems pricey, but bare in mind that this cost covers up to 6 people, so it’s only $15 each, which is incredible value considering the trip literally takes all day!
If you want a more structured tour head over to Xplore Asia to see what’s on offer. Tours vary in price from $50 – $100, depending on the length of time and the activities you want to do, so it’s really much better to pop into their office and see suits you best.
If you make it up to the border at Preah Rumkel, and decide to stay the night, cost will be the last thing you worry about. It’s a very reasonably priced $11USD a day for three meals and a place to sleep. I’d recommend at least one night there just to slow it down and enjoy the serenity. From Preah Rumkel you can also organize transport and guides to the waterfall and other surrounding areas for your group or solo.
Don’t Forget To Move would like to thank the Stung Treng Province Department of Tourism for the invitation and opportunity to visit and write about such an amazing location in Cambodia! Although we received some discounts to participate in this trip all ideas and recommendations are based solely off the authors opinions.