advertisement

Koh Kong was long a strange kind of place. Better reached from Thailand than Cambodia, it was isolated from the rest of the country by the Cardamom Mountains. One could reach Sihanoukville on a dangerous hydrofoil -- a boat designed for rivers unleashed on the open sea and crewed by men with no maritime skills who couldn't swim. The town gained a reputation among Khmers for being a place where "the bad people go to find money" and indeed its reputation for drugs, prostitution, gambling, smuggling, and crime was not unfounded. With the opening of the border crossing to Thailand, tacky casinos mushroomed catering to Thais, since gambling in Thailand is illegal. That image is now changing. The bridge across the Kah Bpow River to Thailand was completed in 2003 and National Rte. 48 to Srey Ambal and on to Phnom Penh was finally finished in 2008 when the last bridges became operational. This is Cambodia's most scenic road (built by the Thai army) and it winds majestically past wonderful mountains and forests kept pure and pristine by decades of war. With these recent improvements Koh Kong is no longer a sleazy transit point pinioned by hills and rivers; it is now coming into its own as a prime location for eco-tourism on one of Asia's most important highways conveniently near the roaringly popular Thai resort island of Koh Chang. As makeovers go, the one now transforming Koh Kong looks to be pretty dramatic.