I was searching for destinations close to Phnom Penh apart from the places we’d been to, just to relax and enjoy nature, when I came across Chez Mme Bo (“Mrs. Bo’s House”) on the net.
The home-stay is positioned to offer visitors a full-range, side-to-side mountain view–a feature that drew my attention almost instantly. A bit more research showed that it is only 94 km from Phnom Penh. So, without any second thought, we made it our next destination.
JOURNEY TO CHEZ MME BO
Direct shared transportation to the area is limited, so we took a local van recommended by Mrs. Bo, which would take us from Phnom Penh right to her front door. At a little after 12pm, we left from its station at Mondiale Center and–as is conventional for local vans–our van began picking up its regular passengers from their doors. It was nearly Pchum Ben, so many people were visiting their hometown; we were joined by several ladies who worked at garment factories near Phnom Penh.
By around 1:30pm, the van was filled, and the driver could finally focus on heading straight to the destination. We exit Phnom Penh through National Road 4 before branching off into a seemingly esoteric district road that is only traversed by “regional” transporters the same as the one we were in. This was not the shortest route to Amlaeng, but it was the neccessary path to unload all the passengers and cargo on the van. Yet, this was not an issue as we got to see a part of the region we wouldn’t normally see. By 3:30 pm, mountain peaks began appearing on the horizon, a sign that we almost reached our destination. The driver started dropping off packages at a few houses, and then passengers at their homes. When our turn came, it was exactly 4:30pm.
ARRIVING AT CHEZ MME BO
We were greeted by Mrs. Bo (whose first name we eventually learned was “Sopheary”). With her quick-witted dynamism, Bong Pheary warmly asked about our journey before showing us our bungalow. We took a shower and rested a while before going for dinner freshly prepared by the host. After a full afternoon on the road, the sour beef soup and sauteed lemongrass chicken, served under an outdoor garden canopy, was beyond satisfying. Bong Sopheary kept us company with her characteristically candid conversation. We chatted throughout the dinner about how she started the home-stay, the local community, her struggles, as well as her commitment to helping the community shift from potentially socially- and environmentally-compromising occupations to providing sustaining tourist services.
AN UNLIKELY TOURIST ATTRACTION — SUGARCANE PLANTATION IN AMLAENG
We got up early the next morning and had some plain porridge with a classic assortment of dried food before starting our journey to the mountains where main attractions are located, on a motorbike we rented from Bong Pheary’s neighbor. We were riding straight for around 10 minutes when we reached the gate to our first stop on the left, a sugarcane plantation.
The plantation has become an unusual, but well-known destination because people grow sunn hemp here as cover crop. Around early September every year, the sunn hemp flowers bloom, and what are normally blocks of farmed sugarcane become bright yellow flower fields. The whole farm becomes an endless sea of yellow flowers, a scenery that makes everyone wants to take a selfie or two.
To enter the plantation, we need permission from the front guards, something they don’t hesitate to give in addition to a piece of advice: we should go straight all the way to see the “Giant Rock” and not make any turns or we risk being lost.
That wouldn’t have worked well, because we were a bit late and most of the sun hemp had been cut down for a new cycle of sugarcane production. That didn’t stop us from finding one of the few remaining sum hemp blocks close to a few hills of boulders–at the very far end of the plantation.
Luckily, we didn’t fully stick to the advice, and had made a turn mid-way to chase the mountains waving at us on our right, and the views more than worth the risks!
CHREAV WATERFALL IN AMLAENG
By now, we’d spent around 2 hours in the plantation. It was around 10:00 am when we left the farm and continued on the original path to Chreav Waterfall. Closer to the mountains, the bumpy dirt road became peppered on both sides with wooden houses and vendors selling their seasonal vegetables and fruits. Two pagodas could be spotted along the way. Every now and then, we was villagers walking and people coming from Phnom Penh to offer foods to the monks as well as to take the time as a chance for family gathering and escape to nature.
As we were approaching the mountains, the village houses were replaced by green rice fields, palm trees and mountain views. At one point, we reached a spot where we were almost 360-degree surrounded by mountains. We stopped for a moment to rest, and to enjoy such a stunning view.
After riding for around 11 km, we reached the entrance to the waterfall. We parked our bike, and walked to the 3rd stage of the waterfall. Along the way, there were crowds of family sitting under hay-roof kiosks, playing card games, having meals or playing some music. Some were returning from bathing at the waterfall.
We continued our way for about 15 minutes when we found the spot for some chilling dip in the waterfall.
ABOUT CHEZ MME BO
Chez Mme Bo is run by a Cambodian family–home-stay style. There are one main house for group, tents and 3 bungalows. We stayed in one of the bungalows. The area has not been connected to any electricity grid, so electricity is only available from 6pm-9pm, by a generator.
The place is better-known among the Cambodian families in the region as a rest station for group lunch for those passing by. It’s also a place of choice for those who love to escape from the buzzing city during the weekend and stay close to nature.
You can check out Chez Mme Bo on Facebook for more information.