Off the Beaten Path

It was International Human Rights Day on 10 December and also a public holiday in Cambodia. For this one day holiday, I was so privileged to get to stay at Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast before it was officially opened to the public and I also got to travel the off the beaten path with them.

I must say, it was one of my best experiences in Cambodia this year!  

Puthkiri (or Kiri Buddha) and Anlung Phanheav lake

Puthkiri or Kiri Buddha Cambodia is a new place of worship for Buddhists. It was built by Buddhists monks. Their aim is to build 84,000 Buddha statues (petit and large) painted with gold colour at the site.  There are more than 20,000 statues now and they are building more.

I was so impressed by the scale of the whole project. It reminded me of the Big Buddha on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. But this one is less crowded. When I was there, I was the only foreigner and there were not too many people. To date, it is still not so well known among foreign travellers.

Buddha statues
View at the top of the site. If this place were in Europe, you’d probably see vineyards.  But here, what you can see are mango trees.

Even though December is the coolest month in Cambodia and is the best month to come, it is still hot during mid-day.  We (the B&B was so kind to have arranged an English teacher to take me to these places on his motorbike) left Puthkiri slightly before 11am but the sun was already very strong.

Carrying the carefully packed MSG-free lunch that the B&B had prepared for us that morning, we went to a nearby lake after we left Puthkiri for lunch. There was an entrance fee and a minimum charge for using their little ‘hut’ for eating outside food.  The view was very nice and it was very relaxing.  With the gentle breeze and the relatively cool weather, I couldn’t help falling asleep after eating the delicious lunch.  We stayed until the sun was less strong.

Everything you need for the lunch was nicely packed by Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast – soy sauce, cutlery, tissue paper, napkins, and oh, I love the apples too. They are not in the photo though.
What a relaxing lunch by the lake! I couldn’t help falling asleep after eating the delicious food prepared with love by Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast. When I woke up, it was nearly 4pm. Perfect time to leave!

Coco de Takeo Workshop (or Peace Village Workshop)

I was told so many times that I should visit Coco de Takeo Workshop.  Before the visit, I was thinking, ‘oh, well, maybe it’s just like any the other workshops I have visited in Cambodia.’  But after I visited the workshop, I said to a lecturer at the college who still hasn’t been there, ‘You should visit it.’

A pond at the entrance of Coco de Takeo

The reason why it’s called Coco is not because of Coco Chanel :P. It’s because most of their products are made from coconuts. They used almost all parts of coconuts to make flip flops, mats, soaps, candies, etc.

Disadvantaged people are hired and trained.
They look like cakes but they are in fact lemongrass flavoured coconut soaps.

And of course, apart from the above products, how can we forget about the very important products for women – garments and jewelry?  😛  You can see ladies weaving fine silk and raw silk garments in the workshop. The ladies also design the pattern of the garments. Their scarves are so famous that I heard a limited number of them are exported to France. Only a limited number, because it takes around one month to manually weave one garment. And the prices are very reasonable too.

Weaving the fine silk textile

Another thing is, after I bought a piece of raw silk scarf, I was given a paper bag. It is not any other paper bag. The paper is made of banana leaves. The students at St. Francois Technical High School researched the usage of banana leaves and found a formula and method to turn the leaves into paper. This formula and method won a national award. Because Coco de Takeo is affiliated to this school, this knowledge was passed to the workers to produce banana-leaf paper and bags.

Making the banana-leaf paper using the award winning formula and method
A corner of the restaurant at the workshop. Breakfast is until 9a.m. Dinner needs to be booked one day in advance.

Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast

I have to mention this B&B. If it weren’t because of their arrangements, I wouldn’t have been able to visit all these places and I wouldn’t have enjoyed this part of Cambodia so much!

When I stayed there, Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast was not yet officially opened to the public. How did I know about this place then? My colleague from the college. She highly recommended it. It is very close to our college so she took me to their restaurant. Instantly, I fell in love with it. This place is precisely what I have in mind when I think of ‘village life’.

Nestled in the midst of a rice field, the air conditioned B&B is the perfect place for a traveler to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of the village. It has all the modern facilities – hot shower, air conditioner, flush toilet and toiletries – inside a concrete en suite room. The reception is decorated with fresh flowers and the smell of essence oil spreads all over the reception area and the restaurant.

The view through my window @Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast
The first thing I saw after I opened the door in the morning. @Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast
The nicely presented and delicious breakfast was waiting for me. @Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast

The purpose of Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast is to train the tourism management students from Saint Francois Technical High School. Hence, the room and the services are similar to that of a 3.5-star if not 4-star hotel (and the B&B is determined to raise the bar). It has been receiving guests who are related to the school. Recently, the B&B decided to open it to the general public.

So thoughtful @Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast
Who said the best sunset in Cambodia is in Angkor Wat? They just haven’t been to here yet. So tranquil! @Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast

I talk a lot about their food. Here’s the reason: it’s farm to table!  The school has the faculty of agriculture so they have a piece of land for the students to practice. All the food they serve in the restaurant is directly from their farm. Another appealing fact is, guests can buy the ingredients from their farm and cook in the kitchen of the B&B. What more can a traveler ask for!

Baby cucumber
Guests can feed the fish in the fish pond.
A bigger fish pond
Hydroponics
They produce more than 100 eggs per day.

For enquiries and reservation at Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast, please feel free to email: saintfrancois.enquiry@gmail.com

Suggested itinerary:

Day 1: check in to Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast before 5pm to catch the beautiful sunset over the rice field.  Enjoy the delicious and MSG-free dinner at the B&B.  

I always emphasize ‘MSG-free’ because Cambodians love to put MSG in their food.  Even in the supermarkets, there is an aisle dedicated specifically to MSG. They think it makes the food tastier. It’s hard to find a café or restaurant that offers MSG-free food in this country.

From Phnom Penh International Airport to Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast

Note: it takes longer than 43 minutes due to road construction.

Day 2: go to Puthkiri (free entry) early in the morning to avoid the strong sun and leave before 10:30am to Anlung Phanheav for lunch (entrance fee applies depending on the type of vehicle and minimum charge may apply at the restaurant).  Leave at around 4pm to avoid the mid-day strong sun. Then go back to Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast. Tour around the farm at the B&B and learn from the students and teachers about their agriculture projects. Dinner with the students and perhaps play football with the students after dinner.  

From Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast to Puthkiri

Note: the road is quite smooth but the last part of the journey to Puthkiri is quite dusty. Wear a mask if you are on a motorbike.

From Puthkiri to Anlung Phanheav lake

The road is quite smooth. There is also a water park in Anlung Phanheav. If you are travelling with your kids, they can spend the whole day there.

Water park at Anlung Phanheav
Football pitch at Saint Francois Technical High School

Day 3: visit Coco de Takeo Workshop (the staff at Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast also call it ‘Peace Village Workshop’) before 8:30am and have breakfast there.  Then continue to Kampot or Phnom Penh.

From Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast to Coco de Takeo Workshop

Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast will help their guests arrange transportation.  Please feel free to send them an email for enquiries or reservation.  They are now open to public: saintfrancois.enquiry@gmail.com.

I would like to thank Saint Francois Bed and Breakfast for generously sponsoring my stay and my wonderful trips. Thank you again.

*****

Explore 10 different ways of getting around in Cambodia here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/01/05/getting-around/

Want to know more about internet service providers in Cambodia? Check out my reviews on 3 different internet providers here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/01/11/internet/

16 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Path

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  2. Hello and thank you so much , I didn’t know those places , but I want to go as soon as I can. I want to know something about the travel itenerary ; I ‘d like to start from Phnom Penh by bus or van , but where to stop then , coz I think I need another transport from the national road to Wat Puth Kiri. What is the name of the village where the hotel Saint-François is , and is the road from the hotel to to Kiri quite correct ? I can not find an adress on the net…. Thank you so much for the informations you should give and best thanks again for this post. Best regards , Christian

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments.

      If you take a bus or a van from Phnom Penh, you can ask the driver to stop at Angtasaom. (When you buy the ticket, make sure you tell the cashier ‘Angtasaom’). Buses or vans that go to Kampot from Phnom Penh will go past Angtasaom. After you get off the bus, you’ll be surrounded by a lot of motorcyclists or tuk tuk drivers. You can then ask them to take you to St. François B&B. It will only take around five to seven minutes on a motorbike to the B&B. Note that the local people don’t understand the name of the B&B because it is an English name so make sure you get the Cambodian name, address and directions from St. Francois B&B. Or call them when you arrive at Angtasaom. (I have written a blog about internet providers as well. You can refer to it.)

      From Angtasaom to Puthkiri, it’s quite a long ride. In my case, the transportation was arranged by the B&B. As far as I know, there is no public transport that can take you to Puthkiri. Local people ride their motorbikes or drive there. That’s why it is still a hidden place.

      The B&B is in Takeo province. I actually don’t know the name of the village. There are too many small villages in Cambodia. Some of them may not have a name. Most of them don’t even have an address.

      The route on the map is correct because I marked the location when I was there. It’s just that the places are so hidden that Google Map or Maps.me don’t have them.

      Hope the above helps.

      Enjoy your trip. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

      Feel free to drop me a line if you have other questions.

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      1. Thank you soooo muchhhhhh but … in the meantime , I found the name on my big paper map , it’s called Angk Ta Saom but my map is a little old and Wat Puth Kiri is of course not there yet, coz recent , but now I can have correct instructions on google map and the distance is 42 km from the village to the Temple.
        All right then , I will find , I live in the land and I love Takeo Province but I didn’t go there for long time. I live in Kratie and I’d like to go and visit some cambodian friends near Kompong Som, so it’s a good opportunity to stop there for a while.
        One thing more please ; the hotel Saint François seems to be a very nice place from your pictures, but isn’t it too expensive ? 12 or 15 $ place are large enough for me , and I think I can find a cheap guesthouse in the neighborhood or maybe is there a place to sleep near Wat Puth Kiri , and is Anlung Phanheav worth it if I don’t plan on going to the water park ? Those places are still a little unknown and I can not find good informations, exept in Takeo city , 13 km from Angk Ta Saom.
        I will look your blog again , and maybe , I’ll come back again for other informations if I can ; I love to know what I don’t know in this land.
        I recently saw your link to this blog given on the Lonely Planet forum, and maybe it’s you ?
        Thank you soooooo muchhhhhhhh , bye bye , Christian

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      2. That’s right. It’s Ang Ta Saom or Angtasaom. You know they don’t have a standard English spelling there.

        Kratie is beautiful I heard. But it was flooding when I was there so I didn’t want to go. Maybe next time.

        Yes, I highly recommend St. Francois B&B. That’s why I wrote about it in my blog. I fell in love with that place when I saw it, as I mentioned in my blog. I don’t know how to use Photoshop so what you can see in the photos is exactly what you can see in person. That’s ‘village life’ for me – a big farm and modern facilities. That’s probably not the typical village life in Cambodia though. But I had stayed in another village in Cambodia and it wasn’t good (those places are not opened to public). I have also heard other people’s experiences – some are ok while some are as bad as mine. In conclusion, St. Francois B&B is good. But it also depends on what you want / expect. I don’t know what type of house you stay in Kratie.

        For the price, I think you should check with the B&B directly.

        I don’t recall seeing any lodging near Puthkiri.

        If you live in Kratie, I imagine you can speak Khmer and have a motorbike or you can ride one. In that case, it should be easy for you to travel around. I envy you. 😜

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      3. OK , thank you , and no problem , I’m easy going and no matter the comfort , I just think to the price. I just look for at least a fan in the room.
        I wrote yesterday to BB, but no answer yet.
        Well, I hope one day you can come in Kratie and yes , the Mekong often overflows in the raining season, and sometimes the vehicles can not enter the city by the south coz the steel bridge is under water , but they actually build a new wider and higher one.
        Kompong Cham is very nice too near the Mekong and here are some of the nicest views of the land on the river and is half way between PP and Kratie.
        Sorry , you didn’t answer one of my question : is Anlung Phanheav worth it if I don’t plan on going to the water park , Is the neighbohood nice to see ? it’s not far from Angtasaom , but I’d like to know your opinion.
        Thank youuuuuu, Christian

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      4. Ah, yes. About Anlung Phanheav, you need to pay an entrance fee depending on the type of your vehicle. If you’re riding a motorbike, it will be cheaper than driving a car.

        For me, I like it. The place is clean and breezy but bear in mind I was there in December so the relatively cool air made everything nicer. The lake is also clean too. Cambodia is not a very clean country – rubbish on the sides of the roads and dusty etc. So when I was there, when I saw the clean place, I was happy. It’s like taking a break from some dirty places if you see what I mean.

        I didn’t go inside the water park either.

        I didn’t eat at the restaurant cos I had packed lunch from the B&B but I had to pay for the little hut by the lake to eat my packed lunch. If you’re going there with some other people or friends, it will be better cos you can share the cost. The people I saw who ate in the huts that day were mostly local families and groups of friends. I was the only foreigner on that day.

        You can also find a proper restaurant with dining tables and chairs inside. I don’t remember if there is any minimum charge.

        The place is very big. Apart from the lake and water park, they are building a ‘zoo’ for fake animals like dinosaurs, elephants etc. I think they are constructing a theme park on that big piece of land.

        Time was irrelevant for me so I enjoyed the breeze and took a nap. But if you have a very tight schedule and on a budget, skip that and go to Coco de Takéo Workshop instead. There is also a village called Peace Village near the Workshop – within 5 minutes on a motorbike if I remember correctly. That’s why the B&B staff also called Coco de Takéo Workshop the ‘Peace Village’ cos they are so close together. The trip to the Workshop and Peace Village was also arranged by the B&B for me.

        One more note, if you want to visit both the Peace Village and Coco de Takéo Workshop, you need to make an advanced booking cos they need to arrange someone to guide you and explain their community work. No entrance fee. I told the B&B in advance so they arranged that for me.

        Again, thanks for your messages. Hope the above is helpful. And feel free to share my blog with the others too. Thanks.

        Enjoy your trip. 😊

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