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Ream National Park

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Registered in 1995, Ream National Park has so far achieved a rare feat: thanks to vigilant, apparently uncorrupt rangers, they've managed to keep most of the mangroves, wildlife and beaches in pristine condition. The park's 200 inhabitants have not been forcibly relocated (unlike similar schemes in Thailand) but have been allowed to stay and continue their subsistence fishing lifestyle. No new residents are allowed, keeping Ream's ecosystem in reasonable balance.

The Cambodian navy has a base at Ream, and sailors may appear unexpectedly; usually they're doing little more than cooking their lunch. The park has landscapes for anyone: mangrove forests, a mountainside waterfall, and miles of beaches unmarked by footprints. Nearly 200 bird species live here, including herons and cranes. King cobras and pythons have been spotted, too, so be vigilant on hiking trails!

Though there are plenty of trips offered by travel agents in Sihanoukville, it's easy enough to get here on your own, either with a motodop or by renting a motorbike. There are 35 rangers in Ream park, and several speak English. Trekking with a ranger's advisable: their services are reasonable, at $2/hour. Hikes to meditation mountain and Keng Kong waterfall are popular trips.

Another excellent option is a boat trip down the mangrove-lined Prek Toeuk Sap river, done with a group of other travellers. For 1-5 people it's $35, and for 6 or more the going rate is $6 each. The Prek Toeuk Sap Freshwater River is salty in the dry season as seawater flows inland, and filled with freshwater from ponds in the rainy season. Flying fish cartwheel out of the water, and dolphin sightings are not uncommon.

There's little food or drinking water available in the park, so if planning a hike or an overnight trip, ensure you have enough of your own. Basic accommodation is available at Ream, as well, and some travellers like it so much here they decide to come back for a night or two.

Another diversion is to check out the set of the film Un barrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall). Cambodian director Rithy Panh chose Ream as the filming location for the 2009 film, based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Marguerite Duras. Panh was looking for a place on the Cambodian coast where he could recreate the Cambodia of the 1920s when the French occupation was still in full swing. He found it on a slender thread of beach on the south side of the national park.

The first film-related site worth checking out is "Chez Bart", which was constructed explicitly for the film to replicate a French/Indochinese restaurant and gathering place. Further up the road, you can visit the timber structure that the fictional family called home, which is surrounded by trees, beach, sea and a tranquil atmosphere. To get here, you'll need to rent a motorbike for the day or arrange a car and driver. If the latter, your driver almost certainly won't know "Chez Bart" by name but should know how to get to Wat Ream, from where the shooting sights are a short drive away. From Sihanoukville, take Route 4 for some 20 kilometres to the turn off for Sihanoukville Airport and Ream National Park. After that, head straight on the seaside road for another 10 kilometres before taking the turn-off for Wat Ream. Continue on the dirt road and you'll soon see the wooden facade of "Chez Bart" on the right. To get to the family home, just continue up the road and cross the timber bridge.

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Text and/or map last updated on 2nd June, 2013.

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