What's over Phnom Penh's Chroy Chungvar Bridge?

What we say: 3.5 stars

The Chroy Chungvar Bridge, also known as the Japanese Friendship Bridge (or spien Chroy Chungvar in Khmer), marks an invisible border for most visitors to Phnom Penh. North of Wat Phnom and riverside’s bars and restaurants, the bridge crosses the Tonle Sap river with no major sights to tick off on the other side. But if you’re the type that likes to have a nosy around, don’t let the lack of guidebook listed museums stop you from exploring.

Not the end of Phnom Penh.

Not the end of Phnom Penh.

Crossing the bridge gives a wide-reaching panorama up and down stream, and you can go in either direction when you reach the Chroy Chungvar peninsula on the other side. It’s dusty, ramshackle, full of construction and peppered with curious buildings that make you look twice. Chroy Chungvar is best explored on a motorbike or bicycle, so you can stop whenever you feel the need to check something out.

Words fail us ...

Words fail us …

At the end of the bridge, heading straight on up National Route 6 (in the direction of Siem Reap) will take you past garden centres, minibuses piling up with people and parcels for the provinces, and several bakeries. The Olympic Pho restaurant is a clean, cheap place to refuel and another kilometre brings you to a row of large family restaurants on the left hand side, which get busy on weekends and evenings. Our favourite is Kado, serving whole fish, barbecued pork and spit-roasted beef over their extensive seating area. On your way there, don’t miss Yong’s Shopping Mall, under construction for several years and hung with banners announcing opening dates that have been and gone. It looks rather like a student project where the brief was to use as many colours and textures as possible, and it’s worth an open-mouthed look.

Architecture is in the eye of the beholder.

Architectural beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Doubling back, take the second right after the bridge and you’ll come across the Beeline Arena, which hosts regular sporting events including the Cambodian Basketball League, volleyball tournaments, Khmer boxing and cage fighting. Next door is the fabulous Norton University campus, showing just what can be done by Cambodian builders with a flights-of-fancy blueprint. Further down the road is a small market — through the stalls to the left is the ferry crossing to Kandal province, round to the right lies the Mekong river and the gates of swanky houses turning this area into Millionaire’s Row. About 800 metres on is the turn for Mekong View Tower: the rooftop restaurant has arguably the best views of the peninsula and the two rivers that bank it.

Not quite Phnom Penh hustle and bustle.

Not quite Phnom Penh hustle and bustle.

A little further on, the road comes out at the Tonle Sap river by the Sokha Hotel construction site. Yep, that’s the big grey lump of an unfinished building you can see from Phnom Penh’s riverside. Turn right and you can ride down the opposite side, which is in the process of having flood defences and a sealed road constructed. The Cham community’s homes and mosques give way to posh apartment blocks, which are likely to fill up when the riverside improvements are complete.

Playing peekaboo with Phnom Penh.

Playing peekaboo with Phnom Penh.

The road leads back to the bridge, where there’s a left turn through the makings of the new Chroy Chungvar bridge (Chinese built this time) which leads to a surprisingly rural road running alongside the river. One kilometre on is the Boat House, a relaxed weekend-only spot for sunsets and cocktails which also happens to be this writer’s local. An old church, now serving as an orphanage, is a surprise find just a few hundred metres down. Further along, more construction is underway on townhouses, but press on and you’ll get deeper into the countryside, with wooden houses and fish farms. Use the river as your navigation tool and it’s reasonably easy not to get lost, but any friendly local can point you in the direction of Phnom Penh proper, back over the bridge.

Olympic Pho
National Route 6, Chroy Chungvar, Phnom Penh

Kado Restaurant
National Route 6, Chroy Chungvar, Phnom Penh
T: (011) 942360

Beeline Arena
C25 Street 8CW, Chroy Chungvar, Phnom Penh
www.banzaicambodia.com

Mekong View Tower
Wat Chas Road, Chroy Chungvar, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 4322013
www.mekongviewtower.com

The Boat House
Tonle Sap Road, Chroy Chungva, Phnom Penh
www.facebook.com/boathousepp

Last updated: 19th September, 2014

About the author:
Abigail has been stoned by villagers in India, become an honorary Kenyan tribeswoman, sweet talked border guards and had close encounters with black mambas. Her motto is: “Live to tell the tale.”
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