The views, the views!
Not so easy to get to, and far from luxurious, the Dangrek Mountain Guesthouse atop the sheer cliffs overlooking northwestern Cambodia is nonetheless worth the effort, and the discomfort, for the views alone.
Tucked down a two-kilometre long, narrow sandy lane that extends behind Pol Pot’s cremation site, this property once belonged to a notorious member of the Khmer Rouge leader’s murderous clique. Nicknamed “The Butcher”, it is deeply uncomfortable to imagine what Ta Mok must have done to earn the moniker. A discomfort that becomes all the more acute once you realise how utterly perfect the cliffs on the property are for, well, you get the picture.
Nowadays though, they instead make for a perfect viewing platform that takes in vast swaths of the northwest of the country and, thanks to Cambodia’s flat plains, on clear days you can see all the way down to the Phnom Kulen hill range just north of Siem Reap. Chilling in a hammock in one of the beautifully built salas, with a beer in hand for sunset, delivers a sense of being so utterly out of the fray that you risk forgetting entirely whatever it was you used to worry about.
The best time of year for the sunsets is between November and March, and the best month January. Otherwise, they’ll be kind of behind you as you look out. The rooms are in small wooden chalets and are spartan to say the least – minimal furniture and lighting, bucket showers. They are, however, clean and your room will be made up with a mosquito net and bedding once you arrive. They turn off the electricity at 22:00, which means it will get uncomfortably hot between March and June. The food was quite surprisingly bad, and we’d recommend bringing snacks if you think you’re going to get hungry.
The friendly female owner does not speak English, but can communicate well enough to give you a room, drinks, and a meal if you still want one. There is someone who does speak English, though they are not always there. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to though. A moto driver from Anlong Veng should take you out here for $4 or $5, and back again if you want him to. They are well versed in the dark art of negotiating sandy tracks after sundown. If you call the guesthouse in advance, they can help to find a driver for you. This place is about the sense of adventure, and certainly not for those who require certain standards of creature comforts; it is very well off the beaten track.
If you pass through the village/shantytown behind Pol Pot’s cremation site, you’ll find a different looking Cambodia from what you will have seen so far. With debilitated tin shacks for homes and businesses, it looks more a like a set from a Mad Max movie than the gorgeous scenery you’ll have passed through on the flatlands below to get there.
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Dbl fan private bathroom||US$8||US$8|
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.