Sen Monorom is not famed across Cambodia for its vibrant nightlife, but 24-hour electricity may soon change that. For the moment though, most retire early, at least compared to the night owls in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Trekking those hills is exhausting. But the options on offer are increasingly diverse, and the only drawback that we could see is that there is nowhere in town serving up Bunong food, which is a shame.
In the centre of town, Hefalump Cafe is a community and social hub in Sen Monorom, but more importantly it’s where you go for lemon meringue pie. On the high street, between the turn offs for the market, this small, garden cafe serves up a short but magical list of cakes, coffees and teas, including Lavazza and locally produced coffee. The staff here are mostly volunteers/staff from the Elephant Valley Project, and were very friendly and helpful.
Just across the road and down the hill a little, you’ll find Khmer Kitchen and Sovannkiri restaurants a few doors apart from one another. Both serve wide selections of Khmer dishes, and some Western staples. Both are cheap, with mains starting around the $2 mark. The menu at Khmer Kitchen is less interesting, although the owner speaks very good English and was very helpful in providing directions.
Going further down the hill again, but continuing straight rather than following the right turn along National Route 76 towards Phnom Penh (keeping the rather elaborate Oeun Sakona hotel on your left), you’ll come across a row of tour operators. Chilli On The Rocks is here, and was highly recommended to us though sadly we didn’t get to try it out as the owners were back in Sweden increasing their family number.
Further along again, you get to The Hangout, a place you can’t afford to miss during your time here. Run by the affable Callum and his wife Sopheak, this is a chilled out spot serving beers, excellent Khmer food, and an expanding selection of Western specialties. They served up some of the best mashed potato we’ve had in Cambodia — where even top chefs in top restaurants have still not worked out how to get the starch out of their spuds. They also sell Lavazza coffee, and Brunty’s cider.
If you continue down the hill, then swing a left, you’ll come across two more unmissable venues. Cafe Phka is a beautiful garden and riverside cafe with a Swedish-inspired menu (we had the meatballs; we had to stop ourselves from being pigs and ordering more, they were so delicious), plus cakes, other Western dishes and Khmer specialties. Right next door to them, Mondulkiri Pizza serves up a wide range of generously-topped pizzas, including chorizo, curry, Merguez, plenty of vegetarian options all priced according to size, $4 for small, all the way up to $25 for an extra large. They also deliver in case you can’t bring yourself to leave your room.
Cafe Phka: South of the High Street; open Mon-Sat 08:00-17:00; Sun 12:00-17:00.
Chilli On The Rocks: South of the High Street, Sen Monorom
Hefalump Cafe: High Street, Sen Monorom; T: (099) 696 041; open Mon-Friday 07:00-18:00, Sat-Sun 11:30-16:00.
Khmer Kitchen: High Street, Sen Monorom; T: (011) 620 461; open daily 06:00-22:00.
Mondulkiri Pizza: South of the High Street, Sen Monorom; T: (097) 522 2219; open daily 09:00-22:00.
Sovannkiri Restaurant: High Street, Sen Monorom; open daily 06:00-21:00.
The Hangout: South of the High Street, Sen Monorom; T: (088) 721 9991; open daily 06:00-22:00.