Photo: Potter at work at Andong Russei.

Andong Russei pottery village

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Chhnang means "clay pot" in Khmer, and the Kompong Chhnang area is the centre for production and distribution of the terracotta wares you’ll find all over the country.

On travels along Cambodian highways you may have come across the huge, wooden, straw-lined carts packed with earthenware—traditionally drawn by oxen but now more often by motorbikes—which all originate in Kompong Chhnang. The manufacturing takes place in surrounding villages and the best and most convenient one to visit is Andong Russei.

The famed pots. Photo taken in or around Andong Russei pottery village, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

The famed pots. Photo: Mark Ord

The village is around 4 kilometres from town, so it’s easily done by bicycle and the scenery on the way is simply delightful. Guesthouses will of course provide directions but the route is relatively simple. With the provincial hall to your left and a small city park to your right, take the straight road that heads due west. This will lead you through classic Khmer landscapes of paddy dotted with sugar palms, with a range of low hills behind the village providing a good landmark. (It’s a straight line until you’re almost at the hills, whereupon a left turn at a T-junction takes you into the village.)

Most families here produce the pottery in their houses and any will be happy for you to stop by, though the best organised for visits is a co-operative workshop at the entrance to the village on the right. There’s no name other than Kompong Chhnang Pottery, but it’s a workshop rather than family home and lies at the foot of the hill, Phnom Meas. The project is aided by Japanese assistants who’ve taught more sophisticated, varied techniques and styles to the villagers and the results are a step above the standard local pottery.

The stunning scenery along the way to the village. Photo taken in or around Andong Russei pottery village, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

The stunning scenery along the way to the village. Photo: Mark Ord

Clay here is sourced from another part of the province and is a classic grey colour instead of the ubiquitous red, laterite clay found in the adjacent hills. (Phnom Meas means gold hill and the soil contains a high level of pyrite, meaning the standard pots produced in the village are then terracotta coloured, with attractive gold specks in them.

At the co-operative the pottery is fired, painted using natural dyes and then fired a second time, creating attractive and varied products. (These guys even have an outlet in Phnom Penh.) There are English explanations and some English is spoken; you’ll receive a guided tour through each stage of the manufacturing process. There is a shop attached but it’s all very low key and with zero sales push. It’s well worth a visit.

The local lingga. Photo taken in or around Andong Russei pottery village, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

The local lingga. Photo: Mark Ord

The co-operative is at the entrance to the village as you arrive from town; continuing along the road will take you through the village proper where you’ll see more traditional style, classic pottery production. If you don’t want to return the way you came, then a simple loop is on offer, so carry on along the same sealed road until you reach a hill known as Phnom Santouch, (spellings vary). The low but unusual hill is actually just a pile of huge sandstone boulders topped by an even more unusual linga or phallus-shaped great rock protruding into the air from the summit. You should be able to spot this from some way off. There’s a Buddhist temple aside the road from where a short path leads up the summit of the hill. Although not high, views are spectacular and we’re assured that the site is a favourite among Khmer karaoke video makers.

After the temple you hit a T-junction with Route 53 and a left turn takes you another 3 kilometres or so back into town, emerging at the rear of the provincial hall. We’d estimate the whole loop is under 10 kilometres, all on sealed country lanes. If you do go astray, locals will guess where you’re going even if they don’t speak English.

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How to get there
It's an easy cycle ride from Kompong Chhnang, which can be made into a loop by returning on rural Route 53. Or pay around $10 for a tuk tuk to do it, round trip.

Andong Russei pottery village
4 km west of Kompong Chhnang

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Location map for Andong Russei pottery village

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What next?

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