Amleang: An idyllic rural getaway with a dark past in Kampong Speu

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The scenic views of the Chhreav mountain range in Kampong Speu province are attracting nature lovers to stay in rural homestays. Not far from the foot of Chhreav mountain, in Thpong district’s Amleang commune about 120km from Phnom Penh, is Chez Mme BO Homestay. Hong Menea

Known for its seven cascading waterfalls situated nearby rice fields, orange plantations, palm trees and sugar cane forests as far as the eye can see, the scenic views of the Chhreav mountain range in Kampong Speu province are attracting nature lovers to stay in rural homestays.

Not far from the foot of Chhreav mountain, in Thpong district’s Amleang commune about 120km from Phnom Penh, is Chez Mme BO Homestay.

Set on 20ha of land, the homestay features five traditional Khmer wooden houses with gardens growing tropical fruits and vegetables and a beautiful backyard for camping overlooking the mountain range.

Bo Sopheary, the homestay’s founder, says the resort is an escape from modern city life.

“BO is my mother’s name. She needs to live in such a peaceful environment and I think tourists also need it. Phnom Penh residents live with less fresh air and they are stressed with their workloads, so they want to relax somewhere in nature,” said 33-year-old Sopheary, who is also a French-speaking tour guide.

Chez Mme BO offers trekking tours to seven nearby cascades, with visitors also able to watch the sunset in a nearby sugar cane farm.

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The homestay features five traditional Khmer wooden houses with gardens growing tropical fruits and vegetables and a beautiful backyard for camping overlooking the mountain range. Hong Menea

“It’s mild adventure trekking as the round trip to the seven cascades takes only three hours. When we park our vehicles, we walk to the forest and enjoy swimming at the cascades. We also have a tour package to see the sunset in a sugar cane plantation not far away from our homestay,” Sopheary said.

With its tranquil environment – as people travel back and forth to waterfalls, riding tractors and bicycling through villages – it is surprising to learn of Amleang commune’s dark history, with it once a detention centre and killing field under the Khmer Rouge.

Sopheary has received information from the Executive Director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Youk Chhang, showing that Amleang commune was the site of prison M-13, established in an area under Khmer Rouge control in 1972 by Comrade Duch, who would later oversee Phnom Penh’s infamous Tuol Sleng prison camp.

The scene of mass torture and murder, it is estimated that some 30,000 people would die at M-13 under Comrade Duch’s command.

“Cooperating with the Toul Sleng office, we arrange study tours for students to Amleang, where we know there used to be a war-zone and detention centre named M-13 only 10km from our homestay,” said Sopheary, who has been provided photographs and documents by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia to assist in her tours.

“If we do not tell the story of the Khmer Rouge era, our visitors will not know at all. Most of my tourists are French and German who have already visited Toul Sleng before coming here. Tourists can listen to my storytelling and we can travel to see where remains have been found near Chhreav mountain and Houng pagoda.”

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For some travellers visiting the homestay, it’s all about escaping the real world for a few days, spending nights in traditional wooden houses or under the stars, using only solar power and having no WiFi. Hong Menea

But while the Khmer Rouge history tours are a draw for many visitors, for others visiting the homestay it’s more about escaping the real world for a few days, spending nights in traditional wooden houses or under the stars, using only solar power and having no WiFi.

Chez Mme BO has one big wooden house with two bedrooms at $6.00 per person per night, and two small houses priced between $20 to $35 per night, while tents for camping for two people are $12 per night.

“The small houses are for family or friends to stay in a quiet private place where they can go to the market and cook for themselves,” said Sopheary.

Chez Mme BO is located in Amleang commune’s Ouda village, Kampong Speu province. For more information and to book, you can contact the homestay by telephone (081 282 884) or Facebook
(@ChezMmeBO).