if you’re traveling to the northeast of cambodia, you might find yourself trying to find a direct route between the major towns of rattanakiri and mondulkiri: ban lung and sen monorom, respectively.
as you’ll read in the travel guidebooks, there’s no direct bus connection, only a nightmarish road, and a very bumpy, expensive road. however, road conditions have greatly improved, and it’s not necessarily as difficult to organize as it once was.
here’s what we did:
according to the books, you first need to catch a share taxi south to lumphat, then take a motodup to koh nhek, and continue to sen monorom by minibus. the second part of the trip (lumphat to koh nhek) is reportedly a 6-7 hour ride, which due to the bad road conditions is only possible on a motodup (motorbike taxi).
the entire journey is described as adventurous and not very easy to organize.
when we visited ban lung in late february (2014), we talked to the friendly girl at smiling tours (who was very honest about the bad state of the forests that most treks lead to). her information regarding direct travel to sen monorom was in accordance with the books.
initial prices were 100 dollars for 2 passengers to koh nhek (6-7 hours), and 140 to sen monorom (another 4 hours, plus overnight stay in sen monorom for the drivers). we eventually agreed on 85 dollars for 2 pax, which seemed expensive but realistic for the described trip.
ban lung to koh nhek
we were picked up at 7 a.m. at our hotel, loaded our backpacks onto the moto, and took off. however, the new road between lumphat and koh nhek had almost been complete, and in much better shape then the “in good shape” road between koh nhek and sen monorom. so, instead of 6-7 hours on a very bumpy road, we were surprised to find ourselves in koh nhek just two hours later.
42.5 dollars per person was far too much for that. however, the fact that the motodup drivers spent the morning and early afternoon at a restaurant at the main intersection might suggest that they just never told anybody about the new road being (nearly) finished.
not many travelers visit the village, so we decided to stay for a day. there were a handful of guesthouses along the main road with only khmer-language signs, and maybe an english-speaking teenager per house. room prices were rather expensive at 10 $ per room and night. in koh nhek, there’s a local market and a nearby lake to see, but that’s about it. still, it was very interesting to get a glimpse of local life without the influence of tourism.
koh nhek to sen monorom
minibuses to sen monorom started from the main crossing (acleda bank) between 7 and 8 a.m. we had no trouble finding one, and the 4-hour ride was 7.50 $ per person.
as mentioned, the road was described as “in good shape”, which shouldn’t lead you to believe that you won’t have to get off the bus once or twice when it gets stuck.
13 thoughts on “cambodia travel tip: how to get from ban lung to sen monorom”
Nice to get first hand info about this route, but I would like to ask you something. We are four travellers thinking about getting ban lung from sen monorom in August (rainy season) and we wonder if you consider this is possible in a car instead of using motodup, because my wive and daughter consider moto rides a dangerous adventure.
please note that i’ve never been to cambodia in the rainy season, so this is my best guess.
the road from ban lung to koh nhek was freshly redone in march, so i believe you shouldn’t have a problem there. i’d be more worried about the road between koh nhek and sen monorom (what was described in the travel guides as the “better” section). there were some really bumpy rides there and several construction sites where preparations were ongoing for bridge construction (at least that’s what it looked like). if these are finished by august, the whole trip will probably be fairly comfortable in a car. if not, you might have trouble crossing the rivers.
that being said, koh nhek was much better connected to the south (we were going in a minibus full of school children and other locals heading to sen monorom), so i expect it should be possible.
Thanks a lot Markus by your prompt answer, I think we will try unless the info we get arriving sen monorom change or mind. One additional question, what about getting sien reap from ban lung without moving south close to Phnom Penh?
Thanks in advance
good luck! please share your experiences when you’re back!
regarding ban lung to siem reap: there are some private “vip bus” companies that promise faster travel than with public busses, but i believe pretty much every bus goes south towards skuon first. the detour is likely related to cambodia’s road conditions.
Hello Markus ! Thank your very much for these informations. We are a french couple and we will be in Cambodia in few days. We were wondering if it might be possible, in your opinion, to rent motorbike in Kratie and to do a Loop through Stung Treng, Koh Nhek and Sen Monorom by ourselves ? It is the dry season right now so i think it should be ok but i don’t find any informations on internet about people doing this…
Thank you in advance for your answer.
Marion & Kevin
Hi Marion & Kevin,
I think you should be able to find your way around these places, especially if you carry a map and/or GPS. I wasn’t driving myself so didn’t pay extreme attention to the route, but the way I remember it these were all the major connecting roads, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get from one city to another.
Concerning road conditions, motorbikes actually give you more flexibility, so even if the worst road sections (Lumphat to Koh Nhek, Koh Nhek to Sen Monorom) are still as bad as they were 9 months ago, you should be fine in the dry season. These roads were in construction when we were there, so you *might* actually find good roads and bridges there, now.
Please note that I haven’t done that sort of thing myself, so all I can give you is my best estimate.
Have fun in Cambodia – we loved it!
just for information we did today the road. Sen monrom to Ban lung with 1 moto and 1 scooter. Road is bit hard for the first 15 km when we start. My girlfriend start to drive just 2 day before ( don’t go licence and expérience), so we take our time and this road is realy cool. You can all do it it’s safe nothing dangerous just fun. 7 hours trip with a lot of little break and slow speed for 50% of trip.
If anyone want more information just ask we came from siem ream in moto and we travel around Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.
(sorry for my bad english) =)
I would like to ask Marion & Kevin if they made the loop and if so, where they got the motorbike in Kratie.
I would like to be sure there are long term rentals in Keatie.
Maybe Negri Cedric you can also know if there are long term motorbike rentals in Kratie. If so please advise.
We did the Loop from Kratie via Stung Treng, Ban Lung and Sen Monorrom in 5 days (2 nights in Sen Monorrom) in december 2014.
Actually the worst part was from Kratie to Stung Treng because the road was under construction… And then the road was new almost to Ban Lung (only the 10km were a nightmare with a lot of dust !). Between Ban Lung and Sen Mornorrom the road is not finished but very fine. This part is a bit weird because nobody leaves there, only the road and the trees as far as you can see ! Then from Sen Monorrom to Kratie the road is brand new so no problem. We would advice you to do this loop in more than 5 days because it is more than 800km and very tiring to drive all day long.
We rented our motorbike with CDTOURS in front of Le Tonlé hostel (very good one !) for 5 days, 6$ per day. The motorbike was quite good, no problem with it at all.
I hope these informations can be useful =)
Marion & Kevin
Thank you for the precious information.
We are today in Kratie and definitely we are gonna make the loop tomorrow.
Many thanks again.
Hello! We are a couple, we’ll go in Sen Monorom next july and we’d like go from there to Ban Lung directly. Now are the road contitions good? Are there minivan,buses or what to make this trip?
We have set off on the 1000km loop of North East Cambodia with two of us on a semi manual bike…
Day 1: Phnom Penh > Kratie. Easy paved road all the way, we came out of Phnom Penh and at Roka Kaong Pi we turned right and followed the Mekong with it to our right all the way to Kampong Cham. This 65km section starts off on road the middle is a gravel track, doable on a bike some sections bumpy then finishes on the road again. Driving on the roads is boring, you can do that at home! From Kampong Cham to Kratie is an easy paved road. With stops for drinks and sight seeing this first day took us 6hrs and 241km.
Day 2: Kratie > Ban Lung
You can take the road all the way with no problems. From Kratie we headed north up the Mekong with it on our left stopping at Phnom Samboc (10km) a beautiful temple on the hill. At this loint we got a flat tyre and a guy at the bottom repaired it for 20,000cr. At 16km is Kampi a place to spot the rare Irawaddy Dolphins, $9 per person. At 36km in Sambor, still on a good gravel road was a turtle sanctuary. From here on it got a bit bump till we hit 63km where we stopped for a wash in the Kamping Phnow Rapids on the Mekong. I imagine this isn’t possible in the wet season. From here in was bumpy, bouncy and at time very sandy for 19km when at 82km we reading National Highway No7… Relief for our sore bottoms! From here on is a straight road and one right turn at Pong Moan (134kms) then another 124kms to Ban Lung on a nice smooth. The strip took us 7.5hrs including lots of stops and a total of 158kms.
So far a good trip I’ll update further when we get back to Phnom Penh
Davo and Chubb :)