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Anlong Veng and Ta Mok’s toilet – Cambodia

Interesting border crossing from Chong Sa Ngam in Thailand to Choam in Anlong Veng district. Chong Sa Ngam is just inside Si Saket Province though probably easier to reach from Surin. Unfortunately, though we’ve been unable to find any public transport on this route so it’s a taxi job to cover the 110 kilometres from Surin to Sangkha to the border.

Chong Sa Ngam border
Chong Sa Ngam border

Not many Thai international border crossings like this one left; dirt track, bamboo huts etc…Probably only see a handful of ‘farangs’ each week so be prepared to take your time – not because it’s busy but because the bored, but very friendly police like a chat!

The not very bustling border market
The not very bustling border market

Above is the low-key, not exactly bustling border market in front of which will be some moto-dops and if you’re lucky, taxis, offering to take you into Anlong Veng or on to Siem Reap. Buses to SR tend to leave early – around 7.00 or 8.00 – but there are plenty of shared taxis outside Anlong Veng’s Psa Thmei market so if you don’t want to pay for a taxi on your own you’re best off just getting a ride the 12-15 kilometres into town. On the way, you might want to stop off to check out one or 2 of Anlong Veng’s unusual ‘tourist sites’.

Khmer Rouge chicken
Khmer Rouge chicken

Pol Pot’s grave – seen above – is about a 1-minute walk from the border – go down the track on the right side of the market and take the 1st right and it’s on your right. (Careful locals say the waste ground around it may still have mines). Carry on the same track and it leads you onto the spanking new sealed road taking you down the mountain and onto Anlong Veng itself. (A little way down the road from the junction and on the right-hand side is probably the town’s best restaurant/coffee shop if you want to grab something before going further?)

Spectacular road down the Dandreks from the border to Anlong Veng.
The spectacular road down the Dandreks from the border to Anlong Veng.

A spectacular drive leads you down to the foot of the Dandrek range where 10 or 12 kilometres of good straight road takes you into Anlong Veng Town itself. On the way, you’ll pass some more of the area’s unusual ‘tourist sites‘: Ta Mok’s grave, Ta Mok’s villa and the ‘lake of dead trees’. (Even amongst the upper echelons of the Khmer Rouge Ta Mok, or ‘Brother Number 5’, was known for his brutality, earning the title ‘ the Butcher’!)

Psychopath number 5 was one of the last leaders to hold out in this area which only finally came under government control in the late ’90s after an amnesty offer to the remaining KR forces. He died in 2006 whilst under arrest in Phnom Penh and his ashes were sadly interred in a rather elaborate mausoleum constructed on the edge of town by his family. (We say sadly since, to our mind, he didn’t even deserve the piece of corrugated iron Pol Pot received but then that just goes to show how his children and grandchildren ignored the fact that dear old grandpa Mok was, in fact, a vicious mass murderer!) See this interesting BBC article on his death.

Anlong Veng. Ta 'The Butcher' Mok's grave
Ta ‘The Butcher’ Mok’s grave

Note that since the Anlong Veng area was an impoverished, remote backwater prior to the KR reign and to a large extent remains so today you will find some locals, as you do in Pailin, who don’t really understand what the Khmer Rouge did that was so bad!?

Anyway also just off the main road you can visit the Butcher’s villa set on the edge of the lake but we’re not sure if its macabre interest value really warrants the $2 entrance fee? (Which has gone up from $1 last year!) It’s a shabby derelict concrete building with a few odd murals, though the highlight is probably being able to piss in Ta Mok’s still in-situ toilet. Potentially much more interesting is a planned museum that a moto-dop told us he and his family were setting up comprising of unusual local artefacts such as Ta Mok’s wooden leg and Pol Pot’s dining service!?

The villa is set on the edge of a lake created by a Khmer Rouge dam scheme which, being full of dead trees, creates a rather sinister swimming pool for the local kids, a fishing spot for their dads and wallowing site for the local water buffaloes.

Anlong Veng
Lake of dead trees

Get dropped off outside of Psa Thmei (new market) in ‘downtown’ and you’ll find the shared taxi queue for Siem Reap. Around 120 kilometres: – a pretty drive through plenty of forest past Kbal Spean, Phnom Kulen and Banteay Srei takes less than 2 hours for a few bucks.