If your journey to Chi Phat is an all-day affair like ours – on bakkies, boats, tuktuks and buses before finally clambering onto a long tail boat to Chi Phat itself – you’ll probably experience a similar sense of delight when you first glimpse the remote village around a bend in the Preak Piphot River, in the heart of the Southern Cardamoms Forest. Basic rooms with mosquito nets, clean-ish linen – and even a towel – seem heavenly after a long day on the road and, after a cold shower, a hot plate of fried rice and a few cans of Angkor beer, they may even feel heavenly too.
Chi Phat is at the centre of a community-based ecotourism initiative which was set up by Wildlife Alliance in 2007. It was set up to provide alternative income to locals who formerly made a living off poaching and unsustainable logging. Today, Chi Phat is gaining a reputation as an eco-tourism destination where former poachers lead guided treks and other villagers share in the earnings by provide accommodation in guesthouses, their homes or providing other visitors’ services. A village committee decides how profits are spent and reinvested.
Cost: Five US dollars for a room in a guesthouse with fan and separate bathroom. Three dollars for a a homestay for one, five dollars for two. Better-equipped bungalows beyond the village start at 20 dollars.
Finding it: All accommodation is arranged on a rotation basis at the CBET (Community Based Eco-tourism) office, five minutes’ walk from the pier, on the right hand side of the main street. Treks, bike and boat trips are also arranged here, and WiFi and meals are available.
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