Amokalypse Now: Anlong Veng

Anlong Veng’s claim to infamy is not its food. On the Thai border in Cambodia’s un-touristed northwest, Anlong Veng was the last home of the Khmer Rouge leadership and the location of Pol Pot’s unceremonious cremation on a pile of flaming refuse. A few surviving top cadres either wait for their day at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or their death in the comfort of their own homes in and around this minor border town.

The food this close to the Thai border does show the influence of the northern neighbour. Chilli and lime leaves are ever-present and the food displays less of the palm-sugar sweetness of many Cambodian foods. Fresh chilli is sold at Anlong Veng’s Psar Thmei by the kilo rather than in more measured doses.

amok kchok from anlong veng

This fish amok from Pkay Preuk Restaurant on the edge of town was roasted in a foil wrapping instead of steamed (amok kchok) and was dominated by chilli with what seemed to be equal parts of the fermented fish paste prahok and fresh snakehead fish. Along with the herb slok ngor, Thai basil (chee krohorm) was abundant making for a richly aromatic dish. The amok was almost baked dry rather than mousseline.

Location: Pkay Preuk Restaurant, Anlong Veng, Oddar Meanchey province.

As a non-food related bonus: for anybody thinking of doing the loop from Beng Melea to Koh Ker to Prasat Preah Vihear by dirtbike/Camry during this hot season, the roads are all in good shape. The road from Koh Ker to Tbaeng Meanchey then Tbaeng Meanchey to Preah Vihear (Road 62) has recently been improved. It is still dirt with plenty of corrugations but not impassible as most guidebooks mention, making it possible to do a long day from Tbaeng Meanchey to Prasat Preah Vihear then onwards to Anlong Veng well before nightfall.

If you feel like taking it easier, there are a few guesthouses at the base of Prasat Preah Vihear’s mountain. The worst stretch of road is a few patches of potholes between Prasat Preah Vihear and Anlong Veng which could turn much nastier depending on how much of the timber-smuggling traffic takes that route. Anlong Veng seems to be booming at the moment with a choice of about five guesthouses and a few new restaurants.

A minor annoyance is that if you’re keen on visiting the “River of a Thousand Lingas” at Kbal Spean or the temples at Banteay Srei on the return journey to Siem Reap from Anlong Veng (Road 67), you’ll need to have bought a temple pass in advance from Siem Reap. Sokimex has probably not considered that tourists will be coming in via Anlong Veng.