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Cool refreshment in our southern forests

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A tourist walks a pathway at the Mangrove Forest Resort in Koh Kong on Cambodia’s south coast.

Phnom Penh city dwellers are taking time out to explore the wilderness of Koh Kong.

I WORK IN THE CITY AND IT IS SO CROWDED; YET WHEN I COME HERE I FEEL SO FRESH AND REJUVENATED.

The unforgettable landscape impresses before you even reach the town.

Tall, lush forests sigh under a light drizzle, while fluffy mist cools the air of Botum Sakor national park in Koh Kong province.

The scenery encountered on the approach makes light of the 5- to 6-hour bus journey from Phnom Penh; it is well worth the ride when your destination is Koh Kong.

Mangrove Forest Resort is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the province.

It is also relatively easy to access from the provincial capital, Koh Kong.

Travel just 7 kilometres out of town, and a sign on the left-hand side directs you towards the resort, another 30 minutes or so down a picturesque path to a new world of beautiful forest and a never-ending chorus of birdsong.

There is an entry fee, but at 3,000 riels (US$0.75) for Khmer residents and 5,000 riels for foreigners, it is nominal to say the least.

Plus, as you wander through the spectacular natural environment, you realise a ticket at five times the price would still represent good value for money.

While we walked among the mangroves, feverishly snapping away with our cameras, a feeling of intimacy with nature certainly engulfed us.

Crabs and fish were ubiquitous, while the plethora of birdlife provided a perfect theme song to our stroll in the forest.

We soon came across a stone bridge, which measures an impressive 666 metres.

At this juncture, we were given the option of continuing further into the wilds, or relaxing at a shelter custom-built for weary tourists.

While having lunch with his wife under the hut, a tourist from Phnom Penh, Hem Pov, 24, explained how, despite this being his second visit, he cannot get enough of the area.

“I work in the city and it is so crowded; yet when I come here I feel so fresh and rejuvenated.

“I always have a good time with my family,” he said, while feeding his son.

“Cambodia has plenty of forests, but few compare to this. When I come here with my boy, I enjoy teaching him to love nature and the environment.”

After an enjoyable lunch, we set off across the stone bridge and eventually reached a viaduct, which, we were told, is the main landmark of the forest for tourists.

We were also encouraged to climb a lookout in order to feast our eyes on a fascinating, panoramic view of the forest and the streams surrounding it.

All of this natural beauty passes before your eyes in something of a blur, and it can be difficult to give it the time it deserves, especially if you are on a short trip to the area.

Long Man, deputy chief of the resort, explained that, with this in mind, the community will soon be creating guesthouses and restaurants to encourage tourists to see more and stay longer.

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