More than 5,000 trees will be planted at a newly minted tourism site outside of Siem Reap town in an attempt to draw more visitors to the area, according to local organisers. Peung Tanoan Mountain, which is located 60 kilometres from the centre of town in Kok Doung commune, is accessible only via a narrow, steep road. But since July, it has seen an increasing number of local and foreign tourists.
The site welcomes almost 500 visitors each day, says Keo Kean, an official from the Environmental Protection and Development Organization (EPDO). That’s likely because of the view. The mountain is shaped by layers of sandstone. Standing on the edge of the site, one can see Dangrek and the Kulen Mountains in the distance. Kean says it resembles a beach.
“The villagers here said that it was a shore of the sea. If you do not believe it, you can stand above the stone and look east – it’s a sea surrounded by the mountain ranges,” he says. “It’s beautiful to see the view here. It really differs from any views you see in Siem Reap.”
To improve the site, the rural education organisation Bamboo Shoot has partnered with the Ministry of Environment and local authorities on a tree-planting project. Nearly 1,500 volunteers came out for the first planting last week, according to Sea Sophal, Bamboo Shoot’s director.
Sophal says that the project aims to benefit the local community – one of a number of similar efforts in Siem Reap province to bring tourism into rural areas. He has plans for a Sunday community market where villagers can sell naturally grown foods.
“The mountain villages have great potential for eco-community tourism,” he explains. “They can make a better income not just from farming, but also from tourism.”
“Local people and tourists have to come together, protecting our natural resources.”