Maps of Cambodia

Posted on by wpadmin


In August of 2006, my wife began a new job. She was to be working for an NGO in the hinterlands of Kep and Kampot, visiting and introducing herself in small villages and generally preparing the ground for the introduction of the NGO’s new project in the area.

When I asked which areas she would be working in, she seemed a little unsure and reeled off the names of some places, but she didn’t really know where they were in relation to each other, or how to get from one to another. I suggested that she should ask the NGO for a map of the area, which she did, but the map she was given was pitifully lacking in detail. It looked as if it had been handmade by someone barely conversant with Photoshop. Only the main roads were shown, several shown as being in the sea. Small dots indicating the villages were shown many kilometers away from roads with no apparent connecting tracks, and upon asking around on an exploratory visit, we found the names of several of the villages had been confused with one another and were not accurately placed. I decided that if that was the best a large international NGO could do, then it was a poor job, and I could probably find better for her myself.

I started looking for maps in the bookshops, but could only find large country-wide sheet maps that didn’t really show the kind of detail needed, or disorganized piles of mixed series and scale small-area maps heaped up in the markets, so I turned to the internet and began looking there. After a great deal of searching and downloading at yawn speed in the internet cafes of Phnom Penh, I came across, a website built by and for veterans of the Vietnam conflict, which displays the whole of a series of adjoining ex-military maps of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The maps were old, dating from 1967 to 1980, but they were extremely well detailed in their topographical data, and the series covered the whole country. I downloaded the maps we needed for the Kep and Kampot areas and away we went.

We both moved to Kep, I helped out as her unpaid-volunteer driver (a rented moto, as the NGO didn’t provide a car) – project photographer – escort – and navigator during the day, and I volunteered to teach English in one of the local wat schools in the evenings.

Everything was progressing well, but, in November of 2006, we had a particularly unlucky encounter with a drunken Khmer motorcyclist, who managed to knock us off our moto, breaking my collarbone and a rib or two.

Returning to PP for medical attention, (also not provided for either of us by the NGO), I was told that the bones would take around 4 to 6 weeks to heal and that I shouldn’t work or do any exercise at all.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy who can sit around for long periods with nothing to do, and my mind began to wander. I went back to the nexus site and downloaded all the maps of Cambodia that I needed to complete the holes in my collection. I stitched them all together as best I could with photoshop, made a simple operating system with Microsoft Frontpage and then placed them all onto a CD. That was to be my own map of Cambodia, a reference for myself.

During the next month or so, while I was recuperating, we decided we would not return to live in Kep. We felt that we had been very lucky in the moto accident and we both could have been hurt far more. The NGO still wasn’t providing any transport, health insurance, or anything much in the way of a support network and that was more than a little worrying given what they were asking us to do. I wasn’t particularly unhappy about not returning to the NGO’s project, in fact I was pissed at them for their lack of organization and apparent unconcern for their staff, but I was very unhappy about leaving the wat school.

While we were working in the area, we had been invited to a rice-harvest festival in the local wat by a moto driver, and, while there, I noticed a small schoolroom in the corner of the yard. When I found out that the monks taught English there, I volunteered to help them out and teach.

My first class had 26 students of all ages and abilities and the first thing that I noticed was the difference between their attitude and the attitude of the students in Phnom Penh where I had been teaching before.

All of these people were on time for class, and they all wanted to be there and were listening and eager to learn, even after their days work on the farms or fishing boats or in school they were all good humored and helped each other out. In 2 weeks, news of the free English classes had spread and the class grew to over 70 students. Problems began to arise with a lack of space and materials, and the upper and lower ability level students were getting frustrated as I could not give them all enough time. The only books that the school had were a 1958 Longman grammar guide (one book from a series) and a single battered copy of New Headway (intermediate), which were not nearly adequate for their needs.

So, on a visit to Phnom Penh, I bought around 80 copies of New Headway beginner and intermediate level, a very large Khmer-English dictionary, boxes of pens and pencils and a few other things, and, when I returned to the school, we had an “entrance” exam.

I split the class into 2 groups according to their ability and held 2 classes; beginners on Monday, Wed, Friday, and intermediate on Tuesday, Thurs, Saturday. This solved the problems and the classes expanded more. I told them that I would continue to teach there for the duration of my wife’s work in the area and would most probably see them through the New Headway series, which was very well received by all.

Now, I had to tell them all that after only 3 months I would be leaving and not returning. I really did not want to have to do that and felt guilty as hell for raising their expectations.

However, do it I did, we relocated to Phnom Penh, and I returned to teaching in the private schools. My new students were the typical Phnom Penh nouveau riche. The kids that didn’t attend class even when dropped at the gates by daddy’s driver, the grammar snipers, the exam cheats, the artful homework dodgers, the mobile phone brigade, the apologetic late arriving early leavers, the silent starers and the video-game-under-the-table timewasters. I really missed Wat Kampong Tralach.

It was around then that I noticed a thread on Khmer 440. A guy was asking about maps and was complaining that he had been sold what he said was a crap map and that he had been told that it was the best available. I had shown my CD map to several people and they had all told me that they thought it was really good, so I took a chance that they were not just being polite and posted to K440 that I had a CD containing good maps covering the whole of Cambodia. A few people took a look and liked it, so I put the guilt about leaving the wat school and the selling of the CDs together and decided to try to raise money for the school by selling the CDs.

Over the last year, more and more people have become involved and have donated their time, maps, photos, GPS readings, etc. and the collection on the CD has grown. I think that it’s a really good resource with superb growth potential, and that given enough input in the future from knowledgeable folks, it will continue to grow and raise cash to help out, just a little, with the efforts of some good, intelligent, keen and conscientious students who are amongst the poorest of students in Cambodia.

Maps of Cambodia.
On the CDs are:


• A printable colour atlas of the entire country.
• A complete series of highly detailed 1:250,000 topographical maps covering the whole country made by the US military and Allied Forces from 1967 to 1980.
• An indexed list of all cities and towns mentioned on the above maps (I’m still working on hot-linking them all to their atlas pages)
• Several hundred excellent donated photographs arranged into galleries.
• The GPS co-ordinates of 40+ ancient temples all over the country, with linked photo galleries, all linked to maps showing their precise locations (thanks to Jim, Cal2).
• The Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) nationwide roadmap. (2000/2001, from 1:500,000 to 1:50,000 scale, around 40mb of data, divided by province).
• Links to the CD partner website, where the latest updates can be seen before they are issued and contributions and corrections can be made.

• The Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) map produced under the Technical Co-operation Program of the Government of Japan and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. (1997, 1:100,000 scale, over 230mb of data)
• Corresponding military maps for the above.
• Links to the CD partner website, where the latest updates can be seen before they are issued and contributions and corrections can be made.
The price for each CD is $2.

The only place where new releases of the CD are made, and the only place where purchasing a CD will contribute to the school is the Jungle bar on the riverside in Phnom Penh. The Jungle copies and sells the CDs entirely for free, and all monies raised will go to buying equipment for the Wat Kampong Tralach School. No-one takes a commission; no-one is paid for their contributions.

For the future, I’d really like to see the CD grow into a map and photographic guide to the whole of Cambodia, a kind of “Cambodian Encarta” made with contributions from all sources: where to go in X town, where to buy Y, where to eat, where to stay, how much to pay, what to see and how to get there; and all done for a really good cause.

It could include:
• Photo travel guides (turn right at this junction – left at this one, etc.) for the more remote areas.
• Street maps for every town in Cambodia.
• Photo adverts or recommendations for businesses and services made as whole web pages linked to the correct map areas or street maps.
• Photo galleries of small towns, with traveler’s information and advice given.
• Catalogues of differences in architecture, cultural style, customs and traditions between different areas.
The list is endless and the future potential enormous, but this will only be fulfilled if enough people contribute enough information, so why not send me something for the CD, anything Cambodia-related. Email me at [email protected] and put Cambodia Maps on the subject line.

Thanks for your time,

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One Response to Maps of Cambodia

  1. Panha says:

    What happened to this?
    Is it still available?

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