Kampot town is an old provincial capital of quiet lanes and colonial architecture with plenty of villas and old shopfront trading houses, especially along the river road. Before the establishment of a deep sea port at Sihanoukville in the 1950s, Kampot was Cambodia's primary port. I really love the Kampot atmosphere, a bit worn but radiating a quaint, welcoming, small town ambiance. At first glance, Kampot seems to fulfill all the criteria of a sleepy provincial capital and the main attraction seems to be the relaxing riverside setting. But it’s not. There are a lot to see and do around and Kampot is an excellent base to explore and tour the surrounding countryside. All can be done by yourself by renting a scooter, with a tuk-tuk driver or with a local travel agency.
First of all, the rural countryside. A true poem, a bliss, may be one of the most pictorial countryside of Cambodia. Especially in November/December during the harvest season. Stunning contrast between the bright yellow rice fields and the bright green of the surrounding vegetation. This is the season in which the fields are full of activities, farmers are in the works to cut the beautiful mature rice. You will also find numerous old rice paddies that have been converted into salt fields. Workers bring in sea water from the coast and dry it in the fields to create sea salt. Go to inland to visit some pepper plantations. Kampot Pepper has been renowned for decades as one of the best peppers in the world. It develops an enthralling aroma, strong, delicate and aromatic. Limestone mountain landscapes between Kampot and Kep contain some caves, some adorned with exotic rock formations, and almost all containing Buddhist shrines such as Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Kbal Romeas. Rock climbing in amazing caves at Phnom Kbal Romeas is also available and offers breathtaking views inside the cave and from the top of the hill.
Bokor Ancient Casino
But the main attraction is Bokor hill station originally constructed by French in the early 1920s as an elegant getaway for officials and foreign visitors. It’s a really beautiful ride to get there. The summit is home to ruined historic buildings including a magnificent casino, a church, as well as the source of a large waterfall. Spectacular views of the Gulf of Thailand glimpsed through the lush jungle and the abandoned buildings that dot the roadside grab your interest, and the journey is worth the moment you experience the summit's extraordinary atmosphere. Trekking & hiking can be organized to explore Bokor National Park.
On the evening, do not miss the sunset firefly cruise on the river. Quietly sipping a beer while watching the sun set behind Bokor Mountain and see the mangrove forests along the Kampong Bay River. For only $ 5 it would be a shame to miss it. Extend the pleasure in one of the many cosy riverside restaurants. Enjoy live music, for such a sleepy little city, there is a great music scene in Kampot, especially during the high season, some musicians visit town and perform in bars such as the Greenhouse, Wunderbar and Bokor Mountain Lodge. Kampot has definitively all the ingredients for a pleasant stay ! Another important asset, the city is only at 20 km from the sea.
- By Fabien Vuillerey -
Where to sleep
Along with its relaxed ambience comes an excellent selection of places to stay:
The Columns. Fully restored French colonial era buildings a block off the river in the old French quarter of town. Hardwood furnishings, Cambodian silk cushions and decor, and all modern amenities including air-conditioning, flat-screen TV with cable and DVD player, mini-bar, lockbox. Price starts from US$60 www.the-columns.com
Champa Lodge. Spectacular riverside location and surrounded by farming and fishing communities, Champa Lodge is one of Cambodia’s most unique, laid-back and enticing abodes offering guests a truly Cambodian experience. It consists on a collection of 3 beautiful traditional khmer houses on stilt with fantastic views over river or rice paddies. Guests can enjoy activities such as kayaking, cycling and boating. Price starts from US$38 www.champalodge.com
Kampot River Bungalow. Comfortable bungalows and rooms with mosquito nets. Run by a very friendly and caring Khmer family. The food is cheap and consistently good. They will arrange all bookings tours buses, etc… There are free bicycles and scooters for hire. A good choice for budget travelers. Price starts from US$6 booking.com