An often overlooked haven of Cambodia is the small riverside town of Kampot, nestled close to the Vietnamese border. Peaceful, gentle and beautiful. A welcome balance of honest Cambodian culture and tourism, I felt safe and comfortable, while also seeing a whole other lifestyle to the Khmer people.
Economically Kampot is based on Salt & Pepper production & fishing. A gateway to the stunning Bokor National park I couldn’t recommend the town more. From night markets to street-side noodles; sunsets & sunrises that make you question whether it is reality or a dream world that you find yourself living in.
The easiest way to visit Kampot is via bus from Phnom Penh, Kep or Sihanoukville. I had mine booked through Giant Ibis for $7. Another option is via shared taxi – an early morning journey from Kampot to Phnom Penh cost us $35, split 3 ways. If there are a group consider getting a quote – it could be that the air-conditioned comfort is the unconventionally cheaper option!
Bokor National Park:
Overlooking the sea to the Vietnamese mountains (previously seen from Koh Ta Kiev), Bokor National park is about 2 hours on Moto from the town centre. Up a windy mountain road, the park is a shrine to what seems to be a never-ending quest for commercialisation. And failure. Building developments remain untouched, rotting in the sky over a beautiful backdrop. The newest development is the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, a $1bn US Dollar Casino that is eerily reminiscent of the desolate house in the shining (out-dated décor and void of personality). Wildlife is there, somewhere, but impossible to find. The waterfalls, although still stunning, rarely flow unless in the peak of the rainy season.
That said, the views are like none other. The old abandoned casino, french colonial and inspiringly grandiose gives me reason to stay in one place.
Note: If you are riding a Moto – be careful. Our inner tyre punctured at the top by the casino (the men in the fire station just at the bottom of the new complex are sweet and willing to help for a few dollars). On the way time, it completely blew and the guards were unhelpful and frustrating. But anywhere along the main road, outside of the park, are side stalls where a family man will fix you up for a super cheap fee.
Don’t miss a sunset at the beach – not a real ‘beach’ as such and a fair ride out of town towards Bokor, but this was that moment where we stood back and said ‘is this real? Or is it just fantasy?’
Within the town the river is the main feature, with roads and colonial buildings running off, pulling together quaint charm.
Waterfalls and mountains are abundant in Kampot – you won’t run out of day trips and adventures soon.
Where to Stay?
I can only recommend two places in Kampot as they were those that I visited. Firstly, Mad Monkey. A hostel chain, MM is a flashpacker hostel with a pool, bar and pristine vibes. Closer to a hotel than anything id seen in Cambodia so far, it was a definite luxury option at a budget price.
Secondly – and this is the one I will shout about for days – Arcadia backpackers. But there will be a whole post on this one, so wait for that.