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Kampot

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Kampot is a small town (pop.~40,000) in south-east Cambodia and capital of the province with same name. It is a gateway to Bokor National Park

Sunset over the river.

Understand

Kampot's main draw is its relaxing riverside setting. While there is a sizeable town set back from the river, most tourists will spend most of their time enjoying the river. Most tourist businesses are scattered along the riverside promenade or are within one or two blocks of it. The riverside's main reference points are the old bridge, a mongrel of various styles and temporary parts thrown together after its breaching in the Khmer Rouge days, and the French-built market building (which is currently being restored). Back from the river, the town is centred on the bizarre durian roundabout. From where the buses drop passengers, walking down the wide boulevard leads towards the river and the French-built market.

Get in

From Phnom Penh, three companies (Hua Lin based near Olympic Market, Capitol based near Orasay Market and 168 Phnom Phen Sorya based in the bus station next to Central Market) each run two buses per day with morning (around 7-9am) and afternoon (around midday-2pm) departures. A one way ticket costs around US$5 and include a free pick-up from your guesthouse. The recently upgraded road allows for the journey to be completed in approximately 3-4 hours.

Many guesthouses in Phnom Penh offer direct transport to Kampot. While convenient, it is expensive (at least US$8).

From Sihanoukville, take a shared taxi, minibus or bus. Most taxis depart from the traffic pickup point next to the market. The two hour drive should costs US$3-5/person in a shared taxi, though haggling is required. Bus operators can help arrange a minibus with pickup at your guesthouse. Shared taxis are generally cramped (7 passengers: 4 in the back, 2 in the front passenger seat and one next to the driver).

Driving from Sihanoukville to Kampot on a rented scooter can fun but if road conditions are poor may take 3.5 hours or more.

Get around

Getting around Kampot is easy on foot or on pushbike, given the town's small size and flat terrain. Alternatively, hire a motorcycle (100cc - 125cc scooter or 250cc dirtbike, from US$5/day) or bicycle (from US$1/day) from hire shops near the durian traffic circle, or from just about any guesthouse or tour shop .

It takes about 2 hours by moto from Kampot to the Ha Tien border with Vietnam, the scenery is very beautiful. If you start early you can catch the 10:00h ferry to Phu Quoc island. The border procedure is hassle free.

Finding an English-speaking moto taxi or guide in Kampot isn't too difficult but if you're struggling try Mr Kao Hemg (012645185 or 0977009975).

See

The most impressive sights in Kampot are the river and surrounding hills, which grandly frame views from the riverside promenade. Kampot retains much of its colonial buildings and there are many interesting old structures in various states of repair. The two cinemas stopped screenings long ago but the buildings represents a charming, art deco vision of the future. The market, an angular structure similar to Battambang's, is undergoing renovation.

Bokor Mountain

Bokor National Park, about 1-2 hours out of Kampot, is being destroyed by a US$1bn casino development. The eerie charm of the abandoned French hill station that included a shell of a church and the isolated upland nature reserve are rapidly becoming a tacky casino resort for Asian gamblers. The road up the mountain is now paved and provides easy access. The cooler climate and sublime views from the mountain remain and may provide some reason for a visit. Entry to the area is free (the previous $5 fee has been scrapped).

Tigers were rare to start with and will likely soon be non-existent. Gibbons and birds such as the chestnut-headed Partridge, blue pitta and orange-headed thrush will also been much harder to spot in what is now a construction site. The waterfall, which only flows in the wet season, may still provide some sanctuary for humans and animals wanting to get away from bulldozers.

Tours still run up the mountain and cost approximately US$10, depending on bargaining skills. Lunch is included. Except for the Bokor Palace Hotel and old casino, the old French buildings are occupied by the families of construction workers. The excursion can still be worthwhile provided as it is viewed as an insight into seeing Cambodia's Great Leap Forward rather than as an atmospheric expedition into a remote and haunting environment.

Several tracks enter the forest, one from behind the old tea plantation, the second from near the waterfalls. It is possible to stay at the ranger station which is basic but comfortable and, contrary to some reports, offers food and French wine.

Other

  • Teuk Chhouu, (8km upriver of town on the west (far) bank). An area of rapids with eateries and an island. It is a nice place for swimming, tubing and relaxing, and local vendors sell fruit, coffee and water.
  • Phnom Chhnork, (8km east of town on the Kep Road NH33). A pleasant ride through paddy fields and village life to these caves with pre-Angkorian (Funan) shrines and "lost worlds". Just after the rhino statue turn left (there is a sign to Phnom Chhnork Resort), cross the railway into a village. Straight ahead is Phnom Sera with some interesting caves and a quarry which feeds the local gravel industry. Follow the road 90 degrees left and 2 km or so to Wat Ang Sdok, pay the monks and walk across to the mountain. Take your torch (flashlight). $1.
  • Secret Lake, (East of Phnom Chhou). An irrigation dam with a picnic area.
  • Pepper Farms, (North of the Kep hills and NH33), [1]. Enquire in town about how to see pepper being grown and processed. For a guided tour visit The Vine Retreat in Chamcar Bei village. Genuine Kampot Pepper is sold at Blissful Guesthouse.
  • Also to be experienced are the fresh seafood(especially the crab with local Kampot pepper) and beaches at Kep (25km 25-45 minutes east from Kampot by moto or shared taxi) which makes a fun day trip. Although the beaches are not as nice as those in Sihanoukville (1 small brown sand beach and more rocky), it is quiet and during the week you will likely be the only visitors. Fishing boats can also be taken out to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), approximately 45 minutes from the mainland.
  • Kampot mangroves, (From Kampot and around), [2]. A traditional Khmer long-tail boat floats you to beautiful places where the flora, fauna and people dwell harmoniously. Voyage up the Kampot river and towards the heart of Bokor National Park.
  • Cham Fishing Village, about two kilometers out of town past the Governor's Residence on the road that runs along the East bank of the river.
  • Salt Fields , about two kilometers out of town on the Kep road. You will see the fields off to your right (coming from Kampot) and there are a number of access roads.
  • Funky Statues, The Big Durian, The Vietnam Friendship Monument, The 2000 Roundabout, The Salt Workers Monument.
  • The Two Old Cinemas, art deco design and both have been out of regular service for some time however the one on the old bridge road does show the occasional Khmer made horror movie. If you are an art deco enthusiast, The Tourist Information building, about 400 meters up from the Salt Workers Monument, is also worth a look.
  • The Old Bridge, still in regular service for vehicular traffic although it probably shouldn't be as its structural integrity is questionable. It is very picturesque at sunset however.
  • The Colonial Railway Station, the rail line through Kampot is under reconstruction and freight services are expected to resume sometime in the unknowable future. For the present (May 2012) the old station still stands in all its untouched glory and is worth a look. Head out of town on the Phnom Penh road and take the last turn to your right before you come to the rail lines. The Station is sign posted and approx. 1.5 kilometers out of town.
  • The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, situated across the road from the Acleda Bank building and adjacent to the park that runs down to the Old Market. The school holds occasional concerts - there is a notice board outside the building advising dates and times - and it is possible to attend music rehearsals (Mon to Fri) if you make an appointment. Tel: +855 (0)33 932 992 (Field Manager: Mr. You Chhuy)
  • The Old Prison , still in active use and would make a great set if anyone ever decides to do a remake of the movie Papillon. This is not a place where you would want to do time. About 200 meters from the Salt Workers Monument.
  • The 2000 Olympic Stadium, in the center of town behind the Durian Roundabout. Classic Khmer style stadium and the grounds are often used for fairs or live music concerts during public holidays.
  • The Market, large, rambling, well stocked with just about everything that an average Khmer family could need (have a look at the section behind the fish mongers for examples of local produce)and well worth a wander around. Watch your feet and your head as floors can be uneven and ceilings low.
  • Get Out Of Town, head out of Kampot for 1 kilometer in any direction and get off the main roads and you are in rural Cambodia. Some of the local cottage industries include palm sugar and wine making, basket weaving and furniture making using liana and rattan.

Do

Take a boat trip up the river for $5

Kampot has a relaxed and sleepy atmosphere. It is a great place to go and just soak up the atmosphere and catch your breath for a couple of days, either in town, at the beach, along the river, or up on Bokor.

Do Kampot province by dirtbike: Ride enduro style through the Elephant mountains, take on the hillclimb up Bokor or relax.

  • Petanque (Boules). Play at Blissful for free. Have a cold beer or Pastis while playing. The court is floodlit, so play morning, afternoon or evening.
  • Minigolf, (at the Magic Sponge GH). Play a few fun rounds of 9-hole minigolf for free. Have a cold beer before, during and afterwards and try to get a tricky but not impossible hole in one!
  • Fat Lewie's Bicycle Tours, (next to Sister II Restaurant), 089 863 670, [3]. New, Western mountain bicycles for rent. Half and full day countryside tours also available.

Buy

You can buy locally grown, and of international acclaim, black pepper from the New Market (1km towards Phnom Penh from the central traffic circle), although it is recommended that should you wish to be relatively certain that the pepper you are purchasing really is locally grown, bring a trustworthy local with you.

Tiny Kampot Pillows Hand made in Kampot, Quilts, Pillows and Cushions, Drink Coasters and Place mats, Belts and Bags. Also Kampot Postcards, Greeting Cards, Reproduction Indochine Photos, plus a range of Kramas and functional gift items. At the 2000 Traffic Circle. Phone:085 515 759 Web link here: [4]

Eat

There are plenty of places to eat in Kampot, ranging from the usual street kitchens to proper restaurants providing indoor seating. Most places are only a short walk from the central traffic circle. A delicious breakfast found in Kampot is Koh Kor Num Pain, a thick beef stew served with french bread. Fish and seafood are also plentiful, fresh and delicious.

Food stalls still open late at night.

Just north of the new bridge are two bungalows with over-the-water dining in stilt huts. Nature Bungalows even has a tiny artificial beach! Just south of the same bridge a Khmer seafood restaurant is also on stilts over the water.

  • Blissful, On Guest House Street by Salt Workers Statue. Food 7:15am - 9:30pm. Khmer and Western cuisine including vegetarian dishes. Weekly Sunday roasts. Relaxing garden area. The accompanying bar closes at midnight.
  • Cafe Espresso Kampot, 17 R717 (Across from 333 Bakery in the side street from Epic Arts Cafe), 092388736, [5]. 7am - 11pm. Speciality coffee, roast and ground on site. International menu incl. Australian style café fare and fresh baked goods. Free wifi. under $5.00.
  • Epic Arts Cafe, Old Market Street (North side two blocks from the river). Breakfast until 5pm. Modern cafe cuisine, juices and Italian coffee. NGO run to help local disabled people. A few second hand books also for sale. moderate - premium.
  • Kampot Pie and Ice Cream Palace, Behind Little Garden Bar (One block north and one block inland of the old bridge), 099 65 78 26. 7am - late. Khmer run bakery with good cheap fare. Great brownies, no croissants though.
  • The Lazy Farmer, 'Guesthouse Street opposite Magic Sponge' (East of the salt gatherers statue - middle roundabout). Good quality Khmer food along with a western/asian menu. Cheaper than the guesthouses.
  • OM, Old Market Street no.38 (in the old french quarter between Old Market and Park), 090-798152, [6]. 8:30am - 8:30pm. Juice Bar / Restaurant & Creperie (no alcohol) Khmer & Western cuisine healthy food made out of best quality products, Super-foods & libations that awakens all your senses to enjoy. Creperie & Juice Bar, Coffee, Teas & Cakes, Super-foods, Cambodian specials and more ... Organic-Shop & Design, Art gallery, VIP room,Workshops, Events, Music. A meeting-place for spiritual and ecological communication and education - open 8:30am til 8:30pm. Free Wifi (Wednesdays closed during low season)
  • Rikitikitavi, Riverside Road, 012 235 102, [7]. Western and Asian food, atmospheric terrace restaurant overlooking the river and mountains. Notable saraman (Cambodian beef curry) and amok trai (fish curry). A little more expensive but good quality.
  • The Rusty Keyhole, (on the river, just south of the old bridge and next to the French-built market building), 092 758 536. Western and Asian food with notable tender BBQ ribs, relaxing river side location. Beer provided in 568ml vessels for those who love the pint.
  • Sisters II, Two blocks off of the river (turn beside Bokor Lodge off the river) near the 2000 round about, 017-777-470. 7am - 5pm, closed Sundays. All day breakfast and bakery, great carrot cake (3,000 riel).
  • Srey Mom Cafe, Opposite the 2000 monument (East side two blocks from the river and next door to Tiny Kampot Pillows), 012 987 457. 5pm until late. Western and Indian food.

Drink

Kampot has the best Teuk Rleuek (fruit shake) in Cambodia. Visit any of the numerous vendors located on the main avenues in the evening.

  • What's Hot in Kampot, St National Road 3 (first left after the main traffic circle heading towards the Old Bridge), 016984156, [8]. Now Closed and Rogue Music does not have an outlet for it's stolen music in Kampot. Wine bar serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, also offers its own unique tours and information. Also in store the Rogue Music Store and Clothing Shop upstairs selling clothes from the Dorsu Project and TIC range. Open Thursday to Sunday.
  • WunderBar (New Location on the riverfront), 017257364. Stylish bar with garden area and great tunes, serve western & khmer food, kitchen open till 11 pm. Big selection of beers, cocktails, fruit juices. Dart, chess and new pool table with competition on Sunday 8 pm, admission $2. Open 6 days a week, 4.00 pm - 1 am.Monday closed. Good meeting point in the nighttime. friendly Swissgerman run.
  • OM, Old Market Street no.38 (in the old french quarter between Old Market and Park), 090-798152, [9]. 8:30am - 8:30pm. Juice Bar, Restaurant & Creperie (no alcohol). Khmer & Western health foods served in a spiritual and ecological atmosphere. Free Wifi (Wednesdays closed during low season)

Sleep

There are many guesthouses in Kampot, mostly in the US$5+ price bracket. It is best just to have a look at the rooms - if you are not satisfied you can always try another place. In the city most of the guesthouses are located along "Guesthouse Street". There are also a number of guesthouses just outside of town across the bridge and along the riverfront.


Budget City guesthouses

  • Blissful Guesthouse, Guesthouse St (100m south of bus station, east of Salt Gatherers' Roundabout), 092 494 331 (), [10]. Longest run Western guesthouse in Kampot since 2004. Lush tropical garden, restaurant with a wide range of traditional Khmer and Western cuisine, busy bar with great music, clean rooms, and laid back atmosphere. The perfect place to meet other travellers and backpackers. All rooms are fan cooled with private or shared western bathrooms, cold water showers (hot water if the sun has been shining). Double or twin with private bathroom $5, double room with shared bathroom $4, single room with shared bathroom $3, dormitory $2/bed. 24 hour access. Free wifi.
  • Magic Sponge, Guesthouse St (east of Salt gatherers' Roundabout), 017 946 428 (), [11]. Funky converted villa run by Westerners with free wifi, 9-hole minigolf course, pool table, 50-inch HD widescreen TV for live sports, great Western and Asian food including excellent Indian dishes, and a well stocked bar open late and with incredibly cheap draft beer - especially during Happy Hour between 12pm and 4pm. A great place to hang out and meet other travellers with no shortage of entertainment. Air-con or fan rooms are spotlessly clean and feature superb quality mattresses and hot showers, and now there is a penthouse dormitory for just US$3 per night per bed. Laundry, travel tickets, motorbike and bicycle rental and up to date travel information available.
  • Orchid Guesthouse, Guesthouse St (east of Salt Gatherers' Roundabout). Another straightforward guesthouse with fan and air-con rooms and food, opposite Pepper.
  • Kampot Guesthouse, Guesthouse St. Another straightforward guesthouse with fan and air-con rooms and food, next to Orchid. This one has clean rooms, no fridge, great wifi and it's quiet because it's at the end of the street: sponge and blissful sometimes have music....
  • Pepper Guesthouse, Guesthouse St. Converted villa guesthouse with simple restaurant and Wifi.
  • NyNy Hotel, Guesthouse St. Relativley (3 stories) high rise building in Guest House Street. Clean Rooms, Wi-Fi.
  • Paris Guesthouse, Corner of Old Market St (three blocks from bus station). Brand new multi-story purpose built hotel.
  • Homestay-Café, close to the river, opposite the hospital, 855-(0)77-526-443, [12]. All rooms ensuite with hot water and fan.


  • Long Villa Guesthouse. West of the (new) market on New Bridge Street, nice garden restaurant, clean rooms, fan and aircon.
  • Nature Bungalow, (north of New Bridge 50m). Riverfront bungalows with over-the-water dining.
  • Ta Eng Guesthouse is on a side street near where the road to Kep bends out of the town grid. Not very cosy. Curfew at 11:30. Rooms start at $5.

Budget Riverside Guest house

  • Bodhi Villa, (1.5km north of New Bridge on the far (west) bank), +855 12 728 884, [13]. Hugh and Jos have done well to make this place a lot of fun and a great place to relax. Friday Night Live music sessions are not to be missed, though this place fills up rapidly on weekends, so bookings are suggested.
  • Olly's Place, by the river, 500 meters north from the west side of the new bridge (next to Bodhi Villa), +855(0)92 605 837, [14]. Comfortable bungalows and rooms with mosquito nets. Paddle-boarding and swimming in the river included. Wind-surfing available. Food and drinks menu.
  • Kampot River Bungalow, 100 meters before Olly's place. Comfortable bungalows and rooms with mosquito nets. Diving board inexpensive high quality food and great communal atmosphere. The cheapest of the three. Food and drinks menu. For reservation H/P: 011 52 36 27, 033 66 66 418... $6.
  • Samon's Village, 50 meters behind Bodhi Villa, [15]. clean and new (2012) Bungalows with moskito nets. With terrace and access to the river. Great local food. Very friendly and family-like atmosphere. No party crowd. Get to know the locals who live here, too. $8 (shared bathroom), $20 with bathroom.

Budget Countryside Homestay Bungalow

  • Kampot Eco-Village Retreat, (phone for free pick up from within kampot or drive over the new bridge and follow the road until the temple on the left side. Now go into the little path on the right hand side and keep going for 600m), 855-(0)12-719-872, [16]. checkin: anytime; checkout: noon. Kampot Eco-Village retreat is a home stay guesthouse that features traditional bungalows for $5 and free use of a bicycle as well as Cambodian specialties and your western favorites. Friendly family country-side location, Motorbike rental available. $5 per day, $25 per week, $80 per month.

Upmarket

  • Les Manguiers, East Bank of the River (2km north of the new bridge on a rough dirt road.), 102 489 376 / 012 823 400, [17]. Garden bungalow resort with table d'hote menu, kayaks and boat trips. Very French; trilingual staff. Call for pickup. $10 - 25.
  • Villa Vedici, East Bank of the River (2km north of the new bridge on a rough dirt road, just north of Les Manguiers.). Swanky new garden bungalow resort.
  • Mea Culpa Kampot, behind Govonors Mansion, 012 50 47 69 (), [18]. New guesthouse and restaurant in a nice garden setting, in a quiet part of the old French quarter of town. Clean, new nicely decorated fan and a/c rooms with cable TV, DVD player and en suite bathroom with hot water. Balcony. Complimentary tea and coffee. Patio restaurant and bar serving Khmer and international fare including pizzas from a wood-fired oven. $20-25.

Contact

Internet access is available downtown for (at the time of writing- March 2008) 3000r/hour.

Get out

  • Kep - another resort town 25km east, famous for seafood, motobike for $3, tuk tuk $8.
  • Sihanoukville - Cambodia's best-known beach resort. Big bus, minivan or Sihanoukville's G'day Mate western run van service.
  • Ha Tien (Vietnam) - The border was opened for tourists in 2007. Motorbike drivers usually ask for US$10 to 15 for a ride to the border, but you can also get a motorbike taxi directly to Ha Tien for US$9 (around 2h). Some of the roads are not paved, but you will get to see some nice rural areas on the way. There are car taxis leaving for the border around 9AM for US$6 per person.
  • M.T.T (call/txt TOM on mobile: 016 994 161) newly-launched daily Aircon Van's serving all above destinations twice, plus to Trat of Thailand


Routes through Kampot
Phnom Penh ← Kep ←  E noframe W  Sihanoukville




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