Less than an hour’s drive in a (fairly) comfortable minibus from Sihanoukville will take you to Kampot, where some people have been known to stay for weeks on end! Best described as a sleepy provincial capital with a rather ‘retro ambience’, here you’ll find colonial architecture, a chilled-out riverfront, and of course, Bokor Mountain. Built up in the early 1900s as a French colonial hill-station, the community included a hotel called The Bokor Palace Hotel opened in 1925, plus a casino, church, school, post-office, royal residence and a number of grand houses. The buildings are now all ruins, and the mountain itself a part of the Preah Monivong National Park. However, the ball to rebuild and regenerate is already rolling, with some seriously lavish hotel/casino plans in the pipeline (which will, apparently, include a theme park). The very expensive new Thansur Bokor Highland Resort & Casino is already open – watch your pocket!
Things To Do:
- Chillax on the riverfront. Enough said.
The scenic Kampot river side
- Visit Bokor Mountain and the Preah Monivong National Park – home to wildlife including tigers, elephants, gibbons and rare birds. A lot of the area is being regenerated, but it’s still worth a day trip. You can cycle or moto your way up there at your own pace, no guide necessary, although you can also arrange a trek up there with any number of guesthouses in town.
- Visit Wat Ey Sey. This is a hidden, and very isolated temple which gets hardly any visitors, so try not to disturb the monks. Definitely worth the journey, though – if only for the refreshing mountain stream en route, and the tiny bamboo jungles full of squirrels.
- Go on a cycle tour. The office on the riverfront offers one where you leave at 8.30am for 1hr cycling, 2 hrs trekking (plus time to relax, and swim). You’ll follow that up with a visit to various plantations and surrounding countryside, with a sunset cruise to top it off. Lunch, water and guide are included.
Explore the luscious green countryside surrounding Kampot
- Visit the caves – and several superb cave temples, and at least one pepper plantation. Kampot pepper is world famous!
- Go on a firefly watching boat tour in the evening. Ox-cart tours, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing can be done from Kampot, too.
- Join in the jam – (if you’re a musician!) at the JAM-POT sessions every Tuesday and Sunday nights at Art Bar Craze. Or, if you want to try out Kampot’s original hang-out, particularly popular with expats (who call themselves ‘potpats’!), then head to Bar Red.
Watch the sunset over the river in Kampot
Places To Stay in Kampot:
For budget backpackers, look no further than Titch’s place – it’s the only backpacker place on the river. Utopia, from $6 a night, is another good bet, as is Olly’s Place (which also offers free windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and bicycles to guests!).
For something a bit more upmarket, The Columns is a restored French Colonial house on a quiet tree-lined street in the heart of old town Kampot, and will cost you between $35 and $49 a night. Villa Vedici on the riverfront is another good option: it’s got a big garden and swimming pool, great bar, and the restaurant (serving Western, Khmer and Mexican food), is delicious. You can also book a number of activities here – from kite surfing to water skiing, canoeing, wakeboarding… or even a simple sunset cruise.
From Phnom Penh – Buses leave the city twice daily, at around 7am and 1pm. Some buses go via Kep, and this journey takes five hours. Others go direct to Kampot, taking around three and a half hours.
From Sihanoukville – The easiest way to get to Kampot from Sihanoukville is by taxi. Find some friends, and the journey should only cost you $3-5 each. Minibuses also leave for Kampot roughly twice daily.
Where To Go Next?
Kep: If you’re a lover of seafood, then head to Kep next. Just 25km east of Kampot, a tuktuk should cost you around $8.
Sihanoukville: Cambodia’s biggest beach resort, make Sihanoukville your next stop if you’re a beach lover. Buses and minivans leave daily.