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).
UPDATE: The very expensive new Thansur Bokor Highland Resort & Casino is now open!
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, paddle-boarding, 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, wake-boarding, or even a simple sunset cruise.
Things To Do in Kampot:
Chillax on the riverfront. Enough said.
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. Butterfly Tours are one such company who offer biking tours in Kampot.
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.
Trips & Tours in Kampot...
From Phnom Penh - Buses leave the city twice daily, at around 7 am and 1 pm. 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 tuk-tuk should cost you around $8 USD.
Sihanoukville: Cambodia's biggest beach resort, make Sihanoukville your next stop if you're a beach (and party) lover. Buses and minivans leave daily.