Kampot- an idyllic river town in Southern Cambodia
Kampot is one of the most idyllic and relaxed little river towns you will ever visit. With a new deep water harbor on the cards, it looks like thousands of Chinese tourists will descend upon Kampot before long. Bearing in mind that it is the sleepy backwaters of southern Cambodia, it might take a long time for the developments to finish. Still it is absolutely worth a visit, especially now while it is still tranquil and fun. Kep is just down the road, towards Vietnam. Kep is a beautiful little resort town boasting some of the best seafood in the area, look out for the famous Kep crab with fresh green peppercorns. Koh Tunsay is just across the bay from Kep, a short ferry ride away. With beautiful beaches and pristine nature, this little island is the perfect place to soak up some rays and forget about the world. We’ve scouted out the area very well for you and have created this guide to help anyone interested in visiting go about doing so. Kampot is the ideal place to make a base from which to explore the area on day trips. Staying in Kep can also be nice but taking a drive to Kep in the late afternoon and having some delicious dinner before coming coming home slowly isn’t exactly tortuous either. Have a look at some of this info for an inside look into Kampot.
Anyone visiting from within Cambodia will most likely come to Kampot first via either Sihanoukville (KS) or Phnom Penh (PP). This is probably the easiest way to do it too. Let’s look at the different options:
- Bus/Sleeper bus. There are many departure times and one of the many local travel agents will provide transport too and from the station from your hotel. Should be about $11 for an AC bus from PP and $7 for non AC, AC from KS will be $8 and non AC $4. The bus will stop at least once for food and toilet and take up to 7 hours from PP and 4 hours from KS.
- Minibuses can also be arranged from local travel agents in Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. These are somewhat more expensive than buses at around $12 from PP and $6 with AC, $5 and $2 without. They are a little bit quicker at up to 5-6 hours from PP and 2-3 from KS. These will also stop for food and toilet.
- Taxis will make the trip for between $35-40 from both Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. They are much quicker at as little a 3.5 hours from PP and 1.5-2.5 hours from KS. They will stop whenever and you can listen to your own music and really chill. If you can round up at least two other people then this is the best option.
- Buy a motorcycle in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville and drive down or along yourself. This is the best option if you have a long timeframe. With a little perseverance and asking strangers in bike shops for tips you can pick up a bike for as little as $100 in one of the markets in PP or off a traveller at Otres beach in Sihanoukville. Get an old bike, fixing it costs barely anything if it breaks down and that way if you do crash it or lose it, you wont have to pay back the rental guy.
So you arriving in Kampot, priority number one is accommodation. There are two main areas to choose from: Riverside and in the town. It’s totally up to preference. Riverside there are extremely cheap rooms available, set along the languid river, amongst the bush and jungle. Expect a lot of bamboo and some intimate cabins in a rural setting with a lot of mosquitoes with dorms starting at $3 and cabins as low as $6. Try downtown if you want a hotel for as little as $5 for a double bed and fan or an expat run guesthouse with the unique Kampot charm for a little more, starting at $7 through to $25 for a really nice room. Seeing as most hotels and guest houses here don’t have websites and change names quite often, it’s best to simply:
Get a tuk-tuk to the river in the main town, check out a few along the road or any of the roads going perpindicular to the river. There are lots of nice places there. If you don’t like any of them or can’t get a good price, get the tuk-tuk to take you to ‘riverside’ and check out any of the places on the right side of the road. There are places tucked down lanes for kilometers a lot of them catering for backpackers. Some of them are especially awesome, check out Arcadia and High Tide in particular.
There is a lot to do and see in the area, getting tuk-tuks around can be expensive whereas renting a scooter costs as little $4. If you didn’t buy a bike in Phnom Penh, then rent one now. Kampot is very rural and there are large distances between the sights. These are all best seen on bikes.
Kampot is famous for it’s incredibly pungent pepper, visit a plantation and see how pepper is processed and grown. Ask at your hotel to organize a trip.
Drive to Bokor mountain and check out the amazing abandoned hotel with the balcony over the huge cliff. There is a huge casino up there too and a few awesome view points with a vista of the whole bay on clear days. The road up there is one of the best paved in Cambodia and is truly one of the best driving roads in Asia. Hardly any cars, 37km long, well paved, lots of twists, turns and switchbacks. All set amidst verdant jungle with stunning views. What more do you need? Get there by bike using Google maps.
Spend a day swimming and chilling out at Arcadia’s water-park. A home-made bamboo water-park with a massive slide, Russian swing, rope-swing, diving platform and more set on a gorgeous slow moving river, it is the perfect way to spend at least a day or two. The park costs $5, check out their website here. Alternatively – High tide, down the road is more mellow, less loud and has a perfect location to enjoy a swim and a chill. Find these both on Riverside, on the opposite bank from the town, up the river.
Visit the crab market for dinner and catch the sunset with some gorgeous seafood. Drive to Kep in around 45 minutes from Kampot or take a tuk-tuk for $12 in 30 minutes to an hour along the main highway. Use Google maps to help you get there.
Kampot and the surrounding areas are one of the most tranquil and easy going areas around. With all the low-key backpacker hostels, fancy villas for rent and beautiful nature, people and countryside it is hard not to want to stay forever. Many do and this area is home to a thriving immigrant community from all over the world. Ask around for what’s happening in the local ex-pat pages on Facebook or go to one of the ex-pat bars downtown or riverside to find out what’s good, what’s happening and where. Try ‘Muy Tiet’ just off the main riverfront road downtown on the main boulevard. Beers are cheap and there is a relaxed casual atmosphere.
We hope that you enjoy Kampot and can use our guide to good effect to help you have a good time. There are many more things to do in the area, look out for pamphlets in your guesthouse and maybe plan on being in Kampot for a long time. Some people come and never leave, it’s not hard to see why. For more info, check out these links: