Kampot, a former port city in south-east Cambodia, is a calm little river town best known for its pepper and salt production, fresh seafood, and its proximity to Bokor National Park and Damrei Mountains. Alongside this, Kampot has its own unique charm and makes for a perfect chilled out getaway before the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.
Population: 615,000 approx.
Vibe: There is a great ambience to Kampot, with a relaxed and understated feel. This may, in part, be due to the mix of colonial architecture and a relaxed riverfront, with friendly locals and adventurous backpackers.
Must do: The sunset river cruise. Watch the colours of the sky change behind the beautiful national park as you cruise along the river.
Known For: Growing some of the best pepper in the world, thanks to the unique climate and great soil in the countryside surrounding this town. Tastes vary from sweet to spicy and you can be sure to find plenty of restaurants around the town where you can sample some of the local seafood with a pepper sauce during your stay.
Things to see and do
Bokor National Park
You can spend the afternoon doing a taxi tour of the Bokor Hill and the surrounding National Park. This trip offers some amazing views of the city and ocean below, a beautiful waterfall and is also home to the old French Colonial Hill Station with abandoned relics of an old church and a casino to explore – one of the final strongholds of the Khmer Rouge. If you’d like to get deeper into one of Cambodia’s best parks, sign up for a trekking trip to Bokor Mountain, where you can visit waterfalls and have various forms of the local wildlife keeping you company. Don’t worry, tigers are only rarely seen!
Take a trip into the countryside to see how the world famous pepper in Kampot is grown. You'll learn about the farming process and have the opportunity to see some of the surrounding villages and local life.
Old Colonial Buildings
There are remains of French colonial architecture, though some are a bit - shall we say - 'decaying' atmospherically, dotted around Kampot which makes it incredibly photogenic. These include the Governor's residence, the Red Cross building, and the Department of Mines.
Wat Treuy Koh
Wat Treuy Koh is a beautiful Buddhist temple decorated with depictions of Buddha's life – this is also a great spot to watch the fishermen around dusk.
Arcadia Water Park
Located approximately 7 kms out of town, Arcadia Water Park is a great place to cool off in the hot weather. Test your limits on the huge water slide, person launching “Blob”, acrobatic Russian swing, rope swing and pontoon dive tower or just relax on the pontoon, in a hammock or at the riverside bar.
Durian Fruit Monument
Yes, there is a roundabout here which depicts the infamous smelly fruit of Asia. Strange but cool.
Sunset river cruise
Jump aboard the river cruise and watch the sky go technicolour at the end of your day exploring. The sun sets behind the national park and it's the perfect way to close your day in this beautiful town and also see the town lit up at night. Grab a local beer, sit back and relax, and see if you can spot some fireflies!
Kampot night market
The night market here is small but nice to visit, with a few children's amusements to add to the friendly vibe of this place.
Kep, approximately 1 hour's drive from Kampot along the coast, hosts a picture perfect beach and an amazing local market, known best for the fresh crab and grilled squid. Watch the locals haggle for the best catch and sample some seafood straight out of the ocean.
Eating and Drinking
Where to Eat
Although small, you shouldn't have any problems finding a place to eat or drink in Kampot. The food stalls along Makara Street are where you will see the locals eating, but there are also many restaurants to choose from in the old market area. Just across from the river is Kampot Restuarant, with great fresh food, generous portion sizes and backpacker friendly prices. The stand out dishes are the beef skewers (sachko arng) and, for the more adventurous, fried whole frog. If you fancy a break from the local cuisine Simple Things offers excellent food in a vegetarian/vegan friendly environment. The food is fresh and the pizzas are fantastic!
Where to Party
Although Kampot feels very chilled out there are a few good places to get a drink by the river, listen to some live music or party the night away. Mad Monkey hostel's roof top bar is good for a chilled out riverside beverage and for meeting other backpackers. Tantrei Guesthouse's roof top bar will often have live music or an open mic - "Let's hear it for the boys!". Oh Neil’s Irish bar on the river front is a great place to enjoy a drink with a view as the sun goes down. If you're after a late night party Arcadia is where you should head, it is a little further out of town though, so be prepared to jump in a tuk tuk! On a Friday or Saturday night head to Banyon Tree or Naga House to get your party on!