We knew that we wanted to visit Kampot for a couple of nights but weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We set off from Phnom Penh quite early and had a pleasant enough bus ride. The roads are incomplete and in very bad condition in Cambodia, a result of the underdevelopment inflicted on the country by the Khmer Rouge.
We arrived at our accommodation without having booked a room (just in case we weren’t keen on it), but ended up choosing a double room with a fan for the bargain price of US$6. We were located a couple of kilometers outside the centre of Kampot and we decided to head into town on a tuk tuk. I was really taken away by the whole place – the pace of life in Kampot is something to be envious of.
After our visit to the S21 and the killing fields we hadn’t talked of much else. As we sat by the river, still unable to shift the truth of the political climate, I looked at the old bridge and couldn’t get away from imagining the suffering that occurred only a few decades ago.
Kampot is frequented on the tourist trail, with an expat community who mainly own guesthouses and restaurants. It is very known for chilling out and for people looking for a certain vibe, you can buy ‘happy pizza’. Cambodia is still very corrupt so if this is what you’re looking for my advice would be to avoid the people on the street and head to the pizza joints instead.
Our accommodation was located on the western side of the river, so from here it was the sunrises to look out for. With a free itinerary and a lot of relaxing to do I woke up for first light which I shared with the resident pooch. The view was stunning in the mornings and I had the place completely to myself for at least two hours (Sam was of course, still asleep).
At this time of day the river was calm and the sun was warm. A perfect time to dive in.
My first two mornings consisted of the same routine. Wake up – watch the sunrise – jump off the deck – eat breakfast – chill in a hammock. Perfection.
We knew that our accommodation had one floating bungalow on the river, and as we had enjoyed our time here so much we asked if we could book in when it became available.
We upgraded and for the grand total of US$12 we ended up with this bad boy.
We had a glorious three days in this beauty with a perfect morning view every day.
I had the best time staying in Kampot, but I do feel obliged to tell you that the river is very polluted. In the dry season many people dump litter further upstream and in the rainy season it gets washed down. Despite this, I do still think it is okay to jump in, but if you’re worried about germs then this probably isn’t an activity for you.
How to get there
Kampot is about a 4 – 5 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. Buses leave at various times throughout the day and a ticket on a comfortable, air conditioned bus will cost about US$6 per person. From Sihanoukville there is a mini shuttle bus that takes about 1.5 – 2 hours and costs US$5 per person.
Where to stay
Kampot has many options for accommodation in town, but we really recommend staying on the other side of the river. We stayed at the Banyan Tree, where the majority of the above photos were taken. We felt like we struck gold with this place as it was out of town, quiet, relaxed and had such a laid back vibe. There was decking over the river with cushions, hammocks, a bar and a large menu. You can hire a bike to cycle into town or a tuk tuk will cost US$2. If you are after some down time, this side of the river is where you want to be. Prices range from US$3 – 12.
Warning: Although we loved the Banyan Tree, I got food poisoning on our last day there and was very ill for about 24 hours. We had eaten there for 5 days previously, but there must have been something off with my meal on this particular day.
What to do
Other than doing a whole lot of nothing, our suggestions are:
- Take a yoga class or get pampered at Banteay Strey. We did a yoga class here, so easy as it was right next door to where we were staying.
- EAT at the many cafes and restaurants in town – we can recommend Pepe & The Viking.
- Take a sunset cruise on the river.
- Watch a movie and escape the heat at Ecran Movie House. There are heaps of films to chose from and you can even rent a private room.
- Take a day trip to Kep or a pepper farm.
- Rent a scooter and explore Bokor National Park (post to come on this!)