• How to get there
Kampot is about a 2 to 3 hour drive, southeast of Phnom Penh. It is well served from Phnom Penh with a choice of bus, minivan or taxi services available; it just depends on your budget.
Kampot province is located in the southwest of the country, having an eighty kilometres coastal strip with the Gulf of Thailand. The provincial capital is also named Kampot and sits near the base of the abundant green Elephant Mountains and the famous Bokor Hill Station. Compared to the busy Sihanoukville in the north, here you can find tranquility in this sleepy riverside colonial town.
Kep Beach, Rabbit Island, Bokor Hill Station, and countryside tours are perhaps the most popular day tours out of Kampot with tour operators offering very competitively priced tours.
The Kampot area also offers several other attractions including pre-Angkorian ruins and caves, jungle trekking, bicycling tours, river cruises, island trips, fishing trips, isolated beaches, pepper plantations and some beautiful rural countryside.
Most visitors come here to have a look at the old French colonial architecture, which is still in pretty good condition, or to have a base for visiting the nearby Kep beaches or the small islands of the Kep coast.
Kampot province is also renowned for the quality of its fruit (durian, coconut, mango, etc.), its sea salt and of course the famous Kampot Pepper. The special fresh climate and soil type of Kampot as well as the experience from several generations of pepper farmers make this pepper unique and much sought-after by gourmets’ worldwide.
• Where to go
Bokor Hill Station
The original town was built as a resort by colonial French settlers to offer an escape from the heat, humidity and general insalubrity of Phnom Penh. Nine hundred lives were lost in nine months during the construction of the resort in this remote mountain location.
It has an eerie feeling and is often referred to as a ghost town. The summit can be shrouded in mist making it an even more sinister place.
The centerpiece of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel, complemented by shops, a post office (now demolished), a church and the Royal Apartments. It is also an important cultural site, showing how the colonial settlers spent their free time.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in late 1940s, during the first Indochina war, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak, anti-French Khmer factions fighting for independence, and then for good in 1972, as the Khmer Rouge took over the area.
During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves and held on tightly for months. In the early 1990s Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.
There is now a massive new development under way here with casinos, apartments and more, with golf and further resort hotels planned.
Also the road to the to is now one of the best roads in Cambodia, previously being easily ne of the worst and most dangerous. There is a tollbooth at the entrance at the foot of the mountain.
Travel Loops specialize in cycling and trekking and can offer many bespoke tours in this mountain area. Using either tents or homestay accommodation, we can take you on a unique adventure.
Dependent on time of year you can watch the working salt flats where one of Kampot main industries takes place.
Large flat areas of dried up seawater, leave residues of high quality salt which is then harvested.
Used by chefs around the world, Kampot pepper is grown on the fertile mountainsides.
There are several plantations with visitor centres as well as selling product and food and drinks.
The river in Kampot is relatively undeveloped with only 2 or 3 small companies offering trips up the river and back.
Some offer drinks and music on board but they are certainly not ‘booze cruises’, more of a leisurely jaunt along the river. Most run early evening and last around 2 hours.
• Food and Accommodation
Kampot is growing in popularity with tourists who like a quieter retreat. Having said that there are a growing number of good restaurants and hotels and even a few bars that stay open till very late. However it’s not noisy like parts of Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
There are new hotels opening regularly from basic to higher end 3 star. Rooms are available for all budgets, and most are centred along the riverside or near the new ‘old’ market in the centre of town. There is also a more traditional market used mostly by the locals.
Again, as in most of Cambodia, Kampot’s medical facilities get mixed reviews. The only real hospital is the relatively new (2012) Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital. There are a few, more basic, clinics in the town.
As before for anything serious medevac and medical insurance is highly recommended.
Kampot is a sleepy town compared to the major tourist areas and so while you need to take care, the risk of an incident here is much less.
Use common sense as outlined for the other major tourist spots.
• Entertainment and Shopping
There are a few bars with occasional live music, but Kampot is not generally known for a lively night scene.
Shopping is also limited to a few souvenir shops and the 2 markets. The newer one near the river caters mainly for tourists, the other in town for locals.