Planning to take a short break away from the hustle and bustle of Asian city life? About 607 nautical miles away from Singapore across the Gulf of Thailand lays Kampot and an omission of this quintessentially Cambodian town during your visit to the to the Kingdom of Wonder would constitute a blunder of epic proportions.
Kampot is a great destination for your short vacation if you are currently living in Singapore, Bangkok or KL or a backpacking Asia stop off point, and it provides a great option for a relaxing three or four day city break that will not empty your bank account.
With cheap flights available on many of Asia’s budget airways including Air Asia, Cambodian Angkor Air, Malaysia Airlines, Eva Air and Jet Star from almost all Asian Cities, cheap flight options will deposit you either in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville’s international airports.
So without further hesitation, here are the ten reasons why Kampot is the perfect short break during the low season in Cambodia.
1) Enjoy The River, Waterfalls and Cool Climate
During the low season the waterfalls are in full flow, tours to the various waterfalls in the area are normally available from your hostel, the tributaries are also oozing out the jungles rainwater into the estuary which provides an excellent opportunity for hurtling down the rivers rapids in a tube!
There is a pretty awesome sunset river cruise offered by The Mad Monkey Hostel each week, this cruise will head out mid afternoon and includes all of your drinks, it is a near perfect way to see the river views whilst enjoying the sun-downer party on the deck.
2) Sample The Best Pepper In The World
Any culinary qualified connoisseur of spices will be the first to tell you that the best pepper in the world hails from the sleepy town of Kampot. Kampot pepper is not only the best but it also produces some of the best pepper sauces available on the planet.
The authentic Kampot pepper is characterized by it’s taste and soft black kernels, whilst its taste can range from intensely spicy to mildly sweet, its delicate aroma reveals hints of flower, eucalyptus and mint.
To purchase Kampot pepper outside of Cambodia tends to be pretty expensive and a trip to a pepper farm will show you how the pepper is grown and processed as well as provide you with an opportunity to get your hands on the raw product at a price that is right.
In fact it is not unheard of for avid bargain hunters to leave with a kilo of pepper only to sell it for five times the price to their local gourmet restaurant when they get home.
3. Hit The Beach With A Day Trip To Kep
Kep is a small town just 30 minutes away from Kampot with access to the slumberous and unspoiled Rabbit Island. Featuring ramshackle cabanas, seafood huts and near pristine bays, Rabbit islands capacity to ‘chill out’ even the most frenzied of visitor is legendary. A boat from Kep takes just 20 minutes or so, meaning that a day trip is possible.
Kep also has a long beach that is perfect for swimming and sun basking on one of the comfortable raised gazebos equipped with hammocks that are dotted along the beach.
The little fishing village is well known for producing some of the best seafood in Cambodia, and there is a long row of family run restaurants offering the locally prized blue swimmer crab and a wide variety of fresh seafood specialties.
A day trip to Kep is run from The Mad Monkey Hostel a couple of times a week, or simply hire a moto and find your own way there for around $7 per day, or grab a Tuk Tuk for around $20 each way for four people.
4. See The Salt Fields
On the way to Kep, visit the numerous rice paddies that have been transformed into salt fields. Thousands of people bring in water from the coast for drying and creating sea salt, which is then packed down, collected and sold off.
Take a stroll to a field and catch a glimpse of the harvest, you may even be invited to help out and become a Cambodian salt farmer for a few hours for the authentic experience!
5. Take a Bokor Hill Station Motorbike Trip
A one-hour ride from Kampot to the top of the Bokor mountain and back down again provides some of the most breathtaking vista’s in Cambodia when the weather is good.
The old French hill station affords anyone that makes the trip with views out over the Colonial period relics across the Cambodian Coastline and the Gulf of Thailand.
At the top of the hill you will find an abandoned church, post office and Casino to explore. Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge and if you look closely around the buildings you will see the peppering of bullet holes hidden within the weathered ruins.
Due to the incline of the hill it is only possible to get there with a moto, a moto ride with a driver will cost you around $20 for the return journey.
6. Chill In One Of The Many Upmarket Hostels
There is a wide variety of accommodation in Kampot suitable for all budgets; the hostels that provide the budget accommodation are normally the stalwart accommodation of choice for those under 35 and often also host the best bars.
Choices include The Mad Monkey Hostel Kampot with a large pool and panoramic views over the river and the mountain, the more relaxed Green House Guesthouse that provides bungalows in lush gardens, and Arcadia guesthouse that provides guests with basic accommodation next to the river with the added bonus of a number of river swings and toys for it’s patrons.
Rooms in these venues are low cost, for example a shared dorm bed, with AC and pool access in The Mad Monkey Kampot for example is available from just $5 per night, even less if you sign up for their Monkey Club on the website which will provide you with instant stay discounts.
7. Taste The Worlds Stinkiest Fruit
There are huge Durian plantations just a twenty-minute drive from the center of the city. If you are not aware of this fruit, it’s typically known to be the worlds stinkiest fruit, so flagrant in fact, that it is often banned from being consumed in public areas in Cambodia. The taste and texture of Durian is a little like a flavored hard-set sweet onion custard, it is strange but delicious.
Despite being the cause of many an upturned nose, the fruit is loved by most Cambodian people. The plantations are a must-see, and will provide you with an opportunity to sample the fresh fruit for yourself.
8. Enjoy The Fishermen’s Parade During A Sun-downer
Depending on your distance upriver, you can get to view the many fishing boats moving in one big flotilla as they come back into Kampot at dusk.
It is truly awesome to grab a chair at some point along the river or at one of the guesthouses to watch the city’s most vibrant and oldest industry parade for the Gulf of Thailand.
A great place to watch the return is from the rooftop bar of The Mad Monkey whilst enjoying a sundowner cocktail of your choice.
9. Visit The Cave Temples of Phnom Chngouk
The networks of cave temples are located about 8km outside of Kampot and have long been hailed as one of the most magical sites in Cambodia. The temples Buddhist custodians are older men and women who have dedicated themselves in service to Theravada Buddhism in their later life, there are also many children that are keen to offer their services as guides through the temple complex for just a few bucks.
The drive to the temples is in itself a significant experience, winding through the deepest Cambodian countryside and rice paddies before arrival at the sacred site.
10 Join The Party & Enjoy The Music
Although often portrayed as a sleepy backwater, Kampot’s expats normally scoff at this stereotype every night of the week, this is due in large to the fact that there is always a party to be found.
Most of the main venues in town will rotate their special nights to ensure everyone gets some of the action; the result is at least one location that will be the party hub for that night of the week.
Kampot also has, a somewhat unexpected thriving music scene, and the live bands are available to entertain the melodious revelers most nights of the week.
Most Tuesdays you will find music at The Mad Monkey Hostel Kampot, Wednesdays at The Magic Sponge, whereas Thursdays witness the riverfront being jam-packed at the Madi Bar. On Friday, people mostly visit the Bodhi Villa and Saturday is celebrated at Naga House.
So if you want to party then Kampot definitely has one available for you should you wish to seek it out.
Do the Tour
Many tours and attractions can be booked at your hotel, hostel or guesthouse. An all day Kampot Tour by Tuk Tuk is available from The Mad Monkey at around $30 a day for four people and will visit the salt fields, pepper plantations and the caves. You can also take a four day discovery tour of Kampot and the surrounding region more information on Kampot’s best tour here.
As well as the activities listed above, a plethora of other options are available, including rock climbing, adventure tours and river activities. For backpackers the popular places to stay are Mad Monkey Hostel, which offers large rooms, dorms and twins starting at $5.00 a night with AC, or Arcadia Backpackers also located on the river.
A taxi from Phnom Penh will cost you around $40 and will take about two and a half hours, if you fly into Sihanoukville a taxi will cost you around $35 and will take you about an hour and a half. Bus options are available from both and cost anywhere from $7 to $15 depending on the quality of the bus service used.
So if you are planning for the perfect short and relaxing break for 3 or 4 days that is both low cost and packed with experiences should you wish to seek them out, or if you are backpacking through Cambodia make sure Kampot is on your hit list, you will not be disappointed.