Kampot in Southern Cambodia is one of these towns that’s a much better experience than what you expect based on descriptions. It doesn’t have many man-made or natural sights to ah and oh about, yet the riverside setting and the relaxed vibe of the town will make you wish to stay longer than you had planned. It’s a place that’s easy to “get stuck in” to while away the time, relaxing and contemplating life!
Kampot is a small town between the capital Phnom Penh, seaside Sihanoukville and the Vietnamese border, and only reachable by road. Coming from elsewhere in Cambodia, you’ll notice the absence of tour groups immediately. Kampot is firmly in the hand of individual travelers, making it a lot more peaceful and relaxed already. A lot of the businesses seem to be in the hands of foreigners who decided to settle down in Kampot, giving it a retired-surfer-dude kinda vibe.
My favorite aspect of Kampot is the river side setting. I’m a sucker for sunsets and Kampot surely delivers, with deep red sunsets over the river every evening. They are best viewed from one of the sunset cruises on the river or one of the countless bars and restaurants along or on the river. There is nothing as calming to me as a beautiful sunset over the water with nothing to do but watch!
Thanks to the many expats living and visiting, there is also a great selection of authentic foreign food in addition to Khmer food. So, if you are tired of rice and local dishes after a while of traveling in the region, an Italian mom & son duo will treat you to great Italian food. Other nations from around the world are equally well represented, a wonderful surprise in a small town like Kampot.
Ok, so if watching the sunset and eating are not quite enough for you to spend your time, fear not. You can learn about the history of Kampot in the small, yet nicely restored provincial museum in town.
A stroll through town, past the beautiful little lake, or a bicycle ride along the river are a good way to spend some time as well.
You can also admire the giant durian, a proud icon of Kampot!
For a longer day tour, Kampot is the base to visit the Bokor National Park. Unfortunately, the ruins of an old French Colonial building with its vaguely haunted feel have been turned into a hotel and a massive casino has been built nearby. But you can still see ruins of a church and a royal residence as well as a giant Buddha statue on a trip to the park. You can also tour the countryside – Kampot is the heart of the pepper region and you can learn about how it’s grown and take some home with you.
And after those day trips, you can go back to what Kampot does best – sunsets, food and lots of doing nothing!