Kampot is a small city on the Southern coast of Cambodia. Our first impressions of the city and the bus to our hotel were nothing special, especially as the main attraction in the town is a giant Durian roundabout!. After sorting out some laundry (the bane of travelling), we went out for a wonder and to find some food. We found the riverfront as the sun was setting on the other side of the mountains, and we realised that it might have something special after all. The light and the setting seemed magical by the river at that late afternoon time. Not wanting to eat on the tourists restaurants, we found an outdoor restaurant (for lack of a better word) which is basically a place where someone has set up some crude cooking facilities and some chairs and tables in the street. Usually used by more locals as it is far cheaper than going to restaurants. I tried mixed seafood with Kampot Pepper (fresh pepper grown in the outskirts of the town), which was a real treat for $2. On returning to the hotel we weighed up the various options for what to do the next day and decided on a countryside tour.
We were up bright and early for our tour as we had booked it for 8.30. we had booked the tour with a tuk-tuk as we don’t like to share with others, but it was a minivan that turned up, and as luck would have it, we were the only ones. so an air conditioned minivan private tour for us! Our first port of call was a fishing village on the outskirts of the city, located in a Muslim area. there were so many colours in the boats and mixed with the view of the mountains was a truly beautiful view.
Just down the road we made a stop at the vast salt fields. Rows and rows of large squares of about fifteen square metres, which they fill with seawater and wait for the sun to do the rest. We were told that they can harvest 250 kg of salt per field per day. if that is accurate or not i cannot say, but it was easy to believe in the heat. All the salt is then moved in baskets to sheds on the roadside to wait for transportation to be processed. Our next stop was the Secret Lake, a beautiful lake set between the mountains. A beautiful and peaceful setting. At the side of the road was the Khmer Roots Cafe, where i would end up doing a Khmer cooking class a few days later!
After a rather bumpy ride we arrived at La Plantation, a community farming project where we learned how they grow the pepper the town is famous for, as well as some other typical ingredients from the area. We got to try a few samples of different peppers, and were surprised at just how different they are from each other. The pepper is grown in vast sheltered enclosures with palm leaf roofs and walls.
From there we made a stop at Phnom Sorsor, a pagoda spread over a hillside containing two giant caves. The main temple was closed, but there were a few colorful stupas to see, one decorated with a mural covering the entire outside. It was there that we spent some time speaking to a local young monk. She followed us to the top to practice his English telling us a bit about the temple and the area.
Our final destination for the day was Kep beach to have some well deserved rest and relaxation. The beach itself was nothing special, but the water looked clean and it was a perfect temperature after long hours in the powerful sun. Kep beach offers two sights to see. A big crab statue in the sea and the White Lady statue, looking out into the sea. We only went to see them to get a little break from the sun.
That evening we took a river cruise which took us an hour upriver to enjoy a few beers and a swim in the river as the daylight slowly faded over the mountains and the countryside. The tour should also have included fireflies, but we only saw a grand total of 1 firefly! The boat itself was three longboats with a hut on top, which had to be seen to be believed! It was a fantastic way to unwind after a busy day.
Kampot was a great base to visit some great places in the local countryside. We learned so much about spices that neither of us had any idea of before. While the town itself is nothing special, we still decided to extend our stay as we loved the area so much.