Siem Reap
August 24, 2017
What a surprising place! A year into life in Cambodia I finally made my way down to Kampot, a little backpacker town, nestled on the banks of the Kampot River, that has something for everyone. It is only a three-hour drive from Phnom Penh. There are a variety of ways to get down to Kampot:

There are bus companies that run regularly, that will cost you $9 on Giant Ibis, who are one of the most reputable companies in Cambodia.

You can rent a private taxi which will cost around $40 – this is worth it if you are a group of four or if you need to hot foot it down. This is the option we took as we wanted to leave super early to have more in the day there.

The third option, a more scenic route, is by taking the train from Phnom Penh -  the train takes about seven hours, with two thirty minute stops, at only $7 per person it is a bargain! The only down side of the train is that it only runs on the weekend so you’d have to plan accordingly. What some friends have done recently is they took the train down, for the experience and then a taxi back to Phnom Penh during the week.

We stayed at a hotel called Natural Gardens, it being my birthday spoils weekend we had a lovely room right on the river. It was very nice however I do think you can find other places at a similar price with a bit better value for money. There are few hostels, hotels and resorts on the other side of the river that are propped up on the water with stilts. The best way to get around Kampot is to hire a scooter or, if you are feeling brave, a dirt bike. We went for a dirt bike which was great fun and good on the dirt roads however you do need to know how to handle it. A scooter can get you where you need to go, just a little slower. There are loads of places that rent them out, they charge around $5 a day. Try find a place that has the number on the key and will come rescue you if you break down!
Take the bike or scooter for a little test drive to make sure brakes and such like are working fine. They will require your passport as collateral… Some places accept an ID of some sort. The other way to get around in by Tuk Tuk, you can rent them by the day to take you where you want to go – but I highly recommend the moto route! There are so many places to eat, the vibe of the town is mellow and laid back but if you are looking for something a bit more ‘fancy’ there are places you can try. We went to The Fish Market, which is right on the waterfront near the main part of town. Nice place for sunset cocktails and nibbles. Ritki is also lovely and has a great vibe. On the main square, there is a spot that can’t be missed, The Rusty Keyhole is the place to go for a relaxed meal, the ribs are a must! Claimed to be the best in Cambodia they are rather good. If you are feeling hungry they have a rib challenge – be warned it’s a tough-ask, no matter how tasty they are. You won’t go without adventures to fill your day. Kampot is known for its pepper and Kampot pepper is some of the best in the world! Make you way to La Plantation, the setup there is stunning. Overlooking the Secret Lake and nestled in the foothills, it makes for a wonderful spot for the afternoon. You will be treated to a free-of-charge tour. On your way, you’ll ride through little villages and past the Secret Lake. Stop and have a coconut here. There is a café opposite the lake, on the side of the road. The owner mentioned to us, while we escaped a downpour, that he planned to build a deck on the water so people could go swimming easily. This may not be for everyone as the lake gets its name from the secrets it holds. During the Khmer Rouge reign, thousands of people were forced to build the lake, once the build was complete the Khmer Rouge murdered the workers and threw their bodies in the lake. No bodies have ever been recovered but rumour has it that fishermen still find human bones entangled in their nets. The Bokor National Park is, apparently, also beautiful and well worth a visit. Waterfalls, hikes and scenic drives, I hear… I am yet to go so will have to give you more insight next time I am down in Kampot. A visit to Bokor is on the list! Too many places and not enough time! All in all, Kampot is a must visit in Cambodia – with Kep (the home of fresh crab) only 40 minutes away and Sihoukville (the gate way to Koh Rong Island and a R&R beach itself) just an hour or two away. J A