Actually Kampot was my favorite place in Cambodia. But that's because it is exactly how I like cities when I travel: used to some tourism so that people don't stare at me like the circus came to town. And not overrun by travellers so that people are oblivious or even annoyed.

It's the perfect mix, and one day was far too short.

But since I had only three weeks for Cambodia, I had to choose and divide my time square and fair.


So Kampot. Actually it's quite unagitated, therefore you can explore it in a very relaxed fashion - either walking or cycling. You can of course also rent a motor bike, but I find any sort of machine takes your farther from the people; so I cycled.

I cycled along the very nice and well maintained promenade along Kampong Bay River which is lined with majestic colonial buildings on the southern end. Going north, it gets more lively and touristy with many nice restaurants and guest houses, many of them run by expats who obviously fell in love with Kampot just like me: Ben, the Irish owner of the lovely guest house 'Mea Culpa' stayed for good and opened a guest house after having been there for two days; maybe it was a smart decision to stay only one day, after all.

There is the so called Old Market which today is no market at all, but rows of cafés, souvenir shops and tour operators. If you arrive by bus, you can arrange all your further travels right here - like for instance trips to the salt fields and pepper farms surrounding Kampot, where the region's pride is growing: Kampot pepper. You can go to the pepper farm and some other sights by an organized tour, or you hire a tuk tuk that takes you there for 15 bucks; but that would be exclusively the pepper farm.

Market in Kampot
Kampot Central Market - a real market, no tourist scam.

There is also a real market, not the touristy kind, which is quite impressive for the European eye. I did buy pepper here - fresh green pepper and two kinds of dried one. Since they make such a fuss about the real Kampot pepper, I'm not sure if mine is the real one, but it is pepper that I bought at a real market from a real Cambodian market tender - and I paid really half of what the stuff in fancy packs costs at the small speciality and souvenir shops, so I guess it's ok and I'm happy with what I got.

Kampot Central Market
Too bad you cannot smell it: dried seafood.

So, we're done with the pepper business, now let's enjoy the charming little streets and places.

They also have some monuments here in Kampot - the most unusual being a gigantic durian, the terribly stinking fruit that's tainting South East Asia from Singapore to Viet Nam.

Durian statue
Too bad one cannot smell it: A gigantic durian in the middle of a traffic circle.

Then there is the memorial dedicated to two salt workers and the one celebrating the friendship with Viet Nam, which probably makes the inhabitants gnashing their teeth; Cambodians generally aren't that fond of Vietnamese people, to say the least, but they have to celebrate the friendship since it was the Vietnamese that liberated them from the Red Khmer's terror.

Cambodia Vietnam Friendship Monument
Every city has its own Cambodia Vietnam Friendship Monument - here Kampot.

Where there is a river, there are bridges, and the most fun one is the old bridge which is only for pedestrians and bikes and motor bikes; which tells you a bit about its stability.

Old Bridge in Kampot
These are the heaviest machines that are allowed to cross the Old Bridge.

Once you cross it, you're on Fish Isle where you get in close touch with the real and rural Cambodia: People working on rice paddies and salt fields, but also in construction. Large families putter around their one to two room houses built on steles while kids and dogs are playing in the adjacent yards. Birds are singing, palm trees are swaying, it's very calm and soothing and a joy cycling through all this harmony.

Rice Field on Fish Isle
Couple cutting rice on their paddy.

Three little girls on Fish Isle
Little girls enjoying a refreshing treat.

But around 5 p. m. you should slowly make your way back to the promenade where all the big floating restaurants are towed since at 5:30 they are taking off to cruise up the river. It's great fun as the ships go underneath the bridges since there is only very little space so all the passengers have to duck or even lay down and still it looks a bit scary seeing the iron construction about one foot above your head. Eventually the cruise goes further up the river, the captain turns off all the lights so you can observe the swarms of fire flies illuminating the trees. The whole trip takes about two hours and it's a very pleasant ending of a pleasant day - absolutely not to be missed.

Sunset cruise in Kampot
Sunset cruise on Kampot river.

You can also order dinner on the ship - after all it's a floating restaurant, but I recommend to have a typical, very tasty Khmer dinner at Veronica's right across the street from this part of the promenade.

Veronica's Kitchen
Phone: + 855 - 13 - 900 016
Email: kongsovandy@yahoo.com


Besides visiting one of the pepper farms, a trip to the Bokor Hill Station is one of the most popular activities when in Kampot.

View from Thansur Bokor
Thansur Bokor: when there is a view, there sure is a view

On Thansur Bokor is a collection of remnants of French colonial buildings such as the old hotel and casino, the catholic church, King Sisowath's royal residence and a couple more. This settlement was constructed as a  retreat mainly for colonial residents in the early 1920s, the place chosen for its moderate climate (like for instance Đà Lạt in Viet Nam). Thansur Bokor is part of the Preah Monivong National Park and located approx. 37 km / 23 miles west of Kampot.

Beautiful carvings covering the walls of Prasat Proasath

Visiting this area up the hill, you are exposed to sun, but possibly also rain and unexpected cold. Apply sun cream - even if its a bit cloudy, the rays get through the clouds, wear a cap or hat and make sure to have a rain skin on you and most of all a warm sweater (that you might need at the van because of the air con, anyway).

Catholic Church in Bokor Thansur
My favorite ruin: The old Catholic Church, entirely covered with moss and mildew in various colors.

Besides the old buildings, there is the beautiful Wat Sampov Pram to be visited, the less spectacular Prasat Proasath, the ancient Khmer temple, as well as a Chinese pagoda.

Chinese Pagoda
The Chinese Pagoda right next to the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort.

A big disappointment were the Povokvil Waterfalls: I wonder where the waters are coming from since they are brown and foamy; aren't waters in a waterfall on top of a mountain supposed to be the cleanest?! Well, these aren't, in fact it looks a bit like sewage crashing down the chute.

Mainly young couples are renting motor bikes to get up the hill, but every tour operator in Kampot offers guided bus tours for about 13 $ - and even the above described evening cruise on the river is included, so it's a great deal.

There is the 5* Thansur Bokor Highland Resort that can be pre-booked at a really good price (I've paid approx. 50 $ incl. breakfast buffet), which obviously few people do. I guess that's the reason why it's not easy or very pricey just to go there and back. However, it was easier to book a guided tour and then just stay instead of going back with the group. Actually, this was a perfect plan since the day we went up, rolling clouds and heavy mist caused a visibility of about one foot. We didn't reckon that we missed some breathtaking views. We were just miserably freezing under a nasty drizzle.

Thansur Bokor
And when there is now view, there is no view at all.

While the group headed back downhill, I checked in and spent a great day at a great hotel in a great bed.
The next day the sun came down and I borrowed a good mountain bike from the hotel and did the same tour we did the day before - only was I able to see; and what I saw was just magnificent and impressive.

Wat Sampov Pram
Majestic Wat Sampov Pram on top of Thansur Bokor.

The same driver picked me up on his tour - charged 9 $ - and took me with next day's group back downhill.
Of course I had paid much more - the additional 9 $ for the way back and they didn't give me the voucher for the cruise on the river which is worth 5 $ - but it was my choice to stay up there instead of just doing the tour everybody does and it's not very easy to reason with some people, especially not when their English is very limited.
Although my trip turned out to be more costy, it was absolutely worth it and I would do it again exactly the way I did it.

Thansur Bokor Highland Resort
Phone: + 855 - 33 - 683 8888 / + 855 - 33 - 683 9999
Email: reservations@thansurbokor.com

There is an opportunity to travel from luxury to luxury: Since the resort is part of the Sokha hotel chain, you can book a package - either only for a day or an overnight stay - getting you from the Sokha beach resort in Sihanoukville to Thansur Bokor and back for 29 $ (day trip) resp. 76 $ (overnight stay with full board and other extras) per person. I thinks this is a great deal, I only couldn't do it since I didn't stay at Sokha in Sihanoukville and they aren't offering it for single traveller. But if you want to pamper yourself, you should absolutely check it out:

Thansur Bokor Day & Overnight Trips
Phone: + 855 - 33 - 683 8888
Mobile: + 855 - 8833 5560 8
Email: arvmkp@sokhahotels.com / reservationskp@sokhahotels.com

Although their price policy in this particular case was a little sketchy, I liked travelling with Anny Tours & Travel since the drivers didn't actually seemed to care that their passengers survive the trip, they were very reliable and their pricing in general okay.

Anny Tours & Travel
Phone: + 855 - 76 - 368 99 99 / + 855 - 96 - 893 66 66 / + 855 - 88 - 567 22 22 / + 855 - 36 - 65 23 999
Email: Annatours10@yahoo.com

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