Kampot is our favorite place in Cambodia. To truly enjoy this sleepy, laid back and chilled out town one has to stay at the Green House Bungalows. This hotel is right in front of the river and has awesome views of the hills as its backdrop. The common area is a great place to work, mingle or just relax and enjoy the breeze that sweeps in all day. They also have hammocks, kayaks, tubes and even a deck on the river you can relax on. The staff is very friendly and go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable.
We stayed in Kampot for 4 nights and 5 days and could have easily spent couple more nights here. The bungalows are traditional khmer style built with simple natural materials and surrounded by trees, plants and flowers. It is very basic, the beds are comfortable and the bathrooms are surprisingly modern. Now, point to be noted, it is set in the midst of nature and you have to be okay sharing your room with the areas habitants, aka, gecko(s). We did! I was freaked out initially, but soon I got used to the idea and made friends with Takeo (yup, that’s the name we gave him). It was only made possible because of Tanuj, who would scope out the scene and sound out the “all clear” to let me know that Takeo was not in the vicinity and I could safely enter the room. Lucky me, I didn’t have to meet him in person the entire time we were there. However, less scary creatures like a roach and a small lizard made their appearance, as well. Thank goodness for the mosquito net in the room and the Sea to Summit travel liner that made me feel secure and safe.
So, if you are afraid of nature’s habitants, then make sure you go with someone who is not, or just get over it, but definitely GO! Not going should not be an option.
Things to do in Kampot
Explore the town on a bike (Rating: *****)
We rented a bike for $4 per day in town and rode it to the bungalows, which is 20 mins away. It’s easy, safe and completely doable during the day or at night. TIP: Use a surgical mask to save your lungs from the dust and pollution. You can also rent a bike from the hotel if you don’t want one in town. It’s around $6 per day. For all you durian lovers, Kampot is very famous for its durian. Believe it or not, the town has a Durian Round About. I got a kick out of seeing that. Unfortunately for me, durian was not in season so I couldn’t get my fill.
Relax and Unwind (Rating: *****)
You can swim in the river, lounge on the deck, read a book while chilling on a hammock, eat awesome food, have a drink, do some yoga and kayak up the river or to the mangrove forests. All are wonderful options to spend your day in Kampot. We spent one morning doing yoga on the deck, enjoying the morning breeze and views all by ourselves followed by a scrumptious breakfast. TIP – Get your zen on and wake up early to enjoy private views of the river and hills. It’s picturesque and peaceful first thing in the morning with no one to disturb you and your thoughts. Drink coconut water, from a whole coconut, try a chocolate cookie with Kampot pepper and enjoy a healthy breakfast with muesli and fresh fruits. We spent the afternoon reading a book, eating, drinking and eating some more. Later in the evening, we rented a kayak ($2 at the Green House) and went upstream to enjoy the gorgeous sunset. Come back for some more chilling and eating. What else can one ask for?
Bokor Mountain National Park (Rating: ***)
It’s a lot of fun riding up the curvy roads to Bokor Mountain National Park. The entrance fees into the park is 2000 riel ($.50 cents). Once a small resort town is now abandoned with plenty of stops to visit. The views are quite nice and the roads are one of the best we have ridden on in Cambodia. You can visit the Popokvil waterfalls (extra $.50 cents per person to enter), abandoned casino, old church, Bokor Palace Hotel, 100 and 500 rice fields, Lok Yeay Mao Monument and more. We easily spent most of the day here from 10am to 3pm. We were advised to get back down before it got dark due to the lack of lights, so if you choose to stay for sunset you may want to keep that in mind. TIP – If you do go to the waterfalls, climb up the big boulders behind and to the left of you and hike 20 meters to get a better view the falls from the front.
TIP – It gets pretty cold as you ascend so make sure to wear a sweatshirt, long bottoms, comfortable closed shoes and carry a rain jacket. We went in the end of December and it was COLD!
TIP – Carry extra petrol with you if possible. You are more than likely going to drain your tank and the stores within the park charge you an arm and a leg. We had to fill our tank with 2 more liters and paid close to $4 for it.
Discover the countryside, Temple Caves, the “not so secret” Secret Lake and Pepper Plantations! (Rating: *****)
You can always book a tour from a travel company in Kampot or your hostel/hotel to explore the countryside in a tuk tuk for a reasonable amount. However, we prefer to be our own bosses and explore on our own to hopefully tread off the beaten path and engage with locals and travelers along the way. So, with couple fellow travelers, a map in hand, a tank full of petrol in our bikes and an adventurous spirit we left the buzz of the town, scooters and tuk tuks to seek the bumpy and dusty dirt roads, rustic and bucolic scenery, rice fields, buffaloes, villages and traditional stilted houses.
Phnom Ch’nork Caves (Rating: *****)
Our first stop was the Phnom Ch’nork Caves (entrance fees: $1). As soon as we parked our bikes, a bunch of friendly local kids came running to us offering their services to be our guides for $3. We didn’t think climbing 200 odd steps up the hill to view a temple and pass through the caves would require expertise or a guide. So, after we joked with them for a bit, we headed up the stairs to be greeted by huge stalagmites and stalactites and the pre-Angkorian ruin. We then made our way to one of the entrance into the caves. After a bit of exploration, we soon discovered that it was no easy feat. With so many possible entrances, really dark sections and small crooks and crannies we realized we needed a guide. Fortunately, or maybe strategically, one of the kids came asking if we needed help. We jumped at this chance, and it turned out to be a really good decision! We got to see bats and deadly spiders (we were told that if stung by them, one would be dead in 2-3 hrs), crouched through tiny openings to make our way through the dark cave, trampled all over bat poop and stepped through really sticky mud. The entire ordeal lasted 30 to 45 minutes. It was a lot of fun and definitely one of the highlights!
Pepper Plantation (Rating: ****)
Next, we headed to an organic Pepper Plantation called La Plantation. At the plantation, we got a free tour of the pepper farm and plants to learn more about pepper and why they consider Kampot pepper to be the world’s best. Spent some time at their store to take in the views and taste the four different types of pepper including red, white, green and black – from sweet to the most spicy.
Secret Lake (Rating: ****)
Out next and final stop was the “not so secret” Secret Lake. A man-made lake built during the Khmer Rouge era by slave labors for the purposes of irrigation. It was a lovely spot to stop and catch up with fellow travelers and cool off from the days heat. The sunset here was beautiful with the breeze passing by. A must visit while exploring the countryside. TIP: Stop by Khmer Roots Cafe across the lake to have a drink or eat authentic Cambodian food. They cook everything right in front of you and the results are outstanding!
Yoga (Rating: *****)
Both Simple Things and Banteay Srey Women’s Spa have morning and evening yoga classes for around $5-$6. Banteay Srey is a social enterprise to empower young women who are coming from difficult circumstances. We did not make it to Banteay Srey but heard great things from other travelers.The morning class at Banteay is for men and women, however, the evening class is only for women. We did make it to Simple Things for yoga. The studio had yoga mats but I preferred to take my own travel mat and lay it on top of the studios mat to get more cushion. Yoga at Simple Things was pretty good. The studio is nice but a little dirty and dusty. Both these locations have an awesome restaurant serving healthy and nutritious food with several vegan, vegetarian and raw options. (Check out our Guide to eating vegetarian in Cambodia to learn more.)
For next time …
Here is a list of many other sights in and around Kampot. Unfortunately, since we were only in Kampot for 4 nights, we were unable to make it to all the recommended spots:
- Kep – A short 45 minutes ride from Kampot is Kep known for its crabs, sunsets and butterfly farm.
- Salt Fields – Salt water from the ocean is collected in the fields and then allowed to evaporate. What you have left is salt! The salt fields is a short ride from town and was recommended by many.
- Sunrise Boat Tour – This is another popular tour in Kampot that takes you up the river to view the sunset. The highlight is actually on the way back when it’s dark. Lots and lots of Fireflies!