When travelling through South East Asia it is easy to stick to the main tourist attractions and big cities – they are a tourist attraction for a reason after all! If you are strapped for time in a country jam-packed full of interesting things to do and see like Cambodia, stepping away from the tourist hordes is even more difficult. Kampot near the Vietnamese border is a little town that isn’t quite off the “beaten track” but it’s not on the main tourist route either and is a great way to see something a little different.
Kampot is nestled up on the Vietnamese border, surrounded by farmland and mountains. It is a great place to base yourself if you wish to explore Bokor national park. The town itself is still heavily influenced by the French colonial architecture, combined with the many bakeries that dot the town you would be forgiven for thinking you had somehow stepped into the south of France.
How long to spend in Kampot
Kampot is a sleepy town, with limited things to do a few days here is usually enough. If however, you want to base yourself somewhere quiet where you can still easily travel to the other major attractions in Cambodia then this is a great town for a longer stay.
Beware: Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world – and I am not referring to gold mining. During the Khmer Rouge, landmines were buried throughout various places in the countryside, killing tens of thousands over the years. When in any rural area in Cambodia be careful not to stray off the road – there are still huge efforts to clear the country of these horrific bombs but it will still take many more years and a lot more money to give the country the all clear – caution if the key to maintaining your limbs.
Things to do – Kampot
Bokor National Park is one of the countries largest protected areas and contains many animals and birds that are on the verge of being extinct – including the tiger. You can do one day or multiple day tours from Kampot. The ruins in the centre have a somewhat eerie feel to them as the jungle slowly creeps out to reclaim them.
Explore the local countryside by hiring a tuk-tuk or moto driver for the day. Ask them to take you to some of the places that they think are important in the areas, such as the famous Kampot pepper farms which are regarded as one of the finest peppers in the world and a staple on most five-star restaurant tables.
Ancient bat-filled caves are just a short moto ride from the town. The climb up to the caves is one of the highlights as you are able to look out at the vast region of fields and mountains below you. The caves themselves contain ancient shrines and loads of bats – wouldn’t recommend using flash photography in there.
Take a breath while you enjoy a coffee or a meal in one of the many amazing restaurants that line the river bank. Spend some time just collecting your thoughts and admiring the sun setting over the mountains and the eye-popping steel bridge.
Kep is a ghost town just near Kampot. It was once a thriving holiday resort built by the French, but war and famine meant that it was all but deserted until recently. The new tourist trade is slowly taking hold here. But it is even more sleepy than Kampot so I would recommend just doing a day trip there. Walking along the seafront that is lined with huge beautiful and opulent white French buildings is simultaneously amazing and creepy as the place feels so lonely and sad.
Cambodia is a country that has so much to offer travellers of all interests – from the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat to the heartbreak of the Killing Fields, to beach time in Sihanoukville but if you want to see a little piece of Cambodia that isn’t a tourist attraction head down to Kampot.
South East Asia is a region packed with things to do and see but at times it can be stressful (such as when you accidentally wash your passport) and daunting, sometimes you need to remember to take a deep breath and go with the flow. Once you relax you will create memories that will last a lifetime as the region is full of history, culture, shopping, amazing food and some of the friendliest people in the world. But if you need a little help working out this amazing region click here for 25 tips on how to survive South East Asia.