It is not hard to see why people become entranced with Kampot, Cambodia. It doesn’t have Siem Reap’s temples or the glitz of Sihanoukville; however, the town is charming, laid-back and perfect for relaxing and taking a breather from the dusty trails of Cambodia.
Kampot doesn’t look like much at first with its crumbling French-era and Chinese shophouses with fading green and blue shutters and peeling yellow paint. It’s small and sleepy with wide dusty streets and not much traffic, which the latter, most of Cambodia has in abundance to an annoying level. Yet, many people visit Kampot province and stay for a long time.
Kampot is in southern Cambodia, and it is the capital of Kampot Province. The town is set next to the Prek Tuek Chhu River. Both sides of the river are connected by three bridges: the old French-colonial bridge, which is closed to traffic; the new highway bridge just upriver; and a railway bridge. Kampot is situated near the Elephant Mountains and several kilometres from the Gulf of Thailand. It is also only a few hours from Sihanoukville.
The History of Kampot
In the 19the century, under French colonial administration, Kampot became a regional administrative centre, which they named the Circonscription Résidentielle de Kampot. It contained the arrondissements, or administrative districts, of Kampot, Kampong Som, Trang and Kong-Pisey. Under French rule, Kampot was Cambodia’s most important sea port before the establishment of Sihanoukville. It was also a retreat for colonial officials who would visit Bokor Mountain to escape the heat and enjoy the good airs of the mountain.
Kampot is also multi-ethnic with Cambodians on the Prek-Kampot River and Chinese on the right riverbank of the west branch of the Prek-Thom River. Not far away is a Vietnamese village called Tien-Thanh with another Vietnamese village on Traeuy Koh Island. There is a Muslim section of Kampot town, which is down river a short distance. There is also a large Western population.
It’s easy to get around the wide streets of Kampot on foot, bicycle or motorbike. There is a slower pace to life here with hot afternoons perfect for kicking back. The river promenade attracts people at sunset for strolls and happy hour.
The countryside starts not far from the town centre, where there is a land of rice paddies, palm trees, water buffalo and wooden houses on stilts. Outside of town, there are also great places to visit.
Kampot is famous for salt and pepper. It is possible to visit a pepper plantation, walk in the fields, enjoy pepper tasting and try different meals with different peppers. There are Kampot pepper plantations on the way to Kep that produce some of the best pepper in the world.
Try a gin with crushed Kampot pepper and cucumber over lots of ice. Add soda or tonic to make this a perfect sun-downer.
Salt Fields Kampot
In addition to the unmistakably fragrant Kampot pepper, there is Kampot salt. A visit to the salt fields in Kampot should be on every itinerary. As they say, you cannot have pepper without salt. You can ride out to the salt fields near town and watch locals carry sea water to prepared clay fields. The water is left to evaporate until salt crystals form. Workers rake off the salt and carrying it off in huge baskets.
Things to do in Kampot
As with nearly everywhere in Cambodia they are plenty of things to do in Kampot. Be it a visit to the Bokor mountains, the salts fields in Kampot or to the growing areas of the world-revered Kampot pepper farms. Maybe a dip in the Kampot river and splash in the waterfalls or a tour to the Kampot caves. Whatever your level of activity there are many places to visit in Kampot. There are various Kampot tours and travel offices littered throughout the town.
Bokor Mountain | Kampot Province
While Kampot is a sleepy place for taking it easy and enjoying a slower pace of life, there is a lot going on in the surrounding countryside. You can swim in the Kampot river, visit waterfalls and swimming holes, go on a Kampot river cruise, try yoga, or visit Bokor Mountain. One of the best ways to get around Kampot is by motorcycle, especially if you go to Bokor.
The trip up the mountain to the Bokor Hill Station has sweeping views of the countryside and the Gulf of Thailand. It is also cooler at the top and a pleasant escape from the heat below. There are remnants of the French-era hill station. Unfortunately, the Chinese have built a casino at the top, which has ruined some of the atmosphere.
Kampot Cambodia Accommodation
There is no shortage of accommodation in Kampot. There are lots of places in the centre of town. Keep in mind when you visit, that Kampot is very popular during national holidays and Cambodia has a lot of national holidays. You may need to book ahead. See our page on how to book the best hotels. Booking a Cambodian hotel via our webpage allows us to keep this website free of charge.
There are many popular places to stay just up the river, and a short distance from the Kampot town centre. Here, you will find numerous cheap guesthouses on the banks of the Kampot river. You can literally walk out of your room and jump into the river.
Eateries in Kampot Cambodia
As mentioned, Kampot province and Kampot town are well known for the high-quality pepper, which is exported worldwide. It is also known for its Kampot fish sauce and durian. In fact, near the market is a huge durian statue. Nearby the statue are lots of cheap restaurants.
There is no shortage of food and you can find everything from delicious pub food and restaurants to street stands selling baguettes and steamed corn on the cob. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in and around the Kampot Night Market.
Phnom Penh to Kampot
Getting from Phnom Penh to Kampot is very straightforward. There are many bus services from Phnom Penh that operate throughout the day. The journey usually takes about four hours. If you want to go directly to Kampot, make sure you catch a bus that doesn’t go via Kep. This will add more time to your journey. There are minibus services, such as Mekong Express and Giant Ibis, which get you there faster. Private taxis are the fastest way to get there.
There is the Phnom Penh to Kampot train service; however, it takes about five hours—on a good day. It stops at Takeo, Kampot and then heads to Sihanoukville. It is interesting to try it once. You can see the Cambodian countryside and people from the train, but I wouldn’t recommend it more than once.
From Sihanoukville, you need to travel by taxi or minibus. In addition, if you want to visit Kep then it is only a 30-minute drive from Kampot. It is also an enjoyable motorbike ride from Kampot.
We are always here to help and Warwick is our advisor on Kampot Cambodia. He is ready to give advice or accept articles and picture for our website.