I had, many years ago, read something or seen something that made me think of Kampot as a city high on my list of places to visit. I had not however heard anything from fellow travelers about its merits. Nevertheless I was very much looking forward to my arrival.
Maybe it’s because of the famous Durian Roundabout that acts as the city center point!
Of course the journey from Sihanoukville to Kampot was an event. The minivan I was a passenger in broke down and therefore taxis were employed to get us on our way. In my taxi there were seven of us. Three foreigners in the back seat and four locals in the front seat. That means two people in the driver’s seat wrapped around each other like the twisted intertwined roots of an old tree.
It was only a two hour journey!
Immediately upon arriving in Kampot I was captivated. This sleepy town, I could instantly tell, was going to be the perfect way to finish out my trip. From here I could base myself. Take in the surrounding sites and even the neighboring town of Kep. Possibly even a trip out to the islands for a final day at the beach.
My first choice of accommodation was the Rikitikitavi; because of the mongoose story. I loved that story. It was full.
My second choice was La Java Blue; full.
My third choice, Bokor Mountain Lodge had a room but with it a vibe I wasn’t keen on. I ended up at the Moliden and could not have been happier.
The Moliden was built in traditional Khmer style. All dark wood. Floors, walls, staircase; the only exception was the ceiling which was dark beams crisscrossing over a white surface. Gave the place an airy feel.
Kampot really is a colonial era museum. So many buildings and monuments easily allow your imagination to hurtle you back in time. Pale yellow shop houses with blue or green shutters line every street and avenue. Admittedly they are in disrepair but the essence of the city is in good shape.
Many of the old buildings are being restored into cafes, bars, restaurants, and hotels. It is still in the early stages but well on the way.
One of the popular things to do in Kampot is a leisurely trip down the river at sunset. For $5 you get a two hour journey plus your choice of fresh young coconut or canned beer. I booked myself on Captain Chins boat and at 4:45 we were off down the river.
The river is calm and reflects the shoreline and mountains with a perfect mirror image. Clouds, mountain tops, and palm trees dive into the rivers depths.
The sunset cruise set the tone for my stay in Kampot. It was as close to perfect as you can get. Coming off of Sihanoukville and its craziness I am sure the tranquility of Kampot was enhanced even more.
As night fell and the orange sun set behind the mountain range, fireflies began to light up the riverside trees. They suddenly began to look like Christmas trees as clusters of fireflies let themselves be known.
We crept silently and slowly down the river and I was captivated by these tiny natural light bulbs.
I did not have the greatest nights sleep. I had a resident rooster outside my window. I am not sure where the myth about roosters cockadoodling at dawn came from but my experience in all Asian countries is that this myth is false.
Anytime of day or night they will sound the arrival of the sun.
I changed rooms.
I spent four days in total in Kampot and did everything I planned to. I visited Bokor Mountain, the temple caves, a pepper plantation (Kampot is famous for its pepper), the crab market, and Kep. I also went out for a very peaceful day to Koh Tonsai better known as Rabbit Island. A rustic almost uninhabited island just off the southern coast of Kep.
Rabbit Island is clean, peaceful, and idyllic. It is possible to stay the night in bungalows and I was tempted. When the island roosters started going off at 1pm and did not let up I decided no sleep was going to be had.
I got on the boat and headed back to Kep and onward to Kampot where my peaceful quiet room at the Moliden waited.
For photos of Cambodia click here.