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A Guide To Visiting Kampot: Cambodia's Hidden Gem

Written on
September 17, 2017
Travel

A Guide To Visiting Kampot: Cambodia's Hidden Gem

Kampot lies in the South of Cambodia and it’s a far cry from the manic nature of the capital Phnom Penh; an oasis of tranquility which I fell in love with.
Drinking cider by Kampot River
Cider, a view, and good bloods! Yay me!

Kampot may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think “romantic getaway”, but if you find yourself backpacking or visiting Cambodia, then this is a spot that’s perfect to escape to. Here's your guide to visiting Kampot and knowing just what to do.

Where to stay in Kampot?

Kampot is known for its spectacular winding river and is therefore what makes it a prime riverside destination. We're not talking about a stream or canal, instead, it’s a lush, giant river that runs through the surrounding countryside and reminds me more of a lake.

There are a variety of guest houses, hotels and hostels located alongside the riverbed and it’s here that you want to base yourself. We stayed in a resort named “Bamboo Bungalow” and it was the absolute perfect spot.

There are two types of bungalow on offer, garden-view bungalows and those that literally sit on the water and have a private deck to enjoy the beauty of the river flowing past. We recommend paying the extra little bit of money for the river view bungalow, for us it worked out as $1.50 extra each a night- so nothing!

Kampot waterside Bungalows

You wake up in the morning to the views and sounds of the river, it’s beautiful and everything you want for a relaxing getaway. It’s also extremely romantic. You can buy a couple of beers/ciders/wine and enjoy the sunset on your very own deck, and the colours of the sky are stunning and you will feel like you’re completely alone.

It’s a bonus that the food at the resort is also reasonably priced as well as the ability to rent mopeds amongst other activities. It's a yes from us! If this happens to be sold out, there are a variety of other great options around the area; the standard of accommodation, in general, is quite high.

Cazzy looking at Kampot River

Top things to do in Kampot?

When I first read a blog post on what to do in Kampot, I noticed that many people had written saying that you really had to dig deep to find lots to do.

I don’t agree. Here's a list of what we did and why you should do it too!

Visit Kampot's surrounding caves

Kampot is a climbers dream, and whilst Brad and I don’t climb, we do like to explore, so we decided the best way to do this was renting our own moped.

Visiting Kampot by moped is incredibly cheap. It costs $5 for the day and fuel was around $2 for a full tank. You can hire mopeds at most hotels, if not you can find them in town.

Kampot isn’t difficult to drive and it’s nowhere near as manic as the capital city (which we also drove in), and it’s wonderful to have the flexibility to create your own itinerary and take your time visiting the best spots.

We headed to two caves, each of which was about $1 entrance. These caves are somewhat tricky to navigate, in that it’s hard to find the tiny entrances and exits within the cave itself, although if it’s an activity you are used to, then you may find it easier.

You will, at each spot, have some guy or children who speak perfect English ask you if you want a guide and, to be honest, if you want to learn more or not get lost then it’s not a bad idea- it’s not expensive either.

Brad took a guide for $2, so it’s up to you!

Also, to note, when you arrive at these places there’s no official tourist desk or anything; it will literally be a couple of local guys walking up to you and explaining to you what to pay and do, but they are the people who run it!

Kampot cave shrine
This cave-hidden Buddhist shrine is over 1,300 years old!

Visit the Pepper Farm

So, as you're probably unaware, Kampot is famous for its pepper. If you didn’t know this then you would probably be left why they constantly pile pepper on every dish you order, regardless of what it is.

Me, not being a massive pepper fan, found this frustrating, but hey ho, it’s pepper!

You can do an official tour to the Pepper Farm and I am not sure how much they cost, but it usually involves stops at other places too, so if you don’t want to drive there yourself, then shop around the town centre for a good deal.

Finding the Pepper Farm yourself is easy, you just pop the location into Maps.me (which doesn’t require WiFi as it runs off GPS) and you will find yourself there.

As a side note, whatever time Maps.me gives you for your journey time, double it; it always underestimates. The Pepper Farm is located in the Pepper Resort and it’s a stunning resort with a wonderful infinity pool and restaurant.

If you want to take a dip in the pool then you need to spend $5, so treat yourself to lunch and relax in the pool and hot tub. The views from up there are beautiful and it is an actual hotel.

But with the cheapest room coming in at $130 a night and up to $250 a night, it certainly wasn't in our price range, and it’s really out of the way from anything. So if you literally want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, then it’s the perfect place for you!

Pepper farm hidden luxury hotel

Visiting the Secret Lake in Kampot

You can access the secret lake on the way to the Pepper Farm. It does feel pretty secret when you are there as there’s literally no one about.

You can swim in the lake, drive around it, or visit the temple that’s located nearby.

There’s also the Secret Lake Cafe which offers cheap food and drink (just so you know, cheap for us is $0.50 to $2 dollar). Brad had a swim in the lake, but he thinks he had mini leeches on him, so dip at caution!

view from Bokor Mountain

Drive up Bokor Mountain

This can be done via day trip and I overheard someone else buying the trip for $13 for the bus. Brad and I rented another moped for the day instead.

The road up to the mountain is modern and well tarmacked, but full of twists and turns, so if you get motion sickness, then prepare yourself.

The entrance to the park that houses the mountain is $0.50 for mopeds. It was an absolutely stunning drive up the mountain, the views were spectacular and despite it being almost 40km, we really enjoyed it.

The reason we went up the mountain was to find an abandoned station, it’s on MAPS.me and now looks more like an abandoned ghost house than a station!

Not to worry though! There is a stunning and massive Buddha half way up with offers amazing views and stunning photo opportunities. Then, at the peak of the mountain, there is a random casino resort which is gigantic, so if you’re feeling lucky, then maybe?

Buddha statue Bokor mountain

If not, like us, carry on the road and you will come to an old abandoned Catholic church from the start of the 20th century! It’s there from back when Cambodia was under French rule and again it makes for interesting photos.

Your next stop is the viewpoint by the abandoned hill station and wow what a view it is. The journey up here was well worth it for that moment alone.

You are literally standing on the edge of the top of a mountain, in the clouds and you can see everything. One strong gust of wind could see you fall over so I’d be super careful.

After that, there's spot across the road where you can pick up a cold drink and some overpriced food. There’s also a waterfall to be seen, we didn’t make it to the waterfall as we ran out of time, but it’s supposed to be beautiful, so if you are up that far, then go and let us know!

Cazzy view down from Mountain Bokor

Go kayaking down the River Kampot

As with most things when visiting Kampot, kayaking is a cheap and cheerful activity to do on the river. You can rent them out at almost every hotel and it’s usually cheaper for guests. Our price was $2.50 per person for an hour.

We chose a double kayak because I think it’s a romantic activity to do!

We kayaked down the river trying to keep a rhythm and avoid hitting the trees and it was lovely being on the water surrounded by the peaceful noises of nature.

I would recommend going after the hottest part of the day as you are in direct sunlight and Kampot isn’t cold. We booked ours for 3.30pm and it was still very hot.

You can kayak in the water and catch the sunset if you’d like. Whilst we didn't do this ourselves, we did see another couple.

Kayaking in Kampot

Take a sunset cruise down the River Kampot

When visiting Kampot, this is one of the things you simply must do, because it’s cheap and great value; it’s also really romantic!

All the tours cost $5 with a free beer and there are different types of boats that offer different styles of tours; i.e. you can get a party boat if you’d like, but we were hoping for something a little more peaceful.

The cruise itself is called a sunset and firefly tour and you go down the river then park up and watch the sunset (take your best camera) and then on your return you go on the search for fireflies.

It depends on the season how many there are and we didn’t see too many, but I'd already seen hundreds upon hundreds of them in the Amazon in Brazil, so I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s a lovely journey to sit up the top of the deck with your loved one and just take in the wonderful sights and beauty of the river.

Cazzy Kampot river boat

Enjoy dinner by the River Kampot

In the main tourist centre of Kampot, there is a strip of restaurants on the river that are either on boats or on decks built onto the river.

You would think that dining in that setting would be expensive, especially when it looks so romantic, but it’s cheap!

Brad and I chose a restaurant that was around halfway down from the “Old Bridge” and we perched ourselves on seats on the water, surrounded by pretty lights and enjoyed a dinner for $5 dollars each.

That included a main course, a side of garlic bread, a cocktail and a vodka and Coke Zero, each. So I reckon that’s pretty great value.

Even if you don’t want dinner, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a drink by the water. Happy hours usually run until 9 O'clock, and the boat-side restaurants don’t open until 3pm.

On the opposite side of the road, there is a whole strip of restaurants (including an Irish bar, of course) and it’s all wonderfully cheap! There's also a whole host of opportunities for drinking and nightlife, so if you want to dance then it’s possible. Kampot really has it all…

Cazzy and Brad selfie Kampot river boat cruise

So there you have it!

Everything that we did with three nights in Kampot and it became my favourite spot in Cambodia and you should not miss it if you get the chance!

Have you visited Cambodia before? What did you like? Would you add anything to this guide to visiting Kampot?

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