It was a toss up between hiking in mountainous jungles or relaxing on quiet secluded islands. A tough choice but I eventually settled on beaches over sweating in the leech infested rainy season jungle.
Koh Rong is likened to the Thai islands before large developments and full moon parties and I was keen to get back to backpacker roots/routes. I opted for Koh Rong Samlouen, Koh Rong’s quieter little sister. I was looking for almost empty beaches rather than a party.
I spent two days in Kampot before heading to Kep but, although it was high on my list of things to do, I didn’t get a chance to visit a pepper farm. I did cycle past some salt fields which weren’t being worked because of the raining season but the more interesting condiment had escaped me.
I was a ‘preview’ guest at Samanea Beach Spa Resort, part of the Secret Retreats group, and I had no idea what to expect.
The French project manager, Florian, took time out of his busy schedule of getting the resort ready for opening towards the end of July and collected me from Knai Bang Chatt. I had assumed we would go straight to the resort but Florian had other plans in mind. As the kitchen at Samanea was not yet open, Florian, took me to Breezes, a well known restaurant on the coast in Kep town. I’d over indulged at breakfast (again) but still managed a little something.
On hearing that I hadn’t yet visited a pepper farm, Sothy’s was our next stop. Kampot pepper is renowned for being the best pepper in the world and you shouldn’t leave the region without visiting at least one plantation.
As part of my role as a reviewer for www.luxuryandboutiquehotels.com, I was lucky enough to spend two nights at Knai Bang Chatt in Kep, a luxury resort on the coast. It’s only 30 kilometres from Kampot and most travellers choose one or the other. I’m really glad I had the time for both.
After getting off the bus I was really pleased to find that Knai Bang Chatt was just a few minutes walk to the famous Kep Crab Market. I spent an hour there eating delicious crab and making a big mess.
After leaving Emily (or rather, her leaving me as the bus to Phnom Penh left before mine), I headed to sleepy Kampot. I agree with Michael at Koh Thmey that it was a much better option for me than the Sihanoukville with it’s reputation for being slightly seedy and a place for ‘sex-pats’.
I really liked Kampot. It’s a quiet, French colonial riverside village. It reminded me a little of Battambang in a chilled out way but much smaller. It’s the kind of place where you come for two or three days and a week later you’re still exploring cafes and watching the sunset from the riverside bars. Like Battambang there was also lots of evidence of French colonialism in the shop houses, both restored and decrepit.