Sleepy Kampot – where time moves slowly, I wear long sleeves and eat pumpkin pancakes

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.

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The breezy riverfront was an great place to stroll in the evening. The wind kept me cooler and the mosquitoes at bay. I got one gorgeous sunset before the rainy season storm clouds rolled in. I was too enchanted by the vibrant oranges to take a photograph but here’s one of the cloudy sunsets. Still not bad.

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Things in the south are cheaper than Siem Reap which always makes me happy. I had an amazing bowl of homemade pork dumplings and hand pulled noodle soup for $2.50 at Ecran. Watching them making the noodles was pretty awesome too.

I also found an excellent local bakery (navigating the world by cake again) which sold pumpkin and spice pancakes and homemade syrup. The woman who runs the bakery is very talkative. She grew up in a nearby orphanage, is now married with children, one of which is adopted and she has a prosthetic leg. She still keeps in touch with her ‘brothers and sisters’ from the orphanage and seemed to be a really happy person. She was also pretty passionate about her cake and pancakes so, of course, we got along well.

There’s a lot to do in the Kampot area, with mountains caves, lakes, salt fields and pepper plantations, though I didn’t even scratch the surface in my two and half days in Kampot (too busy visiting bars and cafes and watching the world go by).

Bokor Mountain is one of the main attractions in Kampot, so I headed up the hill on a group tour. It’s possible to cycle (or hire a motorbike) but I decided against it when I found out that it was 32 kilometres uphill and the only bikes available were rusty single gear ladies shoppers. I didn’t think it would make it. Also it was raining.

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Actually, it was dry and hot by the river but Bokor is another story – windy, rainy and kind of cold. I wore my long sleeved shirt for the first time since about February.

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Our first stop on the hill was Jay Mao. At first glance I thought it was a statue of Buddha but she’s actually female and some sort of protector of fishermen.

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Then the Black Palace, the former King’s residence. We were all really surprised to find it was a palace and not just a guard station. It’s small and rundown with nothing regal about it. Perhaps it was more impressive in it’s heyday. The separate dining building had some pretty cool and creepy graffiti though.

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The ghost town further up the hill was very atmospheric. There is an abandoned Catholic Church, police station, hospital and hotel and casino. Apparently those who lost big at the casino found the cliff really appealing.

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The mist rolled in and out, the buildings disappeared and reappeared. At the edge of the mountain, with the clouds filling the valley, I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world.

It’s still possible to explore the abandoned buildings, the most popular being the old casino hotel. It’s been stripped of anything of value and looks like a concrete block. I still enjoyed exploring, imagining what it once was. Some of the original tiles are still there and much is under water. It would have had quite a creepy atmosphere if you visited alone, without the crowds.

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A mediocre waterfall was our next stop. Much lower down the mountain so it felt like a completely different climate, although the water was refreshingly cold.

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After a short break back in the tropics of Kampot town, we boarded a board for a sunset cruise. Unfortunately all the clouds meant it wasn’t very impressive but it was still a chilled out way to spend the evening, cruising the river with a beer or two, watching life go by.

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Then it was time to trade in my simple Kampot digs for Knai Bang Chatt in Kep, which I was reviewing for www.luxuryandboutiquehotels.com.

Sometimes I feel so lucky.

4 thoughts on “Sleepy Kampot – where time moves slowly, I wear long sleeves and eat pumpkin pancakes

  1. Your photos in this post are outstanding. I love them all. Great writing too. I love being a virtual traveller with you! I actually think the clouds make that sunset …. 🙂

  2. I think you have high expectations of your waterfalls. Doesn’t look mediocre to me. Love the sunset shot, put that one on a canvas.

    • The picture makes it look better than it really is. I should give Nan the sunset for her to paint. Or perhaps you should pick up your oils!

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