Riding up Bokor Mountain on a motorbike is my top thing to do in Kampot, it’s actually so far one of my top things to do in life. This stunning nature reserve of lush green forest is a stark contrast to the dusty dry roads of much of other parts of Cambodia and well worth the trip if you are far away. Luckily we were staying super close, so after having a lack of itinerary for most of the week, we found Bokor mountain and rode to the top. There are beauty spots along the way to stop and take in the unimaginable views and at the top there is lots to visit. Top tip – don’t go in the late afternoon, we stopped in Kampot for some lunch before we rode up Bokor mountain, this was a bad idea because there’s so much to see up there! I could have spent a lot more time at the top of the mountain but it started getting dark while we were up there and we wanted to ride back in the semi light so we had to leave after only an hour or two. The moral of the story is go in the morning. I will post a gallery of just Bokor mountain to try to show you how lovely it is, but if you can, I highly recommend you go yourself. En route to the top of the mountain, there is a giant Buddha statue, who asserts his massive dominance over us mere earthlings. The very top of the mountain you can only access by foot up some steps, there is an aesthetically crumbly old church and past even that, a sightseeing platform. Being at the top of this mountain was like being in the sky, being one with the clouds and the view will make your heart skip a beat. It is an unbelievably peaceful place. You can sit right at the edge of the overhang for the daredevils amongst you who want to feel like they’re flying.
This place is incredible, but something that really shocked me is the disrespect of people in places like this. Litter was everywhere, there was plastic thrown into the bushes, off of the edge of rocks where it couldn’t be cleaned up – it was everywhere. This disgusts me beyond belief, as an environmentally conscious person it hurt me inside, but also as an individual, I feel like this is so selfish, the view is ruined for other people because someone (or lots of someones) decided they wouldn’t put their crisp packets in the bin. Absolutely shocking.
OK rant over. I think I will do a future blog post about the state of plastic in the ocean/in beauty spots to try to raise some awareness <3
The Kampot markets are great places to pick up some authentic goods, the ceiling is low in the indoor market and you really feel like one of the locals walking around. Be careful to keep bags and possessions close, I have personally never had any problems with anyone in Cambodia but I have heard enough horror stories to heed the warning! I bought a pair of flip flops in the Kampot indoor market for $1 and they have lasted me 3 months in south east Asia and are currently sitting in my wardrobe waiting for my next warm weather adventure to begin, a great way to spend a dollar if you ask me. There are plenty of other things to buy, there is an abundance of fabrics if you’re into that kind of thing. You can get made to measure clothes in a lot of places, you pick the fabric you wanna wear and clothes are made for you exactly to size – so lovely and bespoke, these unique clothes make for great souvenirs!
Look at the stars
Just taking the time out of life to look at the stars is not something we do often enough! Our daily lives are so busy, it’s not something we think to do, but if you have the opportunity to lay outside on a warm evening with friends or family, I really think you should. The clear sky in Kampot made for a perfect stargazing spot – looking at the stars grounds you, looking at the stars makes me want to live my life to the fullest.
A great tip for stargazers or anybody interested in space at all is to get the app “Star Walk 2” because it’s free and amazing. This app gives you a live view of where all the stars and constellations are in relation to you as you move your phone around! It shows you all the planets and also where the sun would be! This is great if you want to know more about the beautiful sky you’re looking at, or if you see a particularly bright star, you can find out what it is – seriously. Great. App.
Mingle with the locals
Everyone is very friendly in Cambodia, and beer is very cheap, so definitely head out to some bars and chat with the locals, or see if you can meet some fellow travellers – there’s always travellers around in Cambodia! Play pool with the locals…If you dare! The local women in Cambodian bars are generally very good pool players, and if they challenge you to a game, you should be afraid! The chances of them winning are high and the price you pay for losing is to buy them a drink that is twice the price of yours. This is very funny for observers like me (I am and I believe I always will be a terrible pool player), and also fun the participants of the game, it’s always good to have some stiff competition!
Just over the durian roundabout (a roundabout with a massive durian fruit sculpture in the middle, you can’t miss it), there is a food market in the centre of Kampot which is open from 5 in the evenings and offers a vast array of different foods! As you all know, I LOVE food, so this is a dream come true for me to be able to experience some new things! This is also great if you are travelling with people and everyone wants to eat different things. I recommend eating local cuisine, because I think this is one of the best ways to experience a culture, but then again I love trying different foods. If you aren’t feeling adventurous then there are plenty of places to eat western foods like pizza, pasta, I have also had a shawarma in Kampot which was utterly delicious. As well as the markets around Kampot, there are many many local restaurants to try out so try to put your culinary feelers out as much as possible. My favourite way to do this is to walk around, motorbikes are the best way to get around towns and cities in south east Asia, but once I get somewhere, I like to walk to really see what is around. This really gives me a sense of the place and helps me choose the things I want to try!
Mad monkey is a hostel in Kampot town, I thought I would mention a more specific place I have been, this hostel has a great rooftop bar which you can go to even if you’re not staying at the hostel (I can’t comment on what the hostel itself is like because I didn’t stay there!!) This bar is a great place for meeting fellow travellers and partaking in fun activities, it is totally worth checking out if you are alone or with people! There is also an outdoor swimming pool with a poolside bar and an outside restaurant, perfect for those hot Cambodian days.
Go swimming!! Although Kampot can be dusty and dry, there are plenty of opportunities for a swim. There is the Preaek tuek chhu river which runs through the middle of Kampot. There are many places you can swim and there’s a lake at the top of Bokor mountain! A lot of hostels around Kampot are based literally on the side of the river so you can swim all the time! Swimming is great activity because Cambodia is so sweltering in the high season, it provides a bit of relief from the hot hot sun.
Also try kayaking or paddle boarding along the Kampot river as this is a fantastically fun way to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon! If you’re not into the river vibe (which you totally should be, Kampot is a safe river town) then there are plenty of places to stay with shared swimming pools! Have a look into it when you book your accommodation if you’re desperate for a swimming pool on your doorstep, otherwise you can generally use the pools of hotels even if you are not staying there for a small fee! (the previously mentioned Mad Monkey hostel has an outdoor swimming pool).
Kampot produces famous Kampot pepper corns and the farms where they are grown are definitely worth a visit! You will find Kampot peppercorns in most dishes you eat in Kampot, they are spicy little green gems cooked on or off the vine and they are so so so good. Make sure you try a Kampot peppercorn in Kampot even if you don’t like spicy food, it is worth it to experience the truly unique taste of a Kampot pepper corn!
Kampot pepper is really famous amongst chefs all over the world! Countries in Europe in particular used to be obsessed with Kampot pepper, and even now (although on a lesser scale) many chefs use Kampot pepper in their dishes in the France, the UK and the rest of Europe.
The pepper farms themselves can be found via any tuk tuk driver, there are fields and fields of beautiful tall lush green plants, this gives an interesting insight into the way pepper is grown and is a great experience if you’re into food or agriculture or nature in my opinion.