Of all the river towns in all the world, few are experiencing a tourism uptick like Kampot, Cambodia. This was, and in many ways still is, a sleepy little place. No one and nothing moves quickly here, unless the clouds roll in during rainy season, and even then it is only to move under cover. Life here is simple, and that is the best reason to visit.
So many visitors wake up after a week to find they never left Kampot. Many others have decided they never want to wake up anywhere else. Maybe there is magic in the water, but it does seem that the town of Kampot is getting better and better every day.
How to Get There
Kampot is tucked among the rice fields of Kampot Province, just north of the Gulf of Thailand. The town is easily accessible from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, or the seaside town of Kep.
From Sihanoukville the trip takes about two hours by van or bus, and from Phnom Penh visitors can expect a four or five hour drive to Kampot. Public transportation departs daily from both cities, but shared taxis are cheap in Cambodia and many groups with three or more people hire a car to make the trip. Visitors coming from Kep should arrive in Kampot in under an hour.
Where to Stay
Rest and relaxation come easy at some of Kampot’s best riverside accommodation options. Villa Vedici is a family owned and operated resort that is more rustic than upscale, but that it fits Kampot better this way. The swimming pool is a huge draw and some nights, drinks around the bar become a late night party. That being said, the peace of your room and quiet of the river are never far away.
Nearby Les Manguiers has a family-friendly vibe. The bungalows are basic, but clean, and the central building has a restaurant and bar that make dinner and dessert easy after a long day exploring Kampot.
The backpacker crowd heads to the new Mad Monkey on the outskirts of downtown Kampot. Known for its lively bar and social atmosphere, this is the best place to meet other young travelers. Less new and shiny is long-time favorite Monkey Republic. Monkey Republic is the sibling of Sihanoukville’s famous hostel.
However, no one and nothing can top the atmosphere at Arcadia. Arcadia does not have Mad Monkey’s location, but it does have the river. A playground of adult water activities, guests can swing from a rope across the river, float on rafts or tubes, or grab a friend to launch you from the “the blob.”
What to Do
Learn to drive a moto and head to Bokor National Park. Once pointed in the right direction, it is hard to get lost on the way, and then there is only one road up the mountain. This easy driving makes it the perfect place to do a self-guided tour. There is a lot to see. From the abandoned casino and hill station, to waterfalls and short walks, to plenty of places to stop and admire the views, it takes a whole day to explore it all.
Take to the water. Hotels, hostels, and companies in town all rent kayaks to eager travelers. The best bet is to head out to Villa Vedici or Champa Lodge and paddle down the quiet and empty river waters. It is best to paddle against the current first and then spend the return trip drifting along with an eye on the beautiful jungle around the river.
Or do nothing. Often, this is an attitude reserved for seaside locales with endless sand and cute cocktails, but it is actually perfect activity in Kampot. Grab a book, a hammock and chill. Soon enough, a week will pass, and you will hardly care.