Kampot: Cambodia’s hidden gem

Kampot was not really on our itinerary but we heard that it was a well preserved colonial outpost so we decided to stay a few days.


Kampot is built where two fresh water streams merge and start forming a larger delta before reaching the Thai Sea. The riverside is home to a handful of bars and guest houses which blend in with the local stores. The city appeared very quiet but well taken care of. It’s low season but still, no signs of trash on the streets or in the water.

The old bridge was destroyed in the Khmer Rouge days and is now decommissioned but continues to provide a picturesque reference point along the river bank.


Small patio and outgrown gardens are filling the sidewalks.

A stroll along the river took us in front of old colonial buildings and eventually to an improvised dock where we were offered to get on a sunset cruise on the river.



The sunset wasn’t spectacular that day (you win some, you lose some) but the river is untouched and offers great views nonetheless. We also bumped in Dave from our cooking class in Battambang and made the acquaintance of Albane in the same time.

Sunset day 2. Much better :)

Sunset day 2. Much better 🙂

Hidden with colonial style, traces of ArtDeco can be seen throughout the city but I found them much harder to spot!


The old theater is now a street joint for the locals.


Bokkor Hill

Looking at the flyers with all tour options and the many points of interests, we decided to get a scooter and drive around. Beyond the hills where the sun sets, and overlooking the west part of the delta, lies Bokkor Hill Station and its strange décor. Locals warned us: “Bokkor… It has its own micro-climate!”


When we got to the end of the road, the weather had changed, dark clouds were rolling along the cliffs, revealing a 1920s French ghost town: the ruins of Bokor Palace Hotel, a post office and a Catholic church.


The old buildings reminded us that nothing’s forever and made the perfect play ground for taking pictures as the sky/light kept changing.



Overlooking the misty Elephant Mountains onto the Gulf of Thailand

Salt, Pepper and Durian

Among Kampot’s architectural curiosities, the visitor will be fascinated by the extravagant round abouts in the city! They portray some of the historical background of the province.

Kampot is famous for its production of salt (140.000 tons/year) and pepper (50 tons, growing every year) and less known for being a cornerstone of the Durian Production (10+ million tons /year).


We visited Sothy’s pepper plantation, one of the 300 local farms that are certified organic in the area. They claim that their red pepper is the finest of all, and in high demand for Chefs in the West.


The color of the pepper tells you of it’s maturity: green is young, red is adult, black is an elder and white is made from red soaked in water.



Red and white are rare peppers because they require a perfect harvest timing and a large workforce to yield enough quantities. At Sothy’s, each of the 400 adults plans yields about 2.5kg of pepper, so that makes around 1 ton of tiny pepper balls to harvest and sort by hand in a few days… The final product costs around $13-15/100gr.

And in the corner of the farm, we found a jackfruit, not to be confused with the famous Durian!!

and a close up of the magnificent Durian round-about – can you spot the difference?


Pepper Tip: Because pepper loses its flavor in a few days after being grounded, invest in a grinder! And unless organic, your grounded pepper might be bleached with chemicals and/or mixed with additional powders.


Following the “soon-in-service” road rail tracks, we cruised back to Kampot, looking for the Salt Lakes.

We didn’t see any salt worker collecting the salt crystals but it tasted very good on the ground and we got back home right before the storm!



Fishing villages

If you remember Thalassa, well the next images intend to set you back to a cozy Friday evening on FR3. Go ahead and play the generic while reading.


5:15AM, the boats are already back from a night of fishing

5:15AM, the boats are already back from a night of fishing

The blue crabs or “sand crabs” made a strong impression on me

The blue crabs or “sand crabs” made a strong impression on me

Large catch are selling fast!


In an instant, the product is selected, weighted and the transaction recorded.


The diversity of fish and sea food is impressive for a small town.


6:00AM, the sun is rising over the market. Fishermen are packing up, boys are taking a rest.


Rows and lanes of products have appeared

Rows and lanes of products have appeared.


Under the frenetic work of women, who are turning the pier into a market. Notice their unique onesie style: colorful with a headband.



It’s time for a delicious ice coffee.


After a couple hours, only shrimps and small fishes are left to buy


Following the coast line all the way to Kep (20km south), we found the crab market and its surrounding crab shacks.


This place is specialized in the blue crab. You can spot people fishing them a few meters away and if you decide to have lunch here, they will bring the crab back from the sea, present them for inspection and then cut them in half and prep the meat for you with a red pepper sauce. It looks delicious but be mindful that the blue crab is being overfished at the moment..


The thunderstorm outside was raging, we enjoyed our lunch contemplating the monsoon!




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