Kampot (3-6 Dec 12)

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December 4th 2012
Published: December 5th 2012
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Why do they call it Kampot pepper when it's actually mostly grown closer to Kep?

So when I was motorcycling around Kep, it did cross my mind to look for the pepper plantations famous to the region, but I thought to myself, "Nah, I'll check them out when I'm in Kampot. They ought to be closer there, since it is called 'Kampot Pepper' after all".

Turns out I was wrong, and when I arrived a Kampot, juat about a short hour's ride westwards from Kep, I found out Kampot pepper is mostly grown near Kep!

I guess I still could have made the trip back east, but managed to occupy myself nonetheless with some of the other sights.

I haven't seen all that much of Cambodia yet, but Kampot has so far been my favourite place here, and it ranks pretty high too on the list of all the places I've covered the past six months or so.

There's really nothing specifically special about the place that I could say outright. Nothing particularly spectacular to see either. But LP was spot on when it described Kampot not as a place to see, but to feel.
Salt Carriers MonumentSalt Carriers MonumentSalt Carriers Monument

The Kampot/ Kep provinces are famous for both their salt and pepper.

It's yet another relatively lazy riverside town, but there's something about the place that sets it apart from say, Mawlamyine in Myanmar, Savannakhet in Laos, or the Mekong Delta area in Vietnam. Maybe it's the laid-back vibe, the atmospheric guesthouses, restaurants and cafes; or the genuinely friendly and unaggressive locals, who don't seem out to merely wring a fast buck from the next foreigner they come across. It hasn't (yet) become a contrived, pretentious tourist destination. Yes there are foreigners, and you see them almost every corner you turn in town, but the ones here seem to be either long-term stayers, or the independent backpacking couples. No busloads of speed-sight-seeing package tourists here, thankfully.

And heading just a couple of kilometres outside the main town, the foreigners rapidly peeter out, and a seemingly real picture of Cambodia starts to show, against the backdrop of the sometimes simply magnificent countryside.

I'd read that Kampot has been described by some as the new Battambang, which I haven't been to yet, so I can't comment on that. But whatever the case, maybe Kampot has arrived at a sweet spot in time where it seems to have attained just the right level
View from the Top of Bokor HillView from the Top of Bokor HillView from the Top of Bokor Hill

That's simply named the French Cathedral.
of development, without yet sacrificing too much of the authenticity that fussy travellers crave. How long it will remain in this sweet spot in the face of the vicissitudes of fickle travellers, who knows? But I'm sure glad I've seen it now...

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Pepper GuesthousePepper Guesthouse
Pepper Guesthouse

Where I stayed. This is the view from the second floor of the cool stilted treehouse bar-restaurant. Really atmospheric and cozy, and all for USD6 a night.
Kampot PrisonKampot Prison
Kampot Prison

Apparently still operational, and not just some relic. Yep, some real nasty Khmer baddies inside.
Kampot RiversideKampot Riverside
Kampot Riverside

Where they're unloading a tonne of watermelons, by hand!
Black PalaceBlack Palace
Black Palace

On Bokor Hill. Formerly occupied by the Cambodian King.
Bokor Hill BuddhaBokor Hill Buddha
Bokor Hill Buddha

Apparently quite newly built, less than a year.
Old CasinoOld Casino
Old Casino

Yes, that's what it is. Built in the 1920s, then abandoned, then restored again, with intentions of conversion to a museum. In its place, there are now two newer casinoes in the vicinity.
Hydroelectric Dam at Teuk ChhuHydroelectric Dam at Teuk Chhu
Hydroelectric Dam at Teuk Chhu

Interesting to see several of these in Laos and now Cambodia, all seemingly with large Chinese involvement...

That's what this little riverside guesthouse-restaurant-bar was called, run by a German guy who'd lived in Cambodia the past six years. The photo really doesn't do justice, but it was hard to argue against the suitability of the name. Also had the best Fish Amok I've had yet!
Phnom ChhnorkPhnom Chhnork
Phnom Chhnork

View from inside one of the caves.
Phnom ChhnorkPhnom Chhnork
Phnom Chhnork

Prehistoric-looking limestone karsts dotted with caves.

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