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The laid-back riverside town of Kampot boasts heaps of charm, an abundance of Insta-worthy landscapes, sprawling countryside and the world’s best pepper. While time seems to slow in the southern town, there is still plenty to pack into 48 hours. Here’s what we recommend.
Set your watch to Kampot time with a lazy breakfast at Espresso, which perfectly captures the town’s under-stated hip essence. The quirky café comes with heaps of heart – and the best coffee around, roasted daily in-house. Aussie-style breakfasts are served, with food running throughout the day until 5pm.
The preferred way to explore Bokor Mountain is by motorbike, with many rental stores hiring them out for the day. The other option is by private vehicle, with your guesthouse or one of the many travel shops in town able to organise a taxi, as no tuk tuks are allowed entry to the national park. Sitting about 40 kilometres away from the town, the smooth road that winds up the mountain takes in waterfalls, Buddhist monuments, crumbling churches, a giant casino and, at its peak, the derelict shell of Bokor Hill Station. Once a retreat for the country’s elite and serving as a resort for the colonial French during the early 20th-century, the eerie remnants can be explored.
Take a short stroll at dusk along the promenade that flanks Kampot River. Stop for sundowners at Rikitikitavi, boasting views of the water with Bokor as the backdrop. The food here is excellent, so stay for dinner before heading to Karma Traders’ rooftop bar, which frequently has live music. Mad Monkey Hostels Kampot is another popular spot and often hosts events. If you have the energy to head a bit further out of town, then Naga House on the river attracts a hearty crowd at weekends, with DJs and live music.
Start the day with breakfast at Elle’s Café Kampot, a chilled diner that serves great food. Next, head into the countryside to find out more about Cambodia’s most famous ingredient: Kampot Pepper. Used by top chefs in kitchens across the globe, the sharp pepper comes in four forms – black, green, red and white – and adds a real kick to dishes. There are a range of farms offering half-day visits to see the pepper process first hand. Sothy’s Pepper Farm, La Plantation and Starling Farm are good options.
Take a tuk tuk about 15 minutes out of town and along the Kampot River to GreenHouse. Kick back, relax and refuel with lunch. Spend time soaking up some rays on the deck that juts into the water; dive straight in or hang out on one of the giant inflatable rings. Kayaks and paddleboards are also available for hire, or you can spend the afternoon exploring the river and surrounding tributaries on a three-hour boat tour with Bjorn.
Kick off the evening with a relaxing foot massage at Banteay Srey Women’s Spa, which provides underprivileged women with training and employment. Men aren’t allowed here, but they can head to Jolie Jolie Beauty Salon.
If you want to appease the appetite by tucking into the best ribs in town – or even the country – book a table in advance, because the Rusty Keyhole usually sells out by about 8pm. Round off the evening with a drink at Le Comptoir de Kampot, situated among the town’s smattering of colonial buildings.