“Salt and Pepper City”.
Owing to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, our travel plans in Cambodia changed on a regular basis. Closely monitoring the world’s situation, we eventually decided to remain in Kampot in semi-isolation. Staying until we felt the global situation was safe for us to either start travelling again or return home to the UK.
Where is Kampot?
Kampot is a city in southern Cambodia and the capital of Kampot Province. Set on the Praek Tuek Chhu River southeast of the Elephant Mountains and around 3 miles from the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.
The city is renowned for its high-quality pepper, salt fields, Kampot fish sauce, and durian fruit. Love or hate it! a very popular fruit that is grown all over Cambodia especially Kampot, producing the best.
The journey from Phnom Penh to Kampot was in a minivan.
With our time in Kampot being long-term. We chose to stay at a small long-term rent in a bungalow at Joe’s Bar, located in the International Village on the outskirts of the city.
Restaurants, cafes & shops
COVID-19 outbreak forced many of the restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops to close whilst in lockdown. Luckily, we did manage to sample some of them, either before they closed or when they reopened. Below we have reviewed those that we did manage to try.
A cozy and relaxed restaurant on the riverfront. Serving Khmer, fusion, and Western cuisine. We went to this restaurant twice. Tania’s meal was so good the first time, we had to go back a second time so Guy could have it. Great food at a reasonable price.
Just stopped here for cake and milkshake. Very good, although they did forget our milkshakes.
A popular place in the middle of town. We ate here on a number of occasions. Serving both western and Khmer dishes. Good food and inexpensive.
Nice ambience in the restaurant. The food was divine, with dishes based on seafood and the famous Kampot pepper.
A vegetarian restaurant and yoga studio serving delicious food made with fresh ingredients. Reputedly they have the largest selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes in Kampot. We had the full monty here, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not all in one sitting. Good wholesome food and plenty of it, so much so, we had to have a doggie bag.
A social enterprise, Epic Arts Café increases work opportunities for people with disabilities in Kampot and generates funds for their Inclusive Arts projects. Serving delicious cakes and meals. The café is a welcoming place to enjoy yummy food and drink in a positive environment. Because most of the café staff are deaf they have a tick sheet form for ordering. Upstairs they have a shop.
An air-conditioned Indian restaurant, serving very good Indian food. Also offering takeaway.
Another Indian restaurant serving a variety of Indian and Asian dishes. Very large portions.
A sports bar with a pool table. Serves a Sunday roast to die for. Lamb, beef, pork, and vegetarian options available. Don’t leave it too late or it will all be gone. Our regular Sunday lunch venue.
Cafe serving good coffee and cake. It does a full range of food, but we only ever had coffee and cake.
Set on the river in a beautiful location. A disappointing lunch. Ordered a tuna salad and a very salty egg salad arrived, and the orange juice tasted more like grapefruit than orange.
Out in International Village, you will find this resort welcomed by Brian a friendly Englishman. We went here for the weekly Wednesday night quiz. We ended up eating here on a couple of occasions. There are regular menus and daily specials. The burger and wraps were lovely.
The Exchange Coffee
Adjacent to the Yoga Barn is The Exchange coffee owned by Max, a long-standing resident. Here they serve a good hearty tasty breakfast, we especially liked the omelette. Located in the International Village.
Run by a couple of Frenchmen. This establishment is again out in the International Village. A nice menu, good quality of the food. We enjoyed a couple of very nice meals here.
Our host’s bar. Great atmosphere with a very entertaining Joe and the lovely Chinna with her infectious smile. Not forgetting Mum (that’s her actual name). Mum is always busy helping out. A bar menu of pies and curry makes for very nice eating. The nights have been known to end in a sing-along.
A little way outside of Kampot is this lovely small Italian restaurant. The food is freshly prepared. However, expect a wait if there is a group of you. When we ate there we were the only two so we didn’t have to wait long.
This place is all about the food, don’t expect 5* service, but you will get excellent home-cooked Italian food.
Douceurs de Kampot (Zens)
Probably our favorite cafe in town. Good coffee and great homemade cakes and tarts. A constantly developing cake menu. Always a pleasant surprise awaits you when you arrive. Upstairs is Zen Place. A quiet, chilled space to enjoy your coffee and cake. A perfect place to while away a couple of hours.
A mobile bakery van. Located opposite Vanna restaurant. Open 0700 hrs to 1300 hrs Tuesday to Saturday. Sells fresh bread, cakes, and sausages rolls. Try the Berliner, a custard doughnut, it is amazing, only available on Wednesday and Friday though. Don’t leave it too late or they will all be gone.
Cafe, bookshop, clothes and local crafts.
Very nice restaurant serving good food on the river with the occasional event.
Beautiful handcraft jewellery located within the Hotel Old Cinema.
A number of different supermarkets are dotted around the city. The 5 listed below are the ones that we used for all of our needs. Unlike European counterparts, Cambodian don’t sell fruit and veg. These are purchased from the market stalls.
Just off the Durian Roundabout, this market has a number of stalls selling cheap shoes, clothes, and fake designer goods.
A large maze of a market. Reasonably split into keeping the same goods in the same area. Take care as you wander around. The floors are uneven and the ceilings low. Not to mention goods hanging just about everywhere and anywhere. Just about everything is available in this market if you know where to look!
A tiny fabric and textile shop by the 2000 roundabout. They make a variety of good quality clothing, bags, pillows, and cushions. We had some alterations done to some clothing here and they even made a pillow out of the material that was leftover. Charging next to nothing for the work.
A recycle shop, selling all sorts of things. Shoes, clothes, and all sorts of bric-a-brac. A good place to pick up some plates, glasses, etc if you are staying a while.
A nice clothing shop in the city. Tania got a couple of dresses and a necklace from here. There is a very interesting display of electrical equipment behind the counter. No photographs allowed though.
Whilst here, we realised that we couldn’t carry on doing our blog from a mobile phone. It was time to purchase our laptop. Having loads of stock, both new and secondhand along with other computer and phone accessories.
An internet cafe along with a computer/laptop repair shop, which also sells laptops and computer accessories.
Yoga & Meditation Centre
Kampot’s number 1 brand new Yoga & Meditation Retreat Centre. They hold twice daily drop-in classes and host Yoga Retreats. The schedule is varied with a wide range of different styles of Yoga & Meditation including FlyHigh Yoga and Hatha/Vinyasa! Reiki Energy Healing and Practitioner Courses are also available here.
This is Chaun a local Cambodian young man. His story starts with a very sad beginning. When Chaun was three his father left the family home. Later on, Chaun would be reunited with his father.
At thirteen Chan started working at the local brick factory. A terrible accident occurred and Chan lost his right arm whilst using the machinery.
He awoke to a vision in the form of a six-armed goddess. She spoke to him “You borrowed my arm and I wanted it back, if you come with me you can have whatever you desire in heaven”. Chan decided that he didn’t want to go with her, he wanted to stay with his mother.
Life was difficult Chan as no one would employ him and other children made fun of him. He became very sad, he couldn’t remember how to smile anymore.
Eventually, he started working for a local farmer attending to his cows. Sitting amongst the cows he picked up a stick and began to draw one in the dirt. Some of the other children saw what he had drawn and were amazed at how good it was. He soon became popular and gained confidence.
Mentored by an American, Chan has become a talented artist. Chan’s story plays a major role in his art, drawing from his own life experiences.
Places of interest
Bokor Hill station can be reached from Kampot in about an hour. The road going up the mountain is now a good road. Caution is required, as some vehicles coming down tend to go a little fast, and on the tight corners, they swing right across the road. Built-in the early 1920s as a temperate mountain retreat for the French colonial residents. Now virtually abandoned.
The site is undergoing huge redevelopment. Most famously, the abandoned Casino, now a luxury hotel at the top of the mountain. Also an abandoned church, buildings for the former King, a waterfall, Buddhist Wat, and either a great panoramic vista of cloud or of Southern Cambodia’s Islands and Vietnam’s island Phu Quoc.
Unfortunately, owing to restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, we were unable to visit Bokor mountain. The mountain was only open to locals and foreigners who have been in Cambodia for a minimum of ten months.
At the south end of Kampot, roughly behind the governor’s house, is a large lotus pond.
A Hindu cave temple about 5 miles to the north-east of Kampot. The temple in the cave is built from Funan brick. A short walk from Wat Ang Sdok, up the hillside steps, about 200 in all, then drop down into the cave. Inside is an elephant stalactite.
In the main cave stands the remarkable temple dedicated to Shiva. The brickwork remains in good condition owing to the protection afforded by the cave.
One of our young guide showing off his party trick.
A large lake, about 5 miles to the north-east of Kampot with a dirt track around it.
Around the lake, there are a couple of restaurants, a couple of guesthouses, and a really nice resort. Fruit trees, farms, and small mountains surround the lake, together with three of Cambodia’s premier Kampot Pepper plantations.
The salt fields are just outside of Kampot city. Being close to the sea, the seawater is allowed to flow into the fields. The fields are then sealed and the water is allowed to evaporate. When all the saltwater has evaporated salt crystals are left.
The raw salt is raked up and stored in warehouses in the salt fields. It’s then taken to the salt factory cleaned and Iodine is added before being sold. Salt production is from the beginning of December to April.
Kampot pepper is a world-renowned pepper that has a reputation for its quality. It is possible to visit the pepper plantations that are around the city of Kampot. We visited La Plantation.
Becoming very popular in France during the French colonial period, production remained high until it ground to a halt under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Plantations were abandoned in favour of growing rice. Remaining that way until early in the 21st century. Pepper plants started to be planted and cultivated again after the replanting of wild ones that had been growing since before the regime.
Getting around Kampot is easy to do on foot. To get out to see the sights around Kampot, hire a scooter from one of the many hire shops near the Durian roundabout. We used Romantic 169 tour to hire our scooter as they were offering the best deal on long term hire.
Kampot Train Station is located on the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville train line, slightly over 3.9 km from the Durian Roundabout in the centre of Kampot Town.
The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius with the minimum temperature being 16 degrees. Whilst we were in Kampot from March until July the temperature was a regular 34 to 38 degrees.
The coolest months are December and January. Kampot itself is one of the cooler regions of the country due to its position next to the sea and high rainy mountains, it’s cooler and fresher.
Kampot has some amazing lightening storms.