After a 4-hour drive of which some on horrible and muddy roads, the Giant Ibis Bus dropped us right in the center of Kampot, which is a nice little town near the Preaek Tuek Chhu River in Southern part of Cambodia. From there a Khmer tuk-tuk took us to our destination for the next couple of days, a small 6 room hotel just 1km outside the center of the town. We were happy to leave the big city behind us and really enjoyed being in a smaller town again. Here people are obviously more relaxed and also seem to be friendlier. Kampot is world famous for it’s pepper plantations and it also has a quite large number of salt fields. Furthermore Kep, very well known for its delicious peppered crab, is also nearby.
Next day we arranged for a Khmer tuk-tuk to drive us around in the area. We visited one of the many pepper plantations where they grow pepper without addition of chemicals, everything is done by hand and the peppers are dried in the sun or in the particular plantation in a solar powered greenhouse. We got to taste fresh green pepper, dried red and black ones, which basically grow on the same plant but are processed differently. The pepper gets its unique and refined taste from the quartz in the bottom and as the climate is optimal in the area, the results are top quality pepper. Although it was not really the season for the salt fields, we had a few stops to have a look and take some pictures of what is a really busy area during dry season. The fields are filled with seawater after which they let the water vaporize. Again no chemicals, no machines, most is done by hand. There are over 1000 acres of salt fields in the Kampot area. It was raining once in a while, but no worries our driver just put down the rain sleeves of the tuk-tuk and we just went on.
We finally stopped in Kep for lunch, where our driver dropped is at a seafood restaurant. Leen had crab with Kampot pepper and me; I had crab soup, because I don’t really like to fight with the crab too much. We just visited the crab market for a couple of minutes, because rain started pouring down quite heavily. 3pm, so time to head for our hotel again. We really enjoyed the day and got to see some of the real Cambodia.
Next day we took a daytrip to Bokor national park by bus, which was really stunning. If you have been at the Hai Van Pass and thought that was cool, go and visit Bokor national park. We were a bit unlucky because it was rainy and cloudy but the park is something you must see. We stopped at waterfalls, the black palace, temples build by monks before the Khmer Rouge was ruling the country and an abandoned church which was build during the French colonial period. Because the mountain is really high, the clouds and a storm hit the side of the mountain; it was just amazing. The bad thing is the Cambodian government sold the mountain and the national park to a Chinese investor, who is currently rebuilding the abandoned hotel and casino on the mountain and building expensive apartments in the area. The mountain played an important role during the Khmer Rouge regime, the park was one of the last areas were the Khmer Rouge soldiers were holding strong during the Vietnamese invasion in 1979. It was only in the early 90’s the Khmer Rouge where completely overtaken.
Koh Rong Sanloeng
Initially we planned to go to Sihanoukville for 4 days, but all people we met along the road in Phnom Penh and Kampot advised us not to stay too long there. Apparently Sihanoukville was a nice little coastal town until a few years ago, but currently it’s being prepared for Chinese mass tourism and not the place to be anymore, at least for a while. Instead of Sihanoukvile we decided to head for one of the islands near the coast, Koh Rong Sanloeng. We arranged for a 4-wheel drive car from Kampot to the ferry in Sihanoukvile, which was again an adventure. The driver really had to be careful because again the road was full of deep holes and sometimes the road was just gone. When we passed Otres, the part of Sihanoukvile where we were supposed to go before we decided to go to an island, we realized we had taken the right decision, construction works everywhere, damaged roads, dirt and garbage all over the place. We left Kampot quite early so we arrived well on time at the pier where the ferries leave, at least that’s what we thought. When arriving at the ‘Cambodia speed ferry’ check-in desk we realized that it was just a desk in a restaurant, were we to check in before being transferred to a pier in the harbor. I mean the real harbor, in between fishermen boats and cargo boats. The ride with the free ‘transfer bus’ which was I guess like at least 60 years old had cracks in the windows, metal benches to sit on and only 1stand 2ndgear. We still had time for lunch so like the owner of the waiting restaurant said with a smile, please put your luggage here and spend all your money in my place.
After a 45-minute speedboat transfer to the island, a small boat from the hotel took us just a little further to our hotel at the beach. Since we had seen Otres on our way to the ferry, we decided to stay 4 instead of 2 nights on the island. The island is quite small, there’s not so much to see or do but the sandy beach is very nice and the water is crystal clear. Nothing can beat that feeling of breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a beer on a nice beach with an excellent view, right? After travelling throughout Vietnam and Cambodia for 5 weeks we found some real rest and sometimes even had an afternoon nap and were discovering Cambodian and Chinese TV channels on the satellite. Funny enough we had not turned on a single TV since we left home in June and we didn’t miss it for a single second.
- Bokor National Park
Not only for the nice views, but also history whise a must see! In dry season you can even see the coastline from the top of the mountain, they said. In rainy season, the clouds are an amazing sight too!
- Makk hotel
If you like small boutique style hotels, with great service, Makk hotel is the place to be! The rooms are very nice, the breakfast very good and the staff is amazing! It’s just a km walk at the riverside to the town center, so perfect location too!
- Rikitikitavi restaurant
We only went here the last evening, and regretted this afterwards. We had the meat skewers and honestly, this was the best meat we’ve eaten in our entire trip. Yep, it is a little more expensive then some other local restaurants, but the food is amazing too!
- Sara Resort on Koh Rong Sanloeng
The islands are a perfect place to sit back and relax. Don’t expect a zillion excursions, just enjoy the beach and the peace and quiet. We stayed at Sara Resort and loved it very much.