What to See in Kampot
The most impressive sights in Kampot are the river and surrounding hills, which grandly frame views from the riverside promenade. Kampot retains many of its colonial buildings and there are a number of interesting old structures in various states of repair. The market, an angular structure similar to Battambang’s, has undergone an extensive renovation and is now largely open for business.
Bokor Mountain: Bokor National Park, about 1-2 hours out of Kampot, is being destroyed by a Chinese $1bn casino development – the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort with the result that the eerie charm of the abandoned French hill station – that included a shell of a church and the isolated upland nature reserve – is rapidly disappearing. The road up the mountain is now paved and provides easy access. The cooler climate and sublime views from the mountain remain and may provide some reason for a visit. Entry to the area is US$0.50 for motorcycles and $US2.50 for cars.
Tigers were rare to start with and will likely soon be non-existent. Gibbons and birds such as the Chestnut-headed Partridge, blue pitta, and orange-headed thrush will also be much harder to spot in what is now a construction site. The waterfall, which only flows in the wet season, may still provide some sanctuary for humans and animals wanting to get away from bulldozers.
Tours still run up the mountain and cost approximately US$10, depending on bargaining skills. Lunch is included. Except for the Bokor Palace Hotel and old casino, the old French buildings are occupied by the families of construction workers. The excursion can still be worthwhile provided as it is viewed as an insight into seeing Cambodia’s Great Leap Forward rather than as an atmospheric expedition into a remote and haunting environment.
Several tracks enter the forest, one from behind the old tea plantation, the second from near the waterfalls. It is possible to stay at the ranger station which is basic but comfortable and, contrary to some reports does offer food and French wine.
Fishing Island. From the city center, you should cross the main or old bridge, then turn left and go to the next bridge around 10-15 minutes. The fabulous countryside and fishermen lifestyle will open to you. Also, quite a big nice wat is there. edit
- Teuk Chhouu: (8km upriver of town on the west (far) bank). An area of rapids with eateries and an island. It is a nice place for swimming, tubing, and relaxing, and local vendors sell fruit, coffee, and water. Prices for food and drink are somewhat higher here than in Kampot town. Entry fee: $US1 for foreigners. edit
- Phnom Chhnork: (8km east of town on the Kep Road NH33). A pleasant ride through paddy fields and village life to these caves with pre-Angkorian (Funan) shrines and “lost worlds”. Just after the rhino statue turn left (there is a sign to Phnom Chhnork Resort), cross the railway into a village. Straight ahead is Phnom Sera with some interesting caves and a quarry that feeds the local gravel industry. Follow the road 90 degrees left and 2 km or so to Wat Ang Sdok, pay the monks and walk across to the mountain. Take a torch $US1.
- Secret Lake: (East of Phnom Chhou). An irrigation dam with a picnic area.
- Pepper Farms: (North of the Kep hills and NH33). Enquire in town about how to see pepper being grown and processed. For a guided tour visit The Vine Retreat in Chamcar Bei village. Also, Sothy’s Pepper Farm offers free guided tours in several languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Khmer), as well La plantation, a bio farm run by a couple of French/Belgium, provide excellent free tours and has two restaurants where the food is great. Most tour operators in Kampot offer visits to pepper farms. Buy Original Kampot Pepper in the farms. The pepper sold in the local markets is Vietnamese or from other regions where chemical products are used. edit ( see the Buy section below for more detailed information about Kampot Pepper)
- Cham Fishing Village: about two kilometers out of town past the Governor’s Residence – Kampot Museum on the road that runs along the East bank of the river.
- Salt Fields: about two kilometers out of town on the Kep road. You will see the fields off to your right (coming from Kampot) and there are a number of access roads.
- Funky Statues: The Big Durian, The Vietnam Friendship Monument, The 2000 Roundabout, The Salt Workers Monument.
- The Two Old Cinemas: art deco design and both have been out of regular service for some time. All that remains of the cinema on the old bridge road is the facade as the building behind it has been completely demolished. The occasional Khmer made horror movie will get a screening at the Royal Cinema however this is becoming less and less common. If you are an art deco enthusiast, The Tourist Information building, about 400 meters up from the Salt Workers Monument, is also worth a look.
- The Old Bridge: both ends of the bridge have been completely blocked (March 2015) and it is now closed to all forms of transport and to pedestrians.
- The Colonial Railway Station: head out of town on the Phnom Penh road and take the last turn to your right before you come to the rail lines. The Station is signposted and approx. 1.5 kilometers out of town.
- The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children: situated across the road from the Acleda Bank building and adjacent to the park that runs down to the Old Market. The school holds occasional concerts – there is a notice board outside the building advising dates and times – and it is possible to attend music rehearsals (Mon to Fri) if you make an appointment. Tel: +855 (0)33 932 992 (Field Manager: Mr. You Chhuy)
- Old Buildings: There are some fine examples of colonial architecture along with the riverside in Kampot including The Governor’s Residence, The Red Cross building, and the Department of Mines building. There is still a hand full of dilapidated, photogenic shop houses on the streets back from the riverside.
- Buddhist Wats: within two kilometers of the town center are half a dozen Buddhist temples. Worth seeing are the hand-painted depictions of the life of Buddha on the internal walls of each of the Wats. If your time or interest is limited, Wat Treuy Koh is one of the best examples – go over the old bridge and take your first major paved road to your left. The Wat is approx. 500 meters along this road to your right. This is a great spot to watch the fishing fleet go out just before dusk.
- Chinese Temples: worth a look if you are spending a little extra time in Kampot. The first has recently been restored and is located on the road that runs along the riverfront about 100 meters from the new bridge while the second is adjacent to The Vietnam Friendship Monument.
- The Old Prison: Demolished in November 2015; all that remains is the administration building and a portion of the outer wall. About 200 meters from the Salt Workers Monument.
- The 2000 Olympic Stadium: in the center of town behind the Durian Roundabout. Classic Khmer style stadium and the grounds are often used for fairs or live music concerts during public holidays.
- The Market: large, rambling, and well stocked with just about everything that an average Khmer family could need. Have a look at the section behind the fish mongers for examples of local produce: it’s well worth a wander around. Watch your feet & your head as the floors can be uneven & the ceilings low. There is a secure parking area at the market that charges 300 Riel to look after your pushbike and 500 Riel for a motorbike.
- The Old Market: restoration is now complete and the majority of external stalls facing out to the road are now occupied. Kepler’s Books has relocated here and there are a few tour agents, a mini-mart, a computer store, and a couple of real estate agents. There are about twenty cafes/ restaurants in or on the streets on either side of the market. Food choices include Khmer, Italian, German, Lebanese (kebabs), and fish and chips. There are a number of outlets offering standard cafe fare including coffee, cake, fruit shakes, etc.
- The Night Market: located on the Phnom Penh road at the Northern corner of the Durian Roundabout, this mini fairground opened in November 2013. It features some basic children’s rides, Khmer snack food, and drinks, a number of stalls selling cheap shoes and clothing, and a few stalls selling knock-off brand name products.
- Get Out Of Town: head out of Kampot for 1 kilometer in any direction and get off the main roads and you are in rural Cambodia. Some of the local cottage industries include palm sugar and winemaking, basket weaving, and furniture making using liana and rattan.
- Teuk Chhou Zoo: Located about 8 km out of Kampot towards Teuk Chhouu and not far from the rapids. Admission is $US4 for foreigners and $US1 for locals and it is open daily. Note that Footprints Organization, the NGO that had been operating the Zoo since March 2012 has ceased to be affiliated with it.