Kampot is the sort of place that people rave about. When I read about it I got super excited, because it sounded like a hippie paradise – nothing but yoga, good vegan food, and chill vibes. And it is that, there’s some cool stuff to do beyond visiting Bokor Mountain, but be careful you don’t get sucked into the chillness – at the time of writing we’ve been here for 8 nights and all around us there are people who came for a night and never left…you’ve been warned.
This town was made for chilling, and that’s just what it do (if you think that’s written incorrectly, please re-read to the tune of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’). I can’t say what Kampot was like before the ‘pregnant snails’ moved in (yes, that’s really what the locals call backpackers here. If you’re not wearing your bags you’re known as a slug. Doesn’t that feel nice?), but I have to assume that someone decided that this small town would be the epicentre of chilling out. There is plenty here that can help you reach that goal. Here’s just a few things, beyond the rest of the points below.
- Head to TopCat to watch a movie. They have air conditioned rooms, the latest films, and a set up that’s a lot like your old uni lounge. If you’re anything like us you miss having a lounge, especially if you are also staying in dorms, and this is a welcome slice of home.
- Have a beach day. Kep Beach is only $3 and 30 minutes away, and while we wouldn’t recommend staying overnight there unless you’re planning on walking the National Park, it’s a nice beach and good for cooling down in the shallow sea.
- Treat yourself to a private bungalow by the river, and relax. We recommend Kampot Cabana for this purpose – it’s a beautiful place to stay, very reasonably priced, and just far enough away from the quiet mayhem of the town.
There are a few things that you definitely should do in this area, and visiting a pepper farm is one of them. Cambodia and Vietnam provide 70% of the world with pepper, and Kampot is known for its work in this field. And this pepper isn’t the one you pick up from the local supermarket at home, this is unlike any pepper you’ve ever had. Red, black, green and white, its spicy notes and salted goodness will make you want to throw your old pepper shaker against the wall in pure outrage that you haven’t been aware of the difference in pepper all along. There are different pepper farms, so do your research. The one that we recommend is BoTree Farm, because you not only get a great (and free) tour, but you also get to try pepper in gin. Don’t forget to go and get yourself a pepper ice-cream too – it’s really special.
There are plenty of places that offer yoga, but we recommend Simple Things. They usually have two classes daily – one at 9am and one at 5pm. The instructors are great, and will help you work out any tension gained from the endless ‘Where are you going?’ yells from tuktuk drivers, all for the bargain price of $5.
If, even after all of the above, you still need a little help getting into the chilled vibe of Kampot, it’s time for a massage. I tried the (female only) Banteay Srey Women’s Spa – and it was very special. They have a great space to sit by the river, they teach yoga, and they have a wonderful vegan café too.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian then you are going to be happy in Kampot. There is a wealth of meat-free opportunity here. We’ve already mentioned a few of them, but we also recommend Pilgrim and Simons (the former for breakfast, the latter for a delicious thali).