Kampot

Upon reflection, aside from Siem Reap, I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the various cities I visited in Cambodia.  However, when I think back about each specific city, they all had something that I enjoyed tremendously which made them worth visiting.  Kampot does not have a whole lot going on but it’s a relaxed little town with excellent food.  The dishes cooked with fresh black pepper are particularly good, and I also very much enjoyed the sunset cruise on the river.

In Kampot I stayed at a charming guest house called Bandini’s.  For $15 CDN I had a massive room with two beds and my own bathroom in a quiet part of town a 5 minute bike ride away from the centre of town.  The charming French couple that owns the place rents out motorbikes for $5 USD, and the place has a charming garden with a book shop at the entrance.

It rained for much of my first day in the city so I stayed indoors for much of the afternoon at a restaurant called the Rusty Keyhole that is said to serve the best ribs in the country.  One indisputable fact is that they are the largest—I ordered the half-rack and barely got through half.  A shot of the restaurant from the outside and the enormous ribs:

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While I was waiting out the rain I met two nice women from Washington State and Ireland.  Since it was still raining a bit, we went off to a neat little movie theatre by the name of L’Ecran that regularly shows movies in a large theatre with comfortable plush seating, but that also allows you rent out smaller little theatres where you can watch episodes of TV shows or one of hundreds of movies in his catalogue.  I ended up spending the better part of two hours catching up on Game of Thrones at the place the following day.

A few shots around town from that night after the movie:

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The following day I took a bike around town to check out the various sights in the city.  I started with a nice lunch at a restaurant overlooking the river by the name of Rikitikitavi.  The wrap I had was tasty enough but I was initially disappointed by the supposed Kampot pepper in the thing as it tasted like normal black pepper.  Don’t be fooled by dry black pepper in Kampot, it may very well be from the area but the stuff that the town is known for is served fresh.  If you see dried detached peppercorns you are not getting the real deal.

Some shots around town, starting with a view from the riverside:

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I intended to check out the old Governor’s Mansion next, but it was boring compared to the bright yellow bank building next door:

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A man-made lake in the middle of the town:

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The old movie theatre:

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They clearly love their durian in this town, enough to have a monument to the fruit in the middle of the main roundabout of the city:

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Next, I ventured out to Fish Island where I definitely captured the most picturesque photos of the town.  That being said, I am offering a sanitized version of my time on the island, sadly there is quite a bit of garbage around.  But the lovely rice paddies make it worth a visit:

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In the evening I went on a terrific sunset cruise of the Preaek Tuek Chhu river.  You can sit on the roof of the boat and the scenery along the way is spectacular.  Just before sunset, you can jump off the roof and do a little swimming in the river.  The river at that spot was really clean so I jumped right in.  They take you to a spot with fireflies after sunset, but don’t expect too much.

Shots from the cruise:

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And a short video of the cruise:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/168468010

00080 from Andres Hannah-Suarez on Vimeo.

 

My dinner that night, and the following night as I repeated it, was one of the best of my entire trip.  The squid dish in particular was one of the best squid dishes I’ve had in my life thanks to the awesome pepper sauce.  To get the most of out of the city’s pepper you have to have it fresh.  Good restaurants serve the pepper fresh and on the stem.  I’ve never had pepper on the stem before and it as absolutely fantastic.  The restaurant is called the Fish Market and it is in a lovely setting right next to the river:

Shots from my dinner starting with a pumpkin soup, followed by the squid dish and a (fuzzy) close-up of the fresh pepper used:

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The following day I rented a motorcycle to go up Preah Monivong Bokor National Park up a nearby mountain.  The park itself was unremarkable because it looks like a recovering industrial zone (hence the lack of pictures), but the ride up the mountain was worthwhile.  The ride down, less so, given that I was caught in a monsoon (again).  I ended up repeating my dinner at the Fish Market and I topped off the night at a lovely restaurant/bar right on the river.

I’ll leave you with pictures of that cool little bar:

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