After saying a heart-sore goodbye to Tiff, we spent a week in Phnom Penh meeting with the fiery members of New Life Church, learning about the Church’s outreach projects around the city. We found ourselves challenged and inspired with each new meeting and are so grateful to the Church for taking the time to embrace us whilst we were there.
With one week left in Cambodia, we took a short bus ride back down to the south and arrived in Kampot for what was to be an absolutely golden week. We’ve found time and time again that staying in one place for a week, or even more, is a refreshing change from moving around every few days and allows you to get into the real rhythm of life there. Here’s why we reckon you should not miss Kampot if you travel to Cambodia.
Hire a motorbike and ride Cambodia’s best road
Bokor National Park sadly closed its doors to trekking and ecotourism when investors decided to build an eco- casino at the top of Bokor Hill (we don’t know what an eco-casino is either.) As disappointing as this is, the development of the casino resulted in the building of the highest quality road in Cambodia to reach it. Gliding up the Hill’s hairpin twists and turns is enough fun but the views over the valley and bay, all the way to Phu Quoc Island, make for an unbeatable journey. Ignoring the new casino and surrounding dismal canteens, you can visit waterfalls and abandoned colonial relics that haunt the summit once you reach it.
Get your #foodie fix
Feast for next to nothing on handmade dumplings and roast pork at Ecran, or sample the best Italian food I’ve eaten outside of Italy at street-food stall Ciao. Make sure you leave time for a tipple of Diego’s homemade Limoncello after, and then walk one street away to enjoy the results of two brothers putting their pennies together and making ice cream. Wonderland’s salted caramel was so good that I threw caution to the wind and had an entire helping of it despite being lactose intolerant. Worth. It.
Hire motorbikes and journey to the Kampot pepper plantations for a tour and taster session of the local green, red and black pods. The restaurant at organic ‘Le Plantation‘ will make you rethink simply adding pepper as ‘seasoning’ as you cook.
If you’re craving a healthy hit after eating too much curry and sticky rice, head to Epic Arts Cafe and Simple Things for superb vegan and veggie fare. Both are best at breakfast time, though the coconut milk porridge and excellent playlists at Simple Things won out for us.
Speaking of curry, don’t leave Kampot without trying a Saraman at RikiTikiTavi. This traditional, special-occasion meal blends a dizzying number of spices together and was hands down the best curry I’ve ever tasted.
Visit Kep crab market
One day, Kep found its thing and ran with it. Kep’s thing is crab fishing. Although a huge tourist attraction and even if, like me, you don’t eat crab, Kep Crab Market is worth a visit. Watch as the local fishermen haul in basket after basket and pick out your own kilo of fresh produce for just five dollars. The fishermen’s wives boil your catch then and there in huge blackened pots over open flames, ignoring you gazing at them as they blithely repeat the process, trading gossip and wiping soot from their faces. The cracks of a hundred shells around the market is somewhat satisfying and somewhat grotesque, but if not at Kep, then where else?
Trek in Kep National Park
The owner of Led Zep, a cafe just inside the border of Kep National Park, has an excellent taste in music and excellent navigational skills. Pick up a map in the cafe and then choose one of the many routes he traced out around the park, following his homemade signs as you go. Monkey watching in the jungle will keep you occupied as you amble along, and the vista at the top of the hill is absolutely worth the steep, sweaty trek to reach it.
Firefly tour along the Mekong
Hands up if you’re sceptical of any organised tour whilst you’re on holiday? We certainly are, but the low price and promise of a good sunset convinced us to give the ‘firefly tour’ along the Mekong a go. Enjoying a beer on the boat roof and watching the sun blaze pinks and peaches across the palm tree lined horizon was just about perfect, but it was the fireflies that blew us away. I challenge anyone not to be transfixed by the trees that twinkle as if decorated at Christmas with hundreds and hundreds of tiny insect lights. I love those moments when everyone falls silent without encouragement, united in a certain feeling. Keep an open mind and you just might find something that amazes you, too.