My Top 5 destinations in South East Asia No. 4
4. Kampot, Cambodia
It turns out that by coincidence (or not?) this list is counting down to my least touristy experience so far in South East Asia. Georgetown and Kampot are probably the most visited of the 5, but in my opinion the small ´backpacker´ influence doesn´t change the authenticity and connection with local culture. It actually makes them better for it.
Kampot I visited twice, once via minivan from Phnom Penh (4 hours) and the other time coming from the Vietnamese Mekong delta which borders Cambodia at only an hour drive away.
My foremost memory of Kampot is enjoying the views and jumping into the warm waters of the river straight from my balcony.
(1/1250, F4, ISO100, 28mm)
Kampot is not far from the sea, but is a river town and although there are some ho(s)tels in town, most accommodation is upriver and many are on the Western banks. My favorite place is on the Eastern side with sunset views over the Bokor Mountain and its surrounding jungle. I was lucky to rent this bungalow with a verandah built on stilts over the water for both times I was there.
The main village is a short scooter or tuktuk ride South and is a tranquil place with pretty French colonial buildings.
(taken with my Huawei P&)
Wandering around the small centre of town you will find many nice expat-run bars, coffeeshops and local restaurants. Every dish here is decorated with strings of the local Kampot pepper, which is by far the best pepper I´ve ever tasted, and the salt is coming from the salt flats nearby. These combined with all the fresh sea- and riverfood create some extraordinary recipes.
One of the great things about Kampot is the numerous day- or overnight trips you can do from there; you can visit the pepper plantations, the salt flats, the ruins of several old buildings on top of Bokor mountain with views over the vast jungle, which is reputedly a home to elephants and tigers, and the beaches in nearby Kep.
But my favorite getaway would be to drive 20 minutes to crab-village Kep and take a local fisherboat to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) and spent one night there.
(1/100, f7.1, iso200, 28mm)
You´ll arrive at the only beach on the island that has some bungalows with restaurants run by Cambodian families.
We watched the sun go down and ate fresh crab taken from the sea cooked with the famous Kampot pepper.
Electricity goes off at night and when I walked into the sea in the dark I saw the fluorescent plankton for the first time, really something magical!
Next day we went for a hike around the island on hardly existing local paths through jungle, mangrove forests and beaches where local families were farming seaweed. Thinking we could round the whole island in 2 hours we were just blocked by cliffs and jungle at the end.
(1/1250, f8, iso200, 56mm)
But the fisherman in the picture was very friendly and took us around the corner and back to the main beach.
One thing that the backpackers community brought to Kampot is some nightlife with a couple of bars in town, but especially lots of live music and late night bars at the resorts on the East banks of the river including some floating rafts for nightswimming.
That night the local Kampot Playboys did rock the house.
(taken with my Huawei P&)
Nothing better than spending the next day on the verandah and the occasional jump in the water to ´cool´ off.
(1/1250, f3.1, iso200, 29mm)