Put off by the seven hour bus ride that took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap we decided that time was of greater importance than money and so took a Bayon Airways flight ($80) on the return journey. That was quickly followed by a taxi ride to Kampot ($45) and so we were already in the river town before 1pm whereas with a couple of buses it would have probably been late night!
A great idea and it was heightened with door to door service, air-conditioning (and not the non-stop loud Cambodian movies which played on the bus) and a driver that spoke good English and who we could talk to about present and past life in Cambodia.
I wasn’t even aware of Kampot the last time I was in the country in 2007 and my friends and I must have passed through it on our way to Sihanoukville. Since then though, more and more visitors have discovered the sleepy town and I wanted a bit of that so decided that we would go over that way for a two night stay near the South Coast.
The Old Bridge comprises a strange mix of varying structures having been destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period and that was where we first headed for when we later set out on a walking tour of the town. The bridge is now closed to the public not that it stops some people from walking or cycling over it or kids from jumping off it!
Kampot was a place that was just nice to wander round with its wide roads, limited traffic and many dilapidated French-era buildings. We went in search of Phsar Samaki (the market) but it didn’t seem to be where it said it was on the map. I think we did eventually locate it (the photo above maybe?!!) but by then had lost interest as the heat was quite intense and we needed to find something to eat which we eventually did at a restaurant just across the road from the Durian Monument below.
It really didn’t take too long to walk round most of Kampot and so we headed back to our hotel (called The Columns – a very nice hotel of French architecture) mid-afternoon and a short while later I went out alone for a wander in the other direction which basically just included a few monuments at the roundabouts and intersections.
My original selfie with the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Monument was ambushed by a local boy which was quite funny so I eventually gave up on that and just got a picture (below) with him and his school friend. Besides, the monument was not much to look at really and is not even worthy of inclusion in this piece!
I was intrigued by the Kampot Olympic Stadium (above) from one of my maps which was located close to the aforementioned Durian Monument. A game of volleyball was going on behind the clubhouse/temple but I really wasn’t too shocked to discover that this place was just a dirty field. I was still happy to take a look round though and photograph the gates and some signboards carrying the famous five Olympic rings on them.
There’s a fair few foreigner bars and other such restaurants along the Kampong Bay river front and in the evening we went to a couple of them. We had dinner at a popular cheap Asian place and on the short way home (passing the funnily named Oh Neil’s – as opposed to the Irish chain pub O’Neills!) we stopped at Happy Special Pizza as I wanted to sample something called Happy Pizza. This was the only western food I had on the whole trip and rumours of it containing special herbs that, erm make you happy were unconfounded!
When we returned to Kampot the next day following a taxi tour of Bokor Hill Station, Benji and I went out on a short walk of the area whilst Rina rested back at the hotel. We strayed away from the main area and wandered round the lake towards the prison whilst taking in the local street life which is always fascinating viewing in such countries.
Photos of tourist spots are nice but my memories of Cambodia come from observing the locals going about their daily business, riding around on their motorbikes, sitting around on the streets and so on. Phnom Penh was a bit too chaotic for just standing roadside snapping away but the relative calm and quiet Kampot was ideal for trying to catch a half-decent shot of the natives riding their moto’s en-masse.
You can read ‘Cambodia 2015 Pt VI: Bokor Hill Station‘ here