Kampot is a much quieter city than what we found in the capital. You don’t have to play chicken across the street, there is much more rural area everything is much cheaper. We stayed in Jack’s Place for $3.50 a night, the rooms are adequate – just mattresses on the floor with dividers between each one – but there isn’t any wifi in the hostel. The owner will tap into next door’s wifi but even that isn’t spectacular. The town is mainly along a river front and the markets offer jewellery made from the shells the women find on the beach. Nelly’s Bar is a must visit if you’re looking to have a few beers. The bar is an outside bar on the corner of the street. If you walk along the river in the direction of the hospital you won’t miss it, the music is always blaring. The owner is a Cambodian who speaks perfect English, has travelled a lot of the world and owns several businesses in Kampot. We ended up there both nights we stayed and ended up helping out behind the bar for a while. The owner is very friendly and will just sit down with the guests and have some good conversation, he gave us a few free shots as well which went down a treat.
Around 40km into the countryside is Bokor Mountain. Motorbike hire, I would say, is essential for this trip as a bus tour just wouldn’t do it enough justice. The roads are tarmac and must have been done quite recently because I read online prior to renting a bike that the roads could be a little tricky, but there were no pot holes and not much gravel.
The area was once used as a holiday destination during the French colonial period, but was then taken over by the Khmer Rouge and then never built back up again after. Until now. They have started work on the big casino and are building up villas and flats around the area as well. It is a real shame because the beauty really lies in the abandoned, slightly eery, dishevelled buildings, but of course they want to make money and they want tourists to spend it on their buildings rather than just a motorbike rent to see an old casino.
The drive up is spectacular, rock layers and jungle line the sides of the road, with amazing views of the town over one side. The first stop to see is the Big Buddha, close to this is the first area of abandoned houses.
Some good graffiti clad the walls of the houses and jungle has started to take over some of them as well.
Once we had seen this, Jayde managed to lock her keys in the truck of her bike, so we thought we were well and truly screwed. Luckily we tried to use my key and fiddled around a bit with the buttons and it opened. Of course we couldn’t go on a day adventure without something stupid happening to us!
It is quite a drive to the old casino area. As you arrive there is a big working hotel and casino so you can actually stay up here if you wanted to; I think it would be rather pricey though! There is a map of the area in the car park which is worth a look before setting off. To one side there is the old casino, a little church and some abandoned buildings. To anger side you can find rice fields and a waterfall. A man will try charge you three dollars to get into the rice fields, we just didn’t bother going in because we’ve seen quite a few now anyway but I think that that price would definitely be negotiable or possibly just a scam.
There are two ways to get to the waterfall. One way, which is a longer drive past the rice fields from the old casino and right at the roundabout is where you can trek for three to seven hours depending on the track to get there. The second option is to drive left from the roundabout. Entrance is 50c, and you get a free bottle of water, and you arrive at the top of the waterfall. You can climb down the rocks to get to the first level but I wouldn’t go any further. The waterfall is said to be a sacred place visited by monks to meditate. From the top it definitely didn’t seem like a place to meditate, there are far too many tourists around. I can imagine that the trek would be more peaceful.
Arcadia is a hostel beside the river, around 10km out of Kampot. The sides of the river are blooming jungle and the hostel is pretty much all made out of wood. When you pay for your room there you also get free access to the water park in the river. If you don’t stay in the hostel the water park is $7. There are several platforms in the river, a blob, and a huge slide that is very tall and cur,s at the bottom to flip you off. When Jayde and I arrived we were feeling rather fragile from too many free shots in Nelly’s the night before. I saw the slide and knew that I had to do it. It took me a few hours to psyche myself up for it but eventually I climbed to the top of the slide, nearly pooped my pants and wussed out, and popped myself off the ended. The slide looks almost vertical when you’re at the top; luckily I managed to land in the water feet first. My phone broke just as Jayde was filming me so I had to go back up and do it again so that she could video it on her phone. This time, of course, not only did I scratch all my back on the slide but I also managed to fly in the air and land smack on my arse!
The hostel is great, lovely people and the food is very good as well. We only stayed for a night but we know people who stayed there for a week or more! They offer jungle treks with camping and lots of tours and information on the area.
From Kampot we spent a night in Sihanoukville before we took the ferry over to Koh Rong. There is nothing to do in Sihanoukville and unfortunately the beaches are now ruined due to tourism. The place reminded me of Nha Trang in Vietnam. We had a happy pizza close to where the travel shops are, and hung out in our hostel Monkey Republic.