Fun in Kampot and KepApril 25, 2007
Lovely as ever, Kampot really is my favourite place in Cambodia. The landscape down there is lush and green and tropical and it is nice to escape the flatlands of Phnom Penh and its surrounds for the more geographically stimulating environs of this lovely riverside town. The last 10 months has seen a massive increase in bars and restaurants along the riverfront and whereas once the choice was limited to a few spots, there are now many to choose from. Blissful Guesthouse is still blissful as ever and the rooms are still $7-$10.
The bar is the most dangerous place in town and the Bombay Sapphire gets a work out most nights. Angela is a great host and special thanks to her for helping me out in my time of financial need. Still no ATM in town so take all the cash you need with you. Rusty Keyhole is now officially one of my favourite bars in all of Cambodia.
Kris and his wife have created a great spot right on the river and it is still the most popular bar in town and with good reason. The bbq pork ribs that they do ($5) are absolutely unbelievable. So good I had it two nights in a row. As the sun sets and the beer flows, everyone is guaranteed a good time. Kris….I hope your injuries heal soon mate.
Little Garden Bar struggles a bit. The rooms look nice enough at $10 but the poor staff of 2 could not keep up with the breakfast orders. Not their fault really and a fan under the hot tin roof would have been a welcome addition. Bodhi Villa is in a top spot across the new bridge and towards Tek Chhou Falls. Perched over the river and popular with the dippy hippy “yeah man, like wow…cool” crowd, the bong is communal and the conversations are like….groovy man. The rooms are $5 or so and their tuk tuk is free for your use. Seeing a white female backpacker at its wheel in downtown Kampot with another in the back made me do a double-take “strewth…. did I just see that.
Rikitikitavi next to Rusty Keyhole looks like an amazing place to stay but cannot comment on prices or anything as I did not go in but would definitely have a look next time. Other places of note include Preak Ambal Resort which is 17kms outside town on the road to Sihanoukville. Look for the Archway with scaffolding and then follow the road down to the coast. A Malaysian lady has bought the entire beach and is creating something very special indeed. Say hello to Eza, the pommy caretaker and enjoy some crab in the little restaurant. Sandy beach, palm trees, quiet, serene.
Well worth a trip out there. Another awesome spot can be found 3.5kms along the riverbank from Little Garden Bar. Head towards the hills on the same side of the river and ask for “the spot where the boat takes you out to the Pagoda”. Follow a mad little single track through lush gardens and under people’s houses and arrive at an amazing little clearing with a riverside restaurant and a boat that will take you on a ride to a pagoda for $1. I can provide GPS co-ordinates for those equipped and interested. I could live there easily. Pristine, lush and hidden. Kep What a difference 10 months has made.
Apart from the fact that it was KNY and the place was going off with Khmer and Tourists alike, Kep is starting to move along. More bungalow operations have popped up and the prices are heading skywards as well. Vanna Bungalows is still a great spot at $10 for your own teak bungalow with panoramic views of the gulf of Vietnam and large, cavernous and clean bathrooms. No electricity from 6am-6pm and no AC available. Great Restaurant and helpful staff. Can highly recommend bungalow #10. Verandah Resort is an utter rip off. Last year they had just put the basic rooms up from $15 to $20 and now they are $45 The beers are $2, cocktails are $4, the food is expensive ($7 for fish amok – give me a break!) and the crowd is…well…the crowd is what it is. See it for yourself…or don’t. Up to you!
Happy Happy bar and restaurant down near the market is good for karaoke and Khmer style dancing if that is your thing. 5 of us drank like Trojans and ate like kings and the bill came to $20. Led Zep Café is a strange little place next to the local pool. Run by an ageing and grumpy German (?) hippy, it is nothing more than a few chairs and tables and some …yes…Led Zeppelin album covers stuck to the sides of a bamboo hut. The owner has done a very god job of mapping local trails and if for no other reason it is worth a visit to get some idea of what you can do and see in Kep. Just don’t park in front of his café ok?
Villa de Monsieur Henri is finally open. A renovated stone mansion with 12 bungalows, it is in a prime location and is aimed squarely at the upper class. Shame the CESM© can’t keep the throngs from sitting all over the front wall or piling their rubbish up on his doorstep! Other things to do; Take your dirt bike and enjoy single track motocross heaven in the flatlands running parallel to the coast and under the escarpment. I did 4 hours of insane biking and came home exhausted but with a smile a mile wide. Give the locals a thrill by popping wheelies through their herds of cows and then rooster tailing some of Kep’s finest red dirt. There is a business there for someone I am sure!! Visit the Pagoda at the top of the hill for some insane views and a marriage proposal to your girlfriend followed by a chat with the resident monk and play with the local kids at the beach as they float around in the ocean on their inner tubes. I am the submarine and they are the battleships. ***BOOM***….you lose!
The seafood is still as fresh as ever and there are now some nice little bamboo-hut restaurants perched over the water along the waterfront where the market is. Other travelers report Koh Tonsay ( Rabbit Island ) is still as sleepy as ever despite the threat of development and the cost of the boat is down from $15 to $12. All in all, my second visit to these two gems reinforced what I thought the first time. They are a must-see on any visitor’s agenda and should not be missed !!