Ahh, Kampot. This perfect town and it’s surroundings became my little treasure of Cambodia. After Koh Rong, I was feeling a bit jaded. I was so sick and tired of the typical backpacker crowds. I was sick and tired of the commercialisation. I was sick of the pressure to party and to spend my time in a certain way. I was sick of the same shit.
I was worried Kampot would provide similar feelings to my disappointment with Koh Rong – that it would be filled with backpackers turning it into a party town. My fears were unfounded. Kampot was, in fact, perfect. It provided lots for tourists, with many restaurants, travel services, guesthouses and cafés. Yet it still remained relatively quiet and undiscovered. It had a charm that had not been constructed by tourism, it was simply present. I felt like I was exploring a part of Cambodia, rather than a tourist trap that could be anywhere in the world. The locals weren’t always great at English, but they would always be friendly to you and try to make conversation. Westerners would visit the town, but wouldn’t take it over. There was a perfect balance.
Kampot is a small town, and in all honesty there’s not all that much to do within the town itself. On the surface, the town even seems a little shabby. Next to its gorgeous riverside, the French colonial buildings are crumbling. Yet there are so many cute little shops and lovely places to eat. One of my favourite places for lunch was Epic Arts Cafe. The food is good and inexpensive and the profits go into helping those in Cambodia with disabilities.
What made Kampot for me though, was where we stayed. Instead of staying in town, we stayed in a backpacker hostel 6km out of town called Arcadia. Arcadia sits by the riverside and overlooks amazing views of the mountains. You can do lots of fun activities in the river at Arcadia. They also offer hikes to waterfalls and to a pagoda on a mountain. Or you can just chill in a hammock and watch the world go by. Arcadia could be a place to party, or a place to chill. There was no pressure here. You could just take it easy. There was a backpacker vibe which made it great to meet other travellers, yet it’s location on the river and it’s rustic, shambled set up made you feel like you were in ‘the real Cambodia’, so to speak.
We didn’t do all that much in Kampot, except explore the towns cafe’s and shops, and chill out. One day we rented scooters and went to the nearby town of Kep. Kep is a beachside town which is famous for its seafood, particularly the crab. We went to the crab market and sampled some of the fresh, grilled fish. We rode our bikes around a national park, which gave fantastic views out to the sea, and we chilled on the local beach. There was not one other tourist in site, yet we felt totally comfortable and welcome.
I was quite sad to say goodbye to Kampot. It was by far my favourite place in Cambodia. A place I could truly chill and appreciate the beauty of the country. Kampot was a great place to take it slow, to absorb the atmosphere, and to get my traveller mojo back.