Kampot has a slightly rundown appearance, an indication of its slow climb back from the days of the Khemer Rouge (this is one of the last areas they held). The colonial French architecture had seen better days and reminded us a bit of Havana.
One of the main reasons we stopped in Kampot was to visit Bokor Hill Station, a former French resort town, atop a mountain just out of town, that the French had built to escape the coastal heat (the mountain’s visible in the background in the above photo). Now the whole area is a national park and wildlife refuge. But a new resort is just beginning to be built near the old one and the road is being rebuilt, which means access is usually difficult. However, the road was going to be open for Chinese New Year for about six days. With my swollen toes we decided to wait for the road opening a booked a two day/one night trek to the station. In the meantime we walked, bicycled and kayaked around Kampot.
One day we bicycled out of town to a guesthouse, a bit out of town, that rented kayaks. They showed us a route on a map and we spend three hours kayaking up the river and then around a circular off-shoot. We passed numerous farms, small homes and people fishing and swimming. It was all very idyllic and peaceful. But still good workout, especially paddling back against the wind.
The next day we started with a wander through the huge and funky market. Ducking under the low roofs and tarps we meandered through the super narrow aisles past endless small stalls selling everything imaginable (including a mysterious bovine product).
Then we pedaled out towards the ocean. We’d heard there was an amazing 270 degree view from a headland. We never did discover the optimal viewing point but had a nice long, sweaty ride over red dirt roads. Along the way we passed acres of salt ponds and saw some salt harvesting.
Our time in Kampot was very relaxing. We strolled the streets, found some great restaurants (Kampot pepper is justifiably famous), hung out at our guest house meeting other travelers and enjoyed meeting the locals.
But the time had come for our trek to Bokor Hill Station…