- Why I Went to Kampot
- The Best Tour Options in Kampot
- Which Tour is the Best? Bokor Mountain or Pepper Plantation?
Initially, I didn’t plan to go to Kampot when I first planned for the Indochina trip as my original plan was to visit Sihanoukville instead. Eventually, I changed my original itinerary so that I ended up staying in Kampot for a few days to visit Bokor Mountain and its famous pepper plantation. In the end, I enjoyed Kampot so much that I kind of regret my decision to only stay there for 3 nights.
Today, I’ll be sharing with you on things to do around Kampot. And I also want to compare the best tour options around Kampot so that you can decide which one is better for you if you’re planning to visit Kampot for a short time.
So, which one is the best tour in Kampot: Bokor mountain or pepper plantation? What are the best things to do in Kampot? Let’s find out!
Why I Went to Kampot
When I planned out my itinerary for my Indochina trip, I initially wanted to stop by Sihanoukville. I even got connected with a fellow Indonesian who’s currently living there through Couchsurfing.
However, after reading some articles about the cons of visiting Sihanoukville, I got hesitant to visit the city. So instead, I decided to just go to Kampot since I read a lot of good things about it. I’ve heard a lot about Koh Rong and some of the best islands to visit in Cambodia, but since I just came back from Bali a few months ago, I thought Kampot was a better choice for me.
When I checked the Indochina map, I found out that Kampot is not so far from the Vietnam border, so I figured it would be easier for me to go there as a part of my road trip. One thing led to another, I ended up reaching Kampot from Ha Tien, and I don’t regret my decision to visit this beautiful town.
As a spontaneous traveler myself, I honestly didn’t know much about the town until I arrived there. But when I got there, I was just glad that I went there. Kampot has some kind of positive vibes that made it feel only by the time I stepped off the bus.
Things You Need to Know About Kampot
Kampot was the capital of the Circonscription Résidentielle de Kampot under French rule, and in 1889 French colonial census, the city was reported as a multi-ethnic community.
Apart from “Cambodian Kampot” and “Chinese Kampot,” the city is also located near some Vietnamese villages. In addition to that, there a few numbers of Malay living around the city as well.
The diversity in Kampot can be seen until today. Probably one of the reasons why Kampot somewhat feels personally homey for me. When I was there, I almost couldn’t tell that I was in Cambodia because I often saw hijabi girls and all that. As an Indonesian myself, seeing some hijabi around could make me feel home already. LOL
Kampot is also famous for its salt and pepper. Not only is it famous around Cambodia, but it’s also worldwide. Some people believe that Kampot pepper is the best people in the world, as pepper grows best at the foot on the mountains because of the quarts in the soil.
With Kampot location, it is beneficial for them to grow the best of it. And for sure, salt and pepper have become some of the must-do activities around Kampot because of its popularity. Apart from salt and pepper, the town is also famous for its durian that one of the landmarks in town is durian roundabout in the town center.
Where to Stay in Kampot
Anyway, Kampot is a riverside town so for easier access, I’d recommend you choose accommodation around the riverbanks. I was glad that I booked Two Moons Hotel as it was situated around the riverside.
On my 3 nights I stayed in Kampot, I spent most of the days joining the tours while I wandered around the town center at night. The only downside that I found in Kampot is when it comes to transportation since if you get lost and can’t find any tuk-tuk nearby, you’ll be dead. 😛
Grab isn’t available yet in Kampot, but you can install PassApp to hail a tuk-tuk online. However, based on my experience, PassApp isn’t really useful if you get lost in the middle of nowhere. Especially if you’re lost some time after 7 PM in town and you don’t know much about the area.
Unlike Grab, PassApp isn’t so user-friendly, so I didn’t use the app when I was in Cambodia. However, I had it on my phone until I realized that Grab is available in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
I wandered around Kampot by walking, and it was only around the city center. I know I missed out so much since I figured there are still many other places that seem to be highly recommended to visit in town, but then again, I’m just quite happy that I was there.
Where to Go Around Kampot
One of the benefits of staying at the hotel around the riverside is that you could walk a bit and find an excellent stop to people-watch while waiting for the sunset around the riverbank.
If you’re in the mood to buy some snacks or something to eat, there are also some street food stalls you can find around the riverside.
My first dinner in Kampot, I stopped by some street food stall owned by a hijabi lady around there. At first, I figure since the owner is a hijabi lady, it must be halal. And as a Muslim-born myself, choosing it as a dinner is the easiest thing I could do.
It was some hotpot with seafood options, we choose anything we want, and they will be served to us deep-fried.
Not gonna lie, it looked so delicious but when I tried it… It wasn’t that good.
The first dinner I had in Kampot made me a bit hesitant to try more street food there, but on the second day I got starving when I was strolling around the durian roundabout. I saw one food stall across then I decided to make a stop there. And I was impressed!
You know, with all the Khmer alphabets and all that, I barely know what it is called or how it’s pronounced… Lucky for me, I was sitting on the same table with two local Cambodian guys who speak English and told me the name of the food: noom pain pate.
It’s basically a sandwich. Hence, the word ‘pain‘ comes from the French word for bread, I believe. It’s pretty much like banh mi, but for some reason, I like it better. Even better than the best banh mi that I tried in Saigon!
As if delicious isn’t enough reason to try noom pain pate if you’re in Kampot, it’s super cheap too! A portion of noom pain pate only costs $1 USD or 4000 KHR.
Besides that, there are also some restaurant options around the riverside that you could choose in Kampot.
On the last night I was in Kampot, I had pizza at Happy Pizza around the riverside and while the pizza wasn’t so bad… The service was quite terrible. I had to wait for around 1.5 hours for my pizza to get ready! 😐
The Best Tour Options in Kampot
The 2 full days I spent in Kampot, I spent each day joining 2 different tours. One is for Bokor Mountain, and on the second day I went to the salt field, pepper plantation, and Kep.
Both cost the same, $13 USD, and I paid directly to the driver slash tour guide for the day. All the tours are available to book through the Two Moons Hotel. However, I booked the tour to Bokor Mountain through the tuk-tuk driver who took me to the hotel from the bus stop in Kampot.
Bokor Mountain Tour from Kampot
So yeah, I booked the tour to Bokor Mountain through the tuk-tuk driver on the day I arrived in Kampot. He said that I’d get picked up at 8 AM the next day, and I could pay it directly to the driver.
The driver arrived slightly late, maybe around 8.15 AM or so. At first, I got a bit nervous as I didn’t get the tuk-tuk driver’s number or anyone’s to confirm my booking. But then the driver came to pick me up.
For the tour to Bokor Mountain, I joined it with 4 other people. A couple from England, an English guy called Rufus, and also an older man from America. The latter looked a bit sick when we were on tour that it was a bit worrying. But he convinced us that he was okay, so…
Since I traveled alone, I directly asked to sit beside the driver on the minivan. That way, it was easier for me to hand him the money since the other tour members already paid the tour through their agent or hostel.
Lok Yeay Mao Monument
The first stop that we made in Bokor was somewhere around the gigantic statue that I initially thought was Buddha. Our driver slash tour guide on the day told us that it wasn’t Buddha. It was the statue of Lok Yeay Mao.
Lok Yeay Mao was the Goddess of protector who was believed to keep the forest and coastal provinces of Cambodia, Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville in peace. Lok Yeay Mao monument in Bokor has become the largest outdoor statue of the Goddess.
It offers a stunning view, sitting on the top of the mountain overlooking the sea coasts around Kampot. The driver stopped us there, and instructed us to meet him again later on the other side of the road.
Around the statue, there were some other sculptures with each animal that are the symbols of Chinese astrology. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of the context about the relation between Lok Yeay Mao and Chinese astrology. But I took a pic of my Chinese zodiac, which is the snake.
The Black Palace (Veang Khmao)
Across the Lok Yeay Mao statue, it was an area of what’s left of King Sihanouk’s abandoned summer house. Known as the Black Palace, the compound was used as the king’s summer residence between the 50s and 60s.
From my naked eyes, I suspect that the house has become a haunted house due to abandonment. When I got there, I was a bit surprised to imagine that the place was still used as the king’s vacation house only around 50-60 years ago. It looks like it has been abandoned for centuries by looking at the decayed structure of the buildings.
What’s unique about the abandoned house is that now some walls are now painted with some stunning graffitis. Along with that, the view faced to the sea coast is still as stunning as ever that you know why the king chose it as the summer house.
When I reached the Black Palace, I really thought that the name came from the related history about what happened in the palace or around Bokor Hill Station in general. However, I found out that the name actually came from the blackwood that was originally used in the construction of the house.
Wat Sampov Pram
Our next stop around Bokor Mountain was Wat Sampov Pram, which is located at the very top of the mountain in Bokor National Park.
Wat Sampov Pram is the highest Buddha pagoda in Cambodia, and the temple itself means the temple of the five boats, which refers to the flat rock formations around it.
Apart from the temple, there’s also a monastery around Wat Sampov Pram. The buildings around the temple are full of some Buddhist history relief that I wish I were more familiar about it because the picture and the story look quite appealing.
I may sound like a snobby traveler, but if I gotta be honest with you… The temple and its surroundings ended up looking less impressive to my eyes.
Honestly, apart from the Buddhist stories that were delivered through the reliefs around the temple… Even the view around Wat Sampov Pram wasn’t that satisfying. But then again, it might be just my personal opinion. It’s still worth visited if you got there, though. 😉
Bokor Old Church
The FOMO attitude got into me when I planned out my Indochina trip itinerary and saw the pic of the old church in Bokor. Something about the church that simply made me want to stop by, and it led me to book a few nights in Kampot because of that.
The black painted church looks so eerie, and it has done justice when I saw it in real life.
Historically speaking, Bokor hill station was built as a resort by the French colonial, and the church itself was built in the early 1920s.
As the church was abandoned a few times due to the country’s history, the church lost its real function during the Khmer Rouge era due to the prohibition of showcasing both religion and religious symbols.
These days, I think the Cambodian government transferred the church to the Catholic community and returned its function. I’m not sure whether a small mass was held or anything, but the vibes of abandonment could be felt around the building. If anything, the church doesn’t only look eerie, it feels that way too.
As I entered the church in January, the Christmas attributes were still intact. But some of the statues were ruined that I second-guessed how long the Christmas decoration has been there.
Le Bokor Palace
The last spot we visited as a part of our Bokor Mountain tour was Le Bokor Palace. The building has now returned to its initial function. It was built in the 1920s as a luxurious accommodation for foreigners and the local elites.
Then came the first Indochina War between French colonial forces and the Vietnamese guerilla under Uncle Ho. At the time, the hotel was transformed into a hospital while the rest of Bokor Station was evacuated.
Later in the 1970s, under the Khmer Rouge, the hotel also became the killing field for millions of Cambodians.
Our minivan was parked across Le Bokor Palace while we took a break and the driver gave each one of us the free lunch. It wasn’t much, just a box of simple fried rice and a bottle of mineral water. But hey, with $13 USD and lunch was included? I couldn’t really complain, could I?
Anyway, the hotel has now been renamed Le Bokor Palace, and it’s operating as a part of the more massive casino resort around Bokor.
We also stopped by the casino to see around. But since I wasn’t really interested in gambling, I ended up just lounging and having a scoop of chocolate ice cream there.
Our stop around the casino was the last spot we visited as a part of the tour. It was ended around 2-3 PM. And the minivan dropped me in front of my hotel.
Pepper Plantation Tour from Kampot
Now that you know the quality of Kampot pepper is legendary, visiting pepper plantation should be in your must-do list when you’re in town.
The cost of the tour is the same as the Bokor Mountain tour, it’s only $13 USD, and the tour guide picked me up at 8 AM the next day. Initially, I wanted to book the tour through the driver who was with us for the Bokor tour. However, the number I saved seems to be incorrect that it was uncontactable.
In the late afternoon, I reached out to the staff at Two Moons Hotel and booked the pepper plantation through them.
For this tour, the itinerary was to visit the salt fields, Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple, La Plantation Kampot Pepper Farm, and Kep by the end of the trip. I was initially planning to maybe play around the beach a little as Kep was on the list of the places for us to visit then. I was already wearing my bikini as my inner dress, but they ended up being useless at the time.
Why? I’ll let you know! 🙂
The staff at Two Moons Hotel refer to this tour as the ‘countryside’ tour. And it is not without a reason since we passed through some villages before we arrived at the salt fields from Kampot. The salt fields are located on the way to Kep from the center of Kampot.
The experience will let you take a closer look at the ocean water’s evaporation into the salt crystals. As an urban city person myself, I use salt every day for sure… But I unapologetically just found out about the salt process when I went to the fields in Kampot.
My first impression when we arrived at the fields was like… Wow, what an instagrammable scene! It was THAT picturesque.
There, the tour guide explained the process of evaporation from the ocean water to the salt we regularly use in the kitchen. After the evaporation process, the salt crystals are collected and delivered to the factory for further process.
Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple
The second place we visited as a part of our pepper plantation tour was the cave temple of Phnom Chhngok. It was located around 40 minutes by car from the salt fields, and the journey was a bit rough with the broken road that led you to get there.
By the time we got there, we were welcomed by a group of kids that would be so friendly and ask a lot of things about you. Where are you from? How old are you? Wow, you’re 30… You don’t look like you’re 30. I’m 10.
Those were the conversation I was welcomed to before we got to Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple. While it was quite boosting my ego, just remember that they’re there for a reason, and it’s for the money.
Anyway, Phnom Chhngok is the home for an ancient shrine to Shiva that was discovered in the 7th century. I don’t want to sound rude, but I didn’t find anything special about it since it was just a small, ancient shrine.
However, what was quite adventurous was when I decided to get down through the caves. I really underestimated the caves as I got really nervous in the middle of the caves. It was dark, and very steep that I felt like I wasn’t ready for this.
Like, I was in the middle of the caves. There was no point in going back to get down in the normal way, yet I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to arrive on the exit. So stressful!
But hey, I made it with the help of those children. That was one of the reasons I ended up just giving them $5 USD to be split when we arrived back to the minibus.
La Plantation Pepper Farm
After the cave, we were heading to La Plantation Pepper Farm. Before I got there, I did some research about La Plantation. I found out that it was founded by a Belgian couple who decided to settle in Cambodia and build the local economy through their pepper plantation.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because the Black Lives Matter movement has been trending lately… But as an Asian traveler myself, when I got to La Plantation, I felt a bit lost. Especially since I come from a third world country, and La Plantation was packed with western travelers… And guess what? Mostly white.
I don’t know, probably because the experience would be some kind of exotic for western travelers?! I’m not sure.
Anyway, La Plantation offers tours in English and French if I’m not mistaken. Probably in Khmer too, but I’m not sure whether they have the tours available in other languages.
Once we arrived in La Plantation, we waited until the staff gathered enough number of people for the group to start the tour.
You know what’s interesting? The seed of Kampot pepper was actually originally from Indonesia. I was a bit lost. Like wow, I feel like I traveled so far away only to see something that I could find in the backyard of my house. LOL.
But I wouldn’t regret my experience, though. It was a pleasant tour despite the taste of the pepper being just ‘moderate’ for my spicy tastebuds. We got a chance to take turns of pepper-tasting, I could keep my flat face while the other travelers were like, “OMG, it’s so hot…”
The Secret Lake
The Secret Lake, or known as Brateak Krola Lake for the locals, is quite close to La Plantation. When we were there, some parts of the lake were under construction. And we only spent around 15 minutes to wander around the lake.
We didn’t even do anything around the lake. I was traveling with a group of girls along with Rufus (again), some girls took selfies there when Rufus and I just snapped enough pics of the lake.
After the Secret Lake, we headed to Kep as we were supposed to stop by Kep beach as a part of the tour. That, until we noticed that we did the tour exactly on Chinese New Year.
We stopped by some restaurant area for the lunch break in Kep. Long story short, lunch is excluded for this pepper plantation tour when I thought it would be free like the Bokor tour on the previous day. LOL. #freeloader
I went to the same restaurant as the others to realize that I was the only POC in the group when I overheard Rufus said something like, “I’m glad that I’m white as people would just come to me speaking English.”
Imagine the awkward situation when I stared at him. LMAO. I mean, I don’t want to make that a big deal, but hey… At least read the room. 😐
As if the domino effect attacked, another unfortunate thing happened as the traffic was really horrible on the way to Kep beach. I think we got stuck around 2 hours for traffic jams alone, only to find out that Kep beach was so full of people.
By the time we arrived on the beach, our energy already got drained to get to the beach. The next thing we knew, we decided to just go back to Kampot because none of us were in the mood to swim in such a situation.
We reached Kampot again around 4, and the minibus stopped at their last stop instead of taking me back to the hotel. However, our tour guide took me back to the hotel by motorbike since all the other guys in the tour stopped at Mad Monkey Hostel, which is located not so far from the stop.
Which Tour is the Best? Bokor Mountain or Pepper Plantation?
I may be a little biased when it comes to the answer, but hands down Bokor Mountain!
I mean, if you have enough time to join both tours, I’d still recommend you to go with both. However, if you gotta choose between Bokor Mountain and Pepper Plantation in Kampot, I’d suggest you go with the first option.
Well, both tours offer a different experience, actually. So if you’re a history freak like me, then I’d say Bokor Mountain would be a tour that you’d truly enjoy as I did.
But, if it’s your first time to go to a tropical country and pepper is somewhat an exotic spice for you, and you want to find out the salt process… Then yes, the tour to La Plantation would be a great experience to know it all. Bonus point if you love beaches…
However, be mindful of your traveling date since you’d probably be disappointed as I was with the crowded situation around Kep beach.
So, have you been to Kampot and Kep? How did you enjoy the town? Let me know your experience below and cheerio! 😀