Home > Cambodia, Food > Lazy days by the River Kampot

Lazy days by the River Kampot

A fisherman at twilight

After a couple of days in Phnom Penh, we were itching to get away and considered heading north to Battambang towards Siem Reap where we needed to head to meet Dave and Katie or south to Kampot and away from our destination. We had a week and after talking to some expats in PP, we made a split second decision and headed south. We are so glad we did.

Kampot is a sleepy hollow on the banks of Kampot river and a 20 minute ride away from Kep beach. The town centre is the riverfront overlooking palms on the other bank and Bokor mountain in the middle distance behind which around 6pm the sun sets so beautifully each evening. Kampot has a dozen bars and restaurants and a similar number of hotels and B&Bs.

A sundowner at Moliden's

We arrived mid-afternoon and there was no one on the streets. It looked dead and the ‘centre’ with it’s derelict old market place across the road from the also derelict fish market not he banks of the river made us think twice about staying. Before we turned on our heels and headed back to the relative safety of a big city, we entered what was to become our daily pilgrimage, The Rusty Toenail – oops, that’s my affectionate name for the legendary bar/restaurant and provider of all manner of information, the Rusty Keyhole.

The iron bridge at sunset

From there on it was easy. They gave us recommendations for places to stay in our budget, for scooters to hire, places to go, restaurants to dine. A customer who was leaving the bar as we entered advised us to book their famous ribs for the evening as they go quickly so we took the advice, came back in the evening and had a plate of a kilo of ribs (mind you this is more meat and less bone) in front of us. Delicious as it was, we couldn’t finish it. We sat with the two Pot-pats (as Kampot expats like to call themselves!) we had met in Phnom Penh and bumped into here and the barman/owner Vic till 2am and drank and chatted and generally felt great! This was to become a daily routine, at The Rusty Keyhole, though we spent a great night at Bar Red one of the evenings.

Village by Kep

Next day, we hired a bike and headed out towards the sea. Another Pot-pat at Captain Chim’s – amazing red soup – recommended this off the beaten path (literally, as there is no tarmac) on the way to the beach where you go through some villages to get to a mountain with some caves. We headed there and saw some beautiful rice paddies on the way. At the cave some local kids wanted to show us around and we were not keen. They followed us anyway and we were glad because we won’t have seen most of the caves or got through them without them. There were little nooks in the large cave where you can head off into other caves through tiny holes and felt like pot-holing without water. It was pitch dark, scary, really claustrophobic and full of bats. But it was a great experience!

We had a kilo of blue crabs

Off we went to Kep later and never made it to the beach. How could we when before the beach there is a crab market! Not any old crab market but the largest and most famous in all of Cambodia. The market is right on the sea from where there is constant seafood coming out and being sold just as it comes out the sea. Little shacks line the east side of the market overhanging the beach. We went to one and ordered a kilo of the local special – the blue crab. A lady went out into the sea, opened one of the floating baskets in which they were catching crabs and brought eight of these babies out to us. Within 15 minutes we were tucking into them and they were as good as the crabs in Vietnam.

The next few days we did as little possible. There was a lot of eating and drinking involved but we didn’t leave Kampot. The sunset is so beguiling that everyone – pot pats and locals come out to the riverfront to stare at it. Though I am yet to see the prize of Cambodia – Angkor Wat, it’s Kampot I am sure I will remember as a place of bewitching beauty!

  1. May 21, 2011 at 03:15

    I think, Kampot is about the best place i’ve been to this trip, it really is stunning – I want to live here for six months of the year!

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