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A small town in southern Cambodia best known for its sleepy riverside atmosphere is quickly transforming into a lively tourist destination. Here, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars with accompanying live music as you relax along the slow-moving waters. Travelers often pass through Kampot to pick up top shelf pepper or visit the natural beauty of Bokor National Park, but this quaint little town has a lot more to offer, whether you’re looking for a full day of adventure or a relaxed afternoon of riverside lounging. Here are five reasons you should visit Kampot on your next trip to Cambodia.
1. Outdoorsy Types Will Love Bokor National Park
Have you ever driven a motorbike bike 45 minutes up into the clouds on a twisty road until you’ve reached an abandoned city? You can do just that when you visit Bokor National Park, also known as Preah Monivong National Park. Spend some time exploring its abandoned casino, church, houses and crumbled ruins that overlook the entire city. Visitors can take a bus with a group tour but there’s so much to explore on your own and cruising through the misty clouds on your own will give you just enough adrenaline to make it the highlight of your Cambodian adventure.
2. Foodies Can Pick Up Fresh Pepper
Kampot is known for producing some of the best black, red and white pepper in the world and being able to see how it’s made up close is an unforgettable experience. There are several plantations around town, so rent a motorbike and drive past salt fields and caves on your way to these giant pepper plantations. The 1-2 hour tours at Starling Farm and La Plantation are free and offer complimentary samples — you’ll also have the opportunity to purchase neatly packaged fresh pepper to bring home to mom.
3. Feast on Fresh Fish in Nearby Kep
If you’re lucky enough to experience all that Kampot has to offer, then the short trip to its neighboring town, Kep, just 25 minutes southeast, will be the icing on the cake. When you drive into this little beach town — whether on a $7 rented scooter, a $6 tuk tuk or a $3 bus — you’ll notice a large crab statue perched on the beach, a clear indication that you’re about to stumble upon one of the freshest seafood markets on the planet. The fish here are caught in front of your eyes before being chopped, spiced and served to be eaten on the spot. Stay for the sunset and to dangle your feet over the side of the dock as you indulge in the best seafood dinner you’ve ever had for under $5.
4. Catch the Sunset from a Firefly Cruise
Cruising the river at sunset is beautiful in itself but if you book the Firefly sunset cruise, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of bright, glowing bugs lighting up the trees along the river as the sun goes down. There’s a specific spot on the river where hundreds, if not thousands, of fireflies hang out, providing you with a memorable, luminescent experience. Book the tour, which is $5 and includes a free drink, at one of several locations around town, including the Naga House, Captain Chim and Mad Monkey. Just don’t forget to pack your bathing suit — the boat makes several stops along the way, allowing guests to jump in the water and cool off before sunset.
5. Explore Kampot’s Caves and Ruins
There are three caves worth exploring, whether you’re experienced enough to go solo or would prefer to hire a tour guide. Kbal Romeas is the closest to town and has a beautiful collection of stalactites and stalagmites. Scoot over to Phnom Chhnok (along the road to Kep) and you’ll find the preserved ruins of a temple from the seventh century. My favorite is Phnom Sorsia for the simple reason that upon entering, you’re greeted by a large formation of limestone that resembles a giant elephant — this cave also offers the best views of the surrounding paddies. If you’re into rock climbing, book an excursion through Climbodia or support the community and hire a local guide to walk you through the history and point out the different rock formations found throughout the area.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Cambodia? Tell us about them, below.
Featured image courtesy of Photoaliona via Getty Images.
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