During my trip to Cambodia, the days I spent in Kep and Kampot were among my favorite. Both are very small towns in the South of Cambodia right next to the Vietnam border. Kampot was the perfect get away after a few hectic days in Phnom Penh. When researching for the trip I came across The Blonde Abroad’s article about her stay in Kampot, her photos are beautiful and the city sounded so relaxing!
Getting to Kampot
We booked our bus tickets with our hotel in Phnom Penh in the morning and left around 3pm expecting to arrive in Kampot by 6pm. Unfortunately, and even after asking several times if the bus stopped in Kep (adding 2 hours to our trip) we ended up in Kep! Apparently this is a common problem when going down to this area. We were starving by 7pm when we arrived at our hotel. Luckily our hotel’s restaurant quickly cooked us up some delicious food that we could enjoy by the river. The following day we planned on renting motorbikes and either driving out to the pepper farms or going up to Phnom Bokor National Park. As we sat by the river enjoying delicious Khmer Amok, we noticed that the mountain in the national park was on fire. Not like oh just a section here was burning fire, but a large section of the mountain was on fire. I asked the people working at our hotel, and they seemed like they hadn’t even noticed the fire. Well, that ruled out going to the national park in the morning, pepper farms it is!
Yes, breakfast the next day, gets a whole section in this post. Ellie’s Café officially has the best breakfast that I have had in all of South East Asia. We were looking through tripadvisor when we found this place and it’s amazing. I often struggle to find a place with American breakfast here because most places have more British type of breakfast and although they are just slightly different to me they are just not the same. We actually ate here twice during our trip. Ellie’s is a small café, with nice outdoor seating and delicious food. They also give discounts to customers who show up in their PJs. Ellie also gave us an awesome recommendation for where to rent motorbikes for the day and let us know about Secret Lake.
Up the street from Ellie’s is a little corner market that rents out motobikes for $5 a day. We were all set to drive to the pepper fields all we needed was to fill up the gas. As we drove to the gas station, I completely wiped out on the bike. I turned a corner and tried to pull for the hand break but as I pulled back the break I rolled my hand which spun the throttle and it was between laying down the bike or running into a truck. I picked the former and fell to the ground a few inches from the back of the truck. Whoops! Luckily my mom and brother were in front of me so neither of them saw me fall, it was pretty embarrassing. But about 6 or 7 Cambodians watched me hit the ground. Ha. They nicely helped me pick up the bike and asked me through broken English if I was ok. They also offered me water to help get the rocks out of the side of my leg. I was more worried about having to pay for breaking the bike then how hurt I was. It could have been much worse. Just to point out, I have been riding quads and other bikes since I could walk but all of these bikes have a thumb throttle and I’m not used to a spin throttle at all. Ok, I learned my lesson, no using the hand break anymore. Foot break only so that I don’t accidently accelerate while I’m actually trying to stop. I caught up to my mom and brother at the gas station. They laughed while I poured water down my leg trying to wash off the gravel. Not riding for the rest of the day never crossed my mind, I figured the chances that I’d fall once were pretty good, the chances of falling twice- a lot less! I’d be ok.
Sothy’s Pepper Farm
Sothy’s pepper farm is about 16 miles (26 km) away from Kampot. It’s past Kep and there’s a huge sign on the left side telling you where to turn, I’d be pretty hard to miss it. The road on the way there is pretty well maintained until you turn off the main street and end up on a dirt road. We were greeted by a few of the backpacker volunteers that work on the farm in exchange for free boarding. They showed us around the pepper fields telling us how the pepper is grown and harvested. Interestingly Kampot pepper are known to be the best and strongest peppercorns in the world. Similar to Champagne, true Kampot pepper can only be grown in this area of Cambodia. I’ve read other articles about how you shouldn’t buy pepper at the farms because its more expensive then what’s sold at the markets but I’m told that often times the pepper sold are the markets aren’t true Kampot pepper. In order to tell that it’s authentic Kampot pepper you have to look for the logo below.
The pepper farm was beautiful and had a lot of fruit trees as well. It would also be a great place to grab lunch as they have a small family run restaurant there. However we wanted to hold off until we got to Kep, since the city is known for its crab.
Crab in Kep
After twenty or so minutes of riding we arrived at the seafood market in Kep. As we were parking in-between hordes of other motorbikes my brother asked if we should be worried about someone stealing the helmets off the bike. I hadn’t even thought about it. Being so used to Asia and how things rarely get stolen here, I replied “No, if anyone was going to steal them, it’d be the guy selling them up the road. We’d just have to buy them back.”
The market was packet, both with people and with smelly fish. All along the water there are seafood restaurants, where you can pick your exact fish and they’ll grill it up right there, we picked one at random and sat right above the water to enjoy our lunch.
Kep Beach is beautiful. Most of the sand was scattered with locals enjoying their Saturday afternoon but it still wasn’t packed. The clear water was the perfect temperature. Jumping in the water was relaxing after riding the bikes in the hot sun all morning; well it would have been, if my legs weren’t completely scrapped up from my previous fall. The salt burned so much! We didn’t stay here long as we wanted to check out some of the cave temples on our way back and didn’t want to be riding the bikes at night. A quick dip in the ocean and we were off.
Cave Temple and Secret Lake
On our way back we turned around 3 or 4 times to try to find the right street to Phnom Sor Sear, a cave temple in the middle of one of the mountains. I wish I had taken a picture of the street we finally turned onto because it was really hard to find. A lot of the streets are marked with large archways but no actual signs so after a lot of guessing, we finally made it there. The cave wasn’t incredibly impressive especially after seeing so many of the caves in Malaysia but it was nice. Two teenage boys stand towards the entrance of the cave and will show you around and tell you some history for a few dollars. They didn’t do much to earn the money, but it wasn’t much anyways.
After we left the cave we headed toward Secret Lake. To be honest I was expecting an extremely small lake but as we got closer I was incredibly impressed, it was huge, and there wasn’t another person in sight. Standing near it was so quiet and peaceful.
After the lake we headed back towards Kampot, back to our hotel. We took a brief detour to the lotus pond (I can’t remember if this was intentionally or if we missed a turn!). After showering all of the dust and dirt off us from the day we grabbed dinner in the very small city center and turned in for the night. After our quick getaway out of the city we headed back to Phnom Penh the following morning.
We stayed at Natural Bungalows, for about $25 a night. I highly recommend it.
We rented the bikes from the Daily Meat on Street 72A, its just a random store, it has a bunch of eggs and fruit in the front. Bikes were $5 a day.
Move to Cambodia’s post about getting to Kampot can tell you about all the different ways to get down there. If you’re taking a bus I recommend booking a day in advance.
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