70. Kampot City

Kampot City: Amy wins the prize for picking Kampot as our last stop on this very short tour in Cambodia. For starters, I love it when a taxi driver says something like, “are you sure you want to go to Kampot? Tourists don’t really stay in Kampot, they stay in Suckerville.” There are dozens of Suckervilles all over SE Asia and they all have a hundred backpacker restaurants that serve the same Western “comfort food” and televisions that play Friends episodes on endless loops. Suckervilles do have their upsides, usually some phenomenal scenery/beaches/temples, but they don’t have what Kampot has – authenticity.

The city itself has just enough fluff for low-maintenance travelers but not so much that it loses its Cambodian soul. The surrounding countryside has weeks worth of activities and we did a lot of them – pepper plantations, swimming, temples, caves*, 7th century temples inside caves, and a butt numbing, three hour rally-car ride to an abandoned French Hill Station that is the coolest ghost town I’ve seen since downtown Detroit. The best part, however, was this: We happened to turn up in Kampot at the beginning of the Cambodian New Year, which is three days of overeating, overdrinking, fireworks and lots of people dousing each other with water, talc powder and then rice (Amy took a couple of good shots, she’s still finding rice stuck to her clothing). On the second day of the New Year, we took a couple of bicycles from our guest house and went riding out into the surrounding villages. Amongst lots of family revelry, we found this crew of local men glued to their front porch, where they had been drinking heavily since the close of business two days prior. Thanks to the language barrier, it’s still not clear if they invited us in or if we invited ourselves, but at least two beers went down before we finally learned how to say “Happy New Year” in Khmer and stumbled through the usual range of weird, beautiful conversation. Small moments, big memories, we loved Kampot.

* Our cave guide, a wonderful man named Pants, led us by candlelight through a gauntlet of narrow, twisting crevices and bat-filled cathedrals that were not at all listed in the brochure. Actually, in Cambodia there are no brochures, it’s more like a guy telling you, “Hey, my brother knows this guy named Pants who can take you out to some caves on his motorcycle – you want to go?” Anyway, as we’re working ourselves deeper and deeper into one of these caves, Pants suddenly stops. “There is a very small hole coming soon,” he says, “and I know that Swedish people can fit through it.” We are sweating profusely, gasping for breath and we know that he is trying to say, I have never led any Americans through this small cave hole, I sincerely hope your people will fit. Fifteen minutes later, after we have successfully wriggled through this cave’s (forgive me) butt crack, Pants is so thrilled that he finally drops his professional guard and says, “The Germans can’t fit through that hole because their bellies are too big!” We all had a good laugh at that, Amy, Me, Pants and the small village boy who had been following us in the dark for the last hour. Man, that kid could play the stalactites like a xylophone, even in the pitch black. You’ve never not seen anything like it.


  1. Emelinda says:

    Rice stuck on clothes… That’s an everyday occurence for me. Welcome to Southeast Asia!