The South of Cambodia


Global Mark : 13.78    Top Five : No4

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Market Relax Fiesta 


5 5 2 3 5 2 2 13.71

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
13 100% 92% (12) 100% 9 to 20 13.85

Description : A charming little town by a scenic river with plenty of surrounding natural attractions : mountains, waterfalls, beaches, hill resort, caves...

Comments : This place remains off the tourist track but for how long ?

What to do ? Negotiate the price of your room down a bit / Walk by the tame river and the relaxed colonial streets / Keep repeating "hello" / Explore the great countryside / Meet Muslims & fishermen (or both) at Cham villages / Play volleyball at the Governor's residence / Watch an evening sky show by the river / Arrange a tour on motorbike to the surroundings attractions : Kep + Tek Chhouu "Falls" ($5) or Bokor Hill Station ($8-10)

What you may not like ? The rather expensive accommodations with some grotty & basic rooms / The lack of bicycle or motorbike for rent / The barking dogs / The pushy drivers /

How long ? A few hours for the colonial streets, one full day for the surrounding countryside, two days for the more remote attractions, more to relax...

Where to stay ? 

  • Marco Polo Italian Restaurant, south of the taxi stand, follow the signs / Small Dbl $5 easily down to $4 / Basic common shower (basin) in the garden / Go there for the nicest clean room at this price (wood), the relaxed setting, the English of the staff or if you fancy pasta / What you may not like : is this really the best you can get for $4 ?
  • Ta Eng GH, continue south a bit then turn right / Dbl $5, w. shower $6, easily down to $4 & $5 / Basic common shower (basin) in the small garden / The old owner speaks English but the rooms are basic, unfresh and charmless. 
  • Moulmit GH, just north of the station, heading toward the old market / Rooms w. shower $5, w. outside window $6 / Poor English / The outside rooms are basic yet acceptable but the inside ones are really grotty. 
  • Dernsamoth GH, next door / Big clean rooms w. shower $6 / Go there to try to get a discount but, for that, you will need first to be accepted in as communication is a bit tricky...
  • Phnom Khiev Hotel (015 831851), west of the main intersection / Sgl w. shower & fridge $5, Dbl w. good satellite TV $7, w. AC $12 / Go there for the best equipment-price ratio in town / What you may not like : the rather small rooms without outside window
  • Phnom Kamchay Hotel (033 932916), east of the main intersection / All comfort (AC, TV, fridge & HW) Sgl $12, Dbl $15 or Trpl $20 / The comfort at a price...
  • Borey Bokor Hotel (033 932826), street east of the main intersection, behind the above / All comfort (AC, TV, fridge & HW) Sgl $10, Dbl $15 or Trpl $20 / Go there for the cheapest all comfort Sgl in town and the smiling staff
  • Borey Bokor Hotel Branch, just behind Phnom Kamchay Hotel, a nice pink house / The cheap branch of the above / Dbl w. shower $7 easily down to $5 / Go there for the best quality price ratio in town as the rooms are nice, clean & spacious with two big beds / What you may not like : not having more options like this in town
  • Marco Polo Hotel (015 330166), by the river, a bit west of the old market / Huge room with river view $15, smaller rooms w. AC & HW bathtub $25 / Italian Manager / By far the most charming rooms in town but not the most quiet as next to two roads.
  • Vimean Hong Kong Hotel or National Bank GH, by the river, next to the Governor's residence / A run down place with grotty & run down rooms for $5

Backpacker's Tips : Ruxandra, Canada (Dec 07)
 In town there are two great places, Little Garden Bar and Guest House and Blissful Guest House. Just outside of town on the other side of the river is probably the best bet in Kampot - Bodhi Villa. In town one can find A/C and hot water, but not outside of town. The location of Bodhi Villa right on the river and the relaxed and friendly environment make it a winner. Rooms at all rage from $2.50 to $8.00.
Restaurants: Jasmine's Restaurant in town, on the river front, has excellent food and wine. There are many stands with inexpensive delicious food as well all around town.

Backpacker's Tips : Helle-Mai and Jarek, Estonia & Poland (March 04)
 Most of the hotel names are changed (including Marco Polo Hotel what is now flashy Bokor Mountain Club), instead Phnom Kamchay is now Borei Bokor II (5$ huge dbl room). 

Where to eat ? A few excellent places on the street in front of Borey Bokor Hotel Branch : creamy corn (R200) or big dumplings (R800) for snacks, tasty food stalls with rice dishes (R500 a dish) or noodle shop (R1500) for filling dinners. For dessert, the bridge street, just west of the above, fill up with tikalok (fruit smoothie) sellers in the evening.

A tour on guided-motorbike ?
If you did not bring your own transport from Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh, this is unfortunately so far the only option to visit the surroundings. Drivers are numerous and you should hear from them every 5 minutes when walking the town. This is an advantage to negotiate the price down a bit.

There are basically two tours :

- Kep : 24km away, about 40mn on an acceptable and very scenic road. As there is basically only one street in Kep, you should require to go as far as possible. Most drivers will however only reluctantly agree to go beyond the tiny market as the road soon gets bad. After checking the few fishermen houses behind the market, the next stop should be the two small beach areas : a tiny rocky one with a few coconuts trees and the main one with the "mermaid-with-legs" statue. Then you may see a place where monkeys get food from locals, then a place where locals get food from money. And that's about it. Off course, as the boss, you are free to tailor-made your visit but options are limited. 
On the way back to Kampot, make sure to stop at a small hill dotted with a few pagodas. There is a sculpted gate & a small path on the right. The view from the top of the stairs is certainly nice but the main attractions are two caves, one filled with active bats, the other one deeper. Both are easy to explore as there are stairs but bring a flashlight anyway. 
Except if you went to the island from Kep, the above should definitively not take you a full day. You should therefore insist to visit Tek Chhouu Falls as well. 8km away to the north of Kampot, those are not at all impressive falls but small rapids. The scenery alongside the river and durian plantations is nevertheless worth the trip. During Sundays, the place is busy with locals who come here to rest on tubes and picnic. Just before the rapids, there is a small zoo & plantation which charge foreigners $2 while local people pay only R1000...
The normal requested price for this one day tour is $5. I was asked $4 only as my driver had to bring someone from Kep back to Kampot. This was perfect as it left me the time to walk back from the market, a pleasant 5km journey, but definitively not as nice as around Kampot itself...

- Bokor Hill Station : 42km away on a bad road. I did not go but people who have done it recommend it (if you experienced it, feel free to participate !). The weather is usually overcast, leaving little opportunities for admiring the great panorama up to the sea. The main reason to visit is therefore the charm of this ghost town with the former huge casino & old Catholic Church. Waterfalls & wildlife also awaits you, together with rangers who will collect the $2 entry fee. They can also provide some kind of accomodation (maybe a matt on the floor) if you have another $5 to separate with. For this more challenging trip, drivers usually ask $10 but some got it down to as low as $7.

Walking Kampot ?
Most people walk a bit the colonial streets of Kampot then jump on a tour. The surrounding fishermen & Cham villages are however well worth exploring on foot (that's free !). I actually found them more charming and interesting than Kep, with also the nicest piece of sand (a tiny private river-beach to be exact) of the area. There are plenty of walks around but I can recommend two only :
- Cross the bridge, turn left and try to follow the river along fishermen' houses. At the level of the Governor's Residence on the other side, an house boost a big garden plus a tiny piece of clean sand. 
- Do not cross the bridge, pass the Governor's Residence and continue straight ahead on the dirt road. You will reach colorful Cham villages within 30mn. 

 << Discover a few water scenery


Backpacker's Tips : Arnie, Germany (April 01)
 For the Bokor National park there is now an entrance fee for foreigners of 20,000 KHR (free for locals). 32 km bumpy road by moto or 4-wheel car up to the hill, but worth a visit. The Hollywood movie "Beneath the Banyan Tree" was made in Kampot and Bokor on March 2001. Top on the hill from Bokor is a beautiful waterfall after a 30 min walk. There is also a colorful pagoda with a monastery / The train from Phnom Penh to Kampot now takes 8 hours but wonderful scenic view from the roof / Value for money is the Borey Bokor Hotel with all facilities for Sgl 10

Leaving Kampot ?

To Kep : Motorbike taxi are unfortunately the only regular option for $3 (sometimes down to $2). The 25km ride takes around 40mn on a correct road. On Sunday or holidays, local people flock there for lunch and it should therefore be possible to hitch your way.

To Phnom Penh : A colorful train from Sihanoukville circulate on odd days. It should pass at around 12am and arrive at around 6pm. It is free for westerners as safety is not guaranteed / Minibus (K6000) or taxi ($3), leaving when full, are faster (3 hours) & safer but less interesting...

To Sihanoukville : The reverse train from Phnom Penh, circulating on even days, should pass at around 12am and arrive at around 5pm. The only safer & faster (3 hours) option are taxi leaving when full for R10000

Backpacker's Tips : Helle-Mai and Jarek, Estonia & Poland (March 04)
 Between Kampot and Shinoukville there is now almost excellent road (only bridges are not completely finished yet, but that will happen fast as signs stated special loans from World Bank), wide and smooth, 1.5 hour in not overcrowded (3 in back seat) shared taxi (10 000R pp). 

A day tour to Kep

The trip to Sihanoukville : SSSS / L&R / R10000 / 3 hrs / Taxi
After the pick-up truck, the express boat, the train, the bus, the slow boat and the minibus, finally the taxi ! Well, this is at least how it is referred to... As for me, I would rather describe this mode of transportation as a rushing car filled with crushed people...
Indeed, this was another record day : 10 inside ! 8 adults plus two kids. Even the driver shared his seat ! In such circumstances, it is better to seat in the back than to share the narrow seat next to the driver. 
The first part of the trip was flat and therefore rushy. Too rushy actually to dream at the view. But when we eventually slowed down, it was on a very bad and therefore bumpy road. Too bumpy actually to dream at anything except arriving fast. 
No, it was not so bad as it was in a few sections a good reminder of the Poipet - Siem Reap road with its lovely elephant's holes. Ah nostalgia ! This road could as well be really fun after heavy rain. I understood fast why minibus could not do the run but what about introducing pick-up truck in this part of Cambodia ? This would add to the experience to be shaken outside and get mug splash !
Anyway, this section lasted a bit more than one hour and only because our driver was taking his time to negotiate around each hole. Indeed, his taxi was still good looking. With an older looking vehicle, drivers are not so picky : they go straight into the holes ! Passengers certainly appreciate the gain of time...
The last part, the road from Phnom Penh, was excellent and therefore speedy. We arrived soon afterward on an empty wide street which was presented to me as central Sihanoukville. This was hard to believe as I had always imagined Sihanoukville to be a busy big town. But no, there was no mistake : hotels were in sight...

See also the trip from Phnom Penh