With our first week done at work my new friend Anne and I thought it would be great to hit the beach again so we headed down to Kampot, a small provincial town on the south coast.
It’s only a couple of hours away so we took a private taxi so we didn’t have to stick to the bus timetable – a great idea except it took over two and a half hours to get out of the city in the Friday night traffic so we didn’t arrive until 10pm. Traffic in Phnom Penh is pretty insane.
Even though the town is small there is loads of do around the province so we did two organised days tours to make the most of everything.
On Saturday we drove up to Bokor national park, saw the weather station, an old church and the ‘ghost town’ up there. It was really eerie and it was like we were above the clouds as mist had started to roll up the side of the mountain.
We drove round the park before heading to the Popokvil waterfalls for lunch. It was a bit cloudy but I still got really burnt! There used to be loads of animals in the national park, including leopards, but since the government has started building better roads the wildlife has all but disappeared into the depths of the forest.
When we got back into town we had an hour to chill out so we went shopping. Even though Kampot is pretty sleepy, it’s lovely to walk around and look at the old French colonial villas lining the coastal road.
Late afternoon we headed to the pier for a sunset river cruise up the Kampong Bay River. ‘Cruise’ is probably the wrong word for it as the boat was small and very wobbly but it was so relaxing and quiet.
We arrived back to land then after a quick cocktail we got on another boat for a firefly-watching trip! I was so exciting about this and although we didn’t see loads of them, it was amazing to hold the little fireflies in our hands and watch them flashing on the tree.
Back to land again we went to Rikitikitavi, the best restaurant in town, for some Khmer curry.
On Sunday there was no time to relax – we headed out early again in a tuk tuk with Pat our guide and went to the salt fields, a temple and some caves out in the countryside, and what I was here for – the Kampot pepper plantations.
Kampot pepper is geographically recognised, meaning it’s the Champagne of the condiment world! The pepper grows on trees and when the little buds turn red you have red peppercorns, if it’s dried in the sun you get black peppercorns or if the pepper is peeled you get white peppercorns – the most expensive.
The soil here is really rich from the amount of water coming off Bokor mountain and it gives the pepper a really unique taste. We tried a peppercorn right off the tree and it was delicious, nothing like what you get in England. The taste is so full and flavourful – and strong! I bought loads of pepper at the shop then we got back in the tuk-tuk to go to Kep.
About 30 minutes from Kampot, Kep is another coastal town that’s famous for crab. We had a quick lunch at the crab market then got on a boat out to Rabbit Island, a small island about 20 minutes offshore. Apparently the island looks like a rabbit but perhaps this only becomes clear after happy hour!
We chilled/collapsed on the beach for a couple of hours then got the boat back. The sea was getting a bit rough by then and the clouds were rolling in. The typhoon in the Philippines hasn’t hit us yet but you can definitely feel something coming (although it’s likely to just be heavy rain, nothing major). We got back to Kampot at 6pm so after dinner and a few drinks we got back in the taxi and arrived home at midnight.
Now that’s what I call a full on weekend!