Our pick of the bunch
Cambodia’s worst-kept secret, Kampot is a quietly captivating town with a habit of creeping up on travellers until you realise you’ve stayed longer than intended. Whether you’re seeking riverside relaxation, or something a little closer to what’s happening in town, Kampot has rich, and good value, pickings.
Families looking to unwind and escape from it all should head to Les Manguiers first. This extensive resort has plenty to entertain: waterspouts, a volleyball court, games, a climbing frame for kids, and huge, shady lawns perfect for just flopping on, which we all know is most teenagers’ activity of preference.
If Les Manguiers is full, then nearby Champa Lodge offers a similar — not quite as elaborate — space and riverside vibe, with plenty to divert the kids as well.
If the kids are slightly older — late teens — then Villa Vedici could be a good option. There’s a distinct flashpacker party vibe going on here, but it’s nowhere near as full-on as other places in town. But they also have plenty of water sports and diversions to keep them out of your hair while you make the most of the pool.
Thanks to the river, other than Villa Vedici, not many places in town do actually offer a pool. Ganesha Kampot has a large pond that guests can swim in if they wish. We didn’t get to check it out, but people we know recommend Two Moons Hotel, which is just south of the town centre on the riverside, and has a large open-air pool.
Travellers on a tight budget should make for Banyan Tree or Pepe & The Viking, where you can pick up a dorm bed for as little as $3 (Banyan Tree), or $4 (Pepe & The Viking). Banyan Tree is right on the river, and offers live music, waterway fun, and a super-relaxed vibe, while Pepe & The Viking is right in the centre of town on the busy riverside strip.
If you have a little more to spend, dorm beds can be had for as little as $6 at Arcadia. It’s further away from town, so transport costs will have to be factored in as well, though it does offer by far the best backpacker facilities on this side of the river, with tons of things to do in between heavy duty hammock swinging. The same applies for those looking to party. Banyan Tree hosts live music gigs every Friday night, and Arcadia looks ready to kick things off at the drop of an inflatable ring.
If backpacking (or backpackers) isn’t your thing but you’re still on a budget, you could try Ny Ny Guesthouse or Raksmey Kampuchea, both of which are excellent, uncomplicated Cambodian guesthouses, with good staff and a simple approach. Rooms start at $8 at Ny Ny and $10 at Raksmey Kampuchea.
If you want to splurge though, well, actually it’s difficult to splurge in Kampot. There are no really high-end spots, but The Columns looks like it could be despite the fact that the rooms start at $45. In a beautifully restored row of shops, The Columns is a centrally located, romantic and sophisticated spot from which to explore the town.
Food lovers should make a beeline straight for The Greenhouse. Not only is this a beautiful riverside location, with wooden bungalows spread around mature, vibrant gardens, but the restaurant serves up a delicious, beautifully prepared menu of Khmer and French dishes. They even make their own bread. If you need to be closer to town, then Mea Culpa is the next obvious choice. They enjoy a star reputation for their food, especially their wood-fired pizzas, and have a lovely location just outside of the town centre, but only a few minutes walk away.
We can’t do this without mentioning Rikitikitavi, Kampot stalwart and long-time favourite of many. This converted rice barn is one of the smartest and best-run places in town, with a great menu, greater views over the river, and a wonderful location. It only has seven rooms though, so make sure to book in advance.
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
Our top 10 places to stay in and around Kampot