What a place. Totally in love with this part of the coast (and motorbikes).
Kampot is a little languid, pretty tidy and a touch fancy compared to other Cambodian towns I’ve seen so far. Perhaps its proximity to the capital and the coast lends it some vibes and more cash. The air seems cooler and stepping out at night was like being stroked by the air instead of slapped. I may be romanticising and caught it on a good day, but either way, I like it.
Hired another motorbike and packed in 100km+ easily with an early start. Got used to leaning into the bends on the bike , loving this bike with an engine.
Phnom Bokor National Park
A short zip out of the town along some refreshing asphalt took me to the road through these here hills into Phnom Bokor National Park. It’s a fun, wind-y road as you make your ascent into the mist, with foresty woodland on one side and the opening expanse of the coastline on the other side. Right up my bloody street.
There’s a bunch of stuff along the way, including the ‘Black Palace’, a waterfall and another massive Buddha statue, but the main event is the creepy as hell Bokor Hill Station – an abandoned and decrepit French colonial retreat at the top. The retreat was built in 1921 to give the French colonials and their more temperate sensitivities a rest from the unrelenting heat of the plains below (I dig that). The views are mega.
The hill top is like a setting for an end of days fantasy and this ruined old hotel the centrepiece of a Tim Burton/Grand Budapest Hotel hybrid. And you can just go and wander around for free 🙂
And off to Kep
A further 30km or so around the coast and I hit the glorious, fascinating, sleepy, semi-abandoned fishing town of Kep. Not quite sure what I did (apart from work on my sun burn) as there’s not a great deal to do, but very, very happily pootled around sponging it all in. The main streets of Kep hug the coastline real close and I just couldn’t get photos to get the twists and turns all in sadly, but I won’t be forgetting it in a hurry. Sunset was epic.
The main draw however is the architecture and history. Kep was developed in the late French colonial period (1050-60s) as a sort of French Riviera of South East Asia, with stunning, palatial mansions designed in a coming together of French modernism and traditional Khymer stylings. It had a hey day for sure, with celebs, royals and all other wealthy folk swanning down to this coastal gem for weekends from Phnom Penh and further afield. I wish I could see it now.
After Cambodia gained it’s independence and the Khymer Rouge ascended there wasn’t long left for such opulence. The Khymer Rouge’s vision of pure agrarian and communist society rejected all foms of modernism and wealth, including the design, architecture and engineering of Kep town and so the vast majority of the villas were torn down.
There are remains of villas you can see (much better photos here than I was able to get) but mostly the only remnants are the overgrown gates and walls of former compounds that now provide shade for wandering cows. Fascinating and I desperately want to go back again with more time.
Kep today is more famous for its crabbing scene and lively fishing. I stopped by on my way back to soak up the sunset as the fisher women cleared up their gear and prepared their crabbing baskets for tomorrow’s catch.
And last but not least, there is a GIANT CRAB IN THE SEA AND IT WANTS TO DAY HELLO.