Cambodia’s Best Kept Secret: Kampot
While researching my upcoming trip to Cambodia, Kampot didn’t initially even register on the itinerary. A bit of reading and some searching later, and I made the decision to cut my island time in Koh Rong in half (big decision for someone like me who loves the beach) and take a stop in Kampot en-route. And as much as I loved Koh Rong, I couldn’t be happier that I did.
First was the journey to Kampot. Whilst most people recommended a bus or taxi, I had read that a couple of years ago, Cambodia had re-opened its first railway which ran between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, via Kampot. Stoked on this, I thought this could be a great opportunity to experience something a little bit different. After all, who doesn’t like trains?
With everybody I spoke to a little surprised that I was taking the train, I was interested to see what it would turn out like. With the car journey taking about 2 hours, and the train taking about 6, this was rarely frequented by visitors or locals alike. Either way, I turned up at the train station at 6:30am ready for an adventure. The train was 2 carriages – looking like they were from the 1950’s, but restored and modernized to include air conditioning. Our 7am departure was timely at around 7:15, and we slowly trundled through the villages of outer Phnom Penh and out into the countryside. To say that the train moved at any speed would be an overstatement – it was clear as to why the journey took so much longer than the car. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable to watch the countryside go by and experience something a little bit different.
Approximately 2 hours into the journey we came to a grinding halt… turns out that the single-track railway is used by more than one train, and therefore we had to wait in a siding for an opposing train to pass. Which it did after about an hour of waiting. Anticipating a departure shortly afterwards was quickly thwarted, as a little bit of broken communication informed us that there was another train coming in about an hour. So we waited another hour. Suddenly it became obvious why the journey would take so long. Ultimately we were on the move again, and after about 6 hours, arrived into a little station otherwise known as Kampot.
Having researched some hotels, there looked like some great places to stay in this colonial little riverside town. Prior to booking the property I had chosen, however, I came across a blog post about a place called The Greenhouse. This just goes to show how powerful a blog post can be. The Greenhouse is a small collection of thatched bungalows perched on the banks of the Kampot River, upstream from the town. The bloggers had mentioned it was the highlight of their trip, so I became instantly intrigued, and booked it instead.
When I arrived at The Greenhouse, I was instantly blown away and knew this was some place special. The main building is a traditional Khmer house which was originally built in Phnom Penh, but then transported down to Kampot while Phnom Penh underwent its radical transformation into the city it is today. The building serves as the principal hang out and restaurant, and then the rooms are set across the grounds in spacious thatched bungalows. With the price so good, I chose a riverview bungalow – and it was spectacular. The rooms are basic but have everything you need – from clean bedding, to mosquito nets, to hot water in the bathroom. But best of all was the wonderful hammock out on the front balcony.