When I first arrived to Kampot I had a slightly feeling of déjà vu. Next to a big river, with its quiet streets and colonial buildings, it seemed a larger version of Kratie. That was a town I had really enjoyed, so I knew I would like Kampot.
Kampot by walk: colonial town
Kampot is a very walkable town, so I did a lot of walks there. My days always started in the day market, where, between fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and alive chickens, I found my favorite breakfast: rice filled with banana and grilled in a banana leaf.
With my breakfast in hand, I walked to the riverside where there are benches facing the nice views over the river. During the weekend, I shared the place with the children playing in the park. I was very lucky with the weather: all days I had a completely clear, blue sky reflecting on the river.
Kampot is known for its architecture. There are a few wooden houses but it mainly consists on colonial buildings, many of which are being converted to guesthouses. The town is developing very fast, I met people who had been there a few years ago and told me how much it had changed. So far, in a positive way.
I liked the relaxed atmosphere. There was not a lot of traffic, tuk tuk drivers did not insist when I told them I preferred to walk, and I could see hammocks in front of most houses. In fact, the most dangerous thing there was not the traffic but the dogs, who cautiously guarded the houses, and scared me several times.
It was interesting to find some nice street art in Kampot, which I discovered thanks to a friend I had met in Kep. This is the great part of walking: you move slow enough to be able to observe all around, and find some interesting hidden spots.
Kampot has some nice statues, and I liked to pass by them whenever I was walking around. I specially liked the collectors of salt and the durian fruit. In the evening, my walks ended with the views of the sunset over the river.
By bicycle: salt fields
One of the highlights of Kampot are the salt fields which are located outside the town. They are a bit too far to go on foot, but a good distance for a bicycle tour. So one morning my friend from Kep and me rented a bicycle and went to explore.
We left the town and took the main road in direction to Kep. We thought we could see the salt fields from the road but we did not see them. So we rode and rode, and had probably done 10 or 15km when we finally decided to turn right and test our chance. That was hard, the bicycles we had rented were not done for that kind of dirt path, but we went along and… found the salt fields! Yeah!
By then it was mid morning and very hot. We met several people working on the fields, they were flattening the terrain to prepare it to be filled with water. They were completely covered in order to protect the skin from the strong sun… that is a hard job.
At some point my friend and me split, she turned right to find the main road while I kept following the path. A bit later, the path was suddenly over. Refusing to undo all my way back, I went on foot walking on the borders of the fields, pushing the bicycle, which was very hard. At some point I found a hut… and a dog jumped on me. ‘Oh no, not again!’.
The owner called him off and when the dog left me alone I realized with dismay that next to the hut, in front of me, there was a river. True, there was a kind of “bridge” done with a few woods that I could somehow cross on foot, but no way I could take the bicycle.
I looked at the man. He was wearing only underclothes, showing that he had only one leg (a victim of a landmine?). We tried to talk, but he did not speak a word of English, and I knew only one word of Khmer, so it was difficult. He signaled me to sit next to him, removed his leg, took his phone and called a number that was written in the inside part of the leg. Then, he gave me the phone.
I talked with a woman who spoke English, and told her I was lost and trying to get back to Kampot. I gave him back the phone, he listened and smiled in understanding. He put back his leg, got dressed, asked another man to help me with the bicycle, and signaled me to follow him to the bridge. On the other side of the river, he took a motorbike and I followed behind with the bicycle. He lead me between more salt fields until we found the main road. I could not thank him enough.
Once, someone told me that the most amazing experiences happen when you get lost. For me, that experience in Kampot summarizes very well the spirit of Cambodia: its people have suffered a lot, but they are very welcoming and helpful.
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