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Travel Report: The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

Praek Tuek Chhu River in Kampot.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

August 2020. There’s a charming languor to the Cambodian city of Kampot. On my first visit here with Wonderboy in 2015, we both remarked on how it felt more like a small town than a city. The kind of place where you can (and we did) while away an entire day in the cafes and bars of the colonial old quarter.

Visit Kampot Cambodia.

The Old Quarter, Kampot.

Imagine then, just how lazy the vibe was when Sladja and I arrived in the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Stripped of tourists, we found Kampot reduced to something more fitting of a village.

It was just what we were looking for! A place from which we could a) not catch COVID and b) contentedly cocoon ourselves teaching and blogging online.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River Kampot.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River.

At the very heart of Kampot’s lovely laziness, stands The Praek Tuek Chhu River, known among expats simply as The Kampot River. Immediately, Sladja and I loved the little breeze that comes in off the water. Something definitely lacking in the dustbowl city centre of Siem Reap. Running north through downtown Kampot, the river was a constant in our everyday lives during our two month stay.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

Promenade The Praek Tuek Chhu River Kampot.

Kampot promenade.

Each day, to fend off the claustrophobia of all the time we spent in front of our computer screens, we’d take the fifteen minute walk into the old quarter from our guesthouse.

Another little victory Kampot had over Siem Reap was its pedestrianised promenade on the river’s eastern bank. In fact, it felt positively liberating to walk unmolested by aggressive street dogs and maniacal tuk tuks.

Lunch by The Praek Tuek Chhu River Kampot.

Lunch by the river.

Not that Kampot’s promenade is particularly pretty. In truth, it’s somewhat rundown, with broken tiles, peeling paintwork, discarded litter and scurrying rats. Nonetheless, you’ll find plenty of locals picnicking on the stone ledge and grubby benches.

Fishermen Praek Tuek Chhu River Kampot.

Fishermen doing their thing.

It’s also common to see a group of local men roll up on their motorbikes. Within a few minutes they’ve unpacked all their fishing gear, happily settled in for the afternoon.

Kampot Travel Guide

The Praek Tuek Chhu River.

From dusk til dawn, no matter what the weather, Kampot’s river vista is nothing less than gorgeous. Beautifully framed by the rolling hills of Bokor National Park.

The Kampot River.

Firefly River Cruise Kampot.

The Firefly Cruise, Kampot.

Back in 2015 Wonderboy and I took one of the many cruises that ran from the promenade. If memory serves me well, we jumped on The Firefly Cruise. Timed for sunset, this slow, lingering journey took us deep into the countryside along provincial villages and remote guesthouses.

Sunset over the Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

Sunset over The Praek Tuek Chhu River. December 2015.

The colours were just extraordinary! And of course we got to see the fireflies themselves glowing away in trees and bushes. Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and nearly all the river cruises had been cancelled due to lack of demand.

Nevertheless, the river continues to come alive in the early evening. Around sunset, you can watch all the fishing boats heading out to sea for the nightly catch. It’s a lovely sight, the gentle hum of engines proving strangely hypnotic.

There are a number of cafes and bars overlooking Praek Tuek Chhu. Kampot Ice Cream Palace is a great little bakery-restaurant with an outdoor seating area. They do traditional Khmer dishes, western breakfasts and an awesome selection of cakes and cookies. Especially the lemon meringue pie. More on these guys in a later post.


River views from Kampot Pie and Ice Cream Palace.

Moreover, a number of fancy hotels have rooms overlooking the river. On the eastern side, Rikitikitavi has a wonderful river panoramic from its treehouse restaurant.

On the western side, it’s impossible to miss the giant Kampot View Boutique Hotel. Pictured below on a deliciously overcast day, seemingly under attack from an absolute beast of a cloud.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

Kampot View Boutique Hotel.

Kampot View Boutique Hotel.

One afternoon, while out jogging, I decided to go and have a look. The bored receptionist was more than happy to arrange for someone to show me one of their double suites. Right enough, there was an excellent balcony view. As there should be for the kind of rates they quoted me!

River views from Kampot View Boutique Hotel.

The New Bridge.

There are several notable bridges spanning the Praek Tuek Chhu River. Of these, the most iconic is The Old French Bridge (Entanou Bridge) pictured below. Built in the 1920s, it was once a grand old structure with impressive steel arches.

French Bridge Kampot.

The Old French Bridge.

But of course The Khmer Rouge destroyed it during their campaign of hate in the mid 1970s. Later on, following a rebuilding project, the bridge got smashed up again by the invading Vietnamese in 1979.

While nowhere near its former glory, today’s bridge has a certain charm, thanks to its clumsy mishmash of materials. Furthermore, it’s fun (albeit a bit hairy) to cross on foot, as motos and bicycles whizz past you. Quite literally brushing the hairs on your arms as they go.

The Old French Bridge.

The Old French Bridge Kampot Cambodia.

The Old French Bridge.

Pylons at either end stop cars and tuk tuks from entering. They have to take The New Bridge, seen in the earlier photo from Kampot View Boutique Hotel.

Further upstream, and something of a hidden secret to the casual traveller, is the immensely fascinating Old Railway Bridge. Straddling a fine section of the river, this imposing 1920s structure makes for a wonderful stroll.

The Colonial Railway Bridge Kampot.

The Old Railway Bridge.

Sladja and I crossed it one burning hot afternoon in the hopes of seeing a train rattle by. Unfortunately, (for me at least), our luck wasn’t in. But it was still a thrill to walk onto the bridge via a gravelly stretch of open track.

On the Old French Railway Bridge Kampot.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

There’s a staggering lack of information online about the bridge. Hence we had to make do with simply drinking in the river views and reading all the bits of graffiti. Not the ideal place to go, perhaps, if one is feeling depressed. I do hope he/she made it to the other side.

Graffiti Old Railway Bridge Kampot

The Old Railway Bridge, Kampot.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River flows for just over 21 kilometres from downtown Kampot, culminating in the large Kamchay Hydropower Dam. The further you follow the river out of town, the more majestic it becomes. One of the most picturesque sections can be viewed from Nibi Spa, already reviewed on these pages.

The Praek Tuek Chhu River, Kampot.

Nibi Spa in Kampot.

The Kampot River from Nibi Spa.

Just across from Nibi, there’s the excellent Greenhouse Bungalows. The huts are very simple, but do at least have a modern toilet. Best of all, each bungalow comes with a wooden porch, where you can watch the world go by from a chair or hammock.

Even if you don’t stay overnight, Greenhouse is one of the province’s best lunch spots. More on that in my roundup of Cool Spots Around Kampot.

River views Greenhouse Bungalows Kampot.

Greenhouse Guesthouse, Kampot.

Finally, some say the ultimate Kampot River experience is a morning kayaking through the so-called Green Cathedral. This section follows a curve in the river, creating what feels like a series of thick jungle tunnels. Nearly all nearby guesthouses rent out kayaks and safety gear for a small fee.

The Green Cathedral The Praek Tuek Chhu River.

The Green Cathedral.

Like this? Read more of my travel reports from Kampot.

Or go further afield with my many articles from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • rajanisingh885721172

    Beautiful blog

    February 3, 2021 - 8:53 am Reply
  • PedroL

    The old railway Bridge is stylish eheh wonderful places you show in this post, thanks 🙂 regards, PedroL

    February 3, 2021 - 11:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers PedroL! Appreciate the comment.

      February 3, 2021 - 11:26 am Reply
      • PedroL

        Thanks 🙂 PedroL

        February 3, 2021 - 4:46 pm
  • Memo

    I like some pedestrian promenades better than beaches. Especially if they have an interesting view on the other side and minimal boat traffic like this one. Great places to settle in with a good read or just sit doin’ nothin’.

    February 3, 2021 - 5:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Couldn’t agree more. As much as I love a good beach, that sand is usually a pain in the ass. A bench overlooking a river or a lake is every bit as good and certainly less hassle.

      February 3, 2021 - 6:35 pm Reply
  • Vansh Tiwari

    I even haven’t seen the images of Kampot anywhere before. The streets looks beautiful similar like one’s in Goa.

    February 3, 2021 - 8:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked the article and yes, I can see some similarities between the architecture in Kampot and in Panjim. Thanks for reading!

      February 3, 2021 - 8:40 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Kampot’s colorful colonial buildings are stunning! But it’s definitely the Praek Tuek Chhu River which really is eye-catching, especially with the shot you took of the trees’ reflections along the water. Looks like the perfect place to set up shop for a couple of months, and it looked to be a good choice for you in the end!

    February 4, 2021 - 5:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked Kampot’s vibe. It was indeed the perfect base for a few months. And a nice contrast to the dust and stone of Siem Reap.

      February 4, 2021 - 8:44 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Great pictures. The Praek Tuek Chhu River looks beautiful, especially the Green Cathedral section.

    February 4, 2021 - 12:41 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading guys!

      February 4, 2021 - 12:58 pm Reply

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