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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot Cambodia.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

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July-September 2020. Most travellers only spend a few days in the city of Kampot, using it as a base for nearby Bokor National Park. Indeed the majority of blog articles focuses exclusively on the park and a scattering of other provincial sites, such as La Plantation.

One advantage of spending two months here is that we could make time for the road less travelled, uncovering some fascinating and largely ignored sights. Moreover, we got to know some of the locals and expats who live here, which helped us get under the skin of the place. Following my individual location reports, here’s my roundup of Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Kampot Travel Guide

The Old Quarter.

One of the joys of a visit to Kampot is a stroll around its Old Quarter, thanks to its lovely rows of French colonial buildings.

A little further down the river, near Kool Kampot Guesthouse, stands a trio of gorgeous structures, often overlooked by the casual visitor. The first of these is Kampot Provincial Museum, an exhibition of regional life hosted within the former French Governor’s Mansion.

Kampot Provincial Museum Cool Spots Around Kampot

Kampot Provincial Museum.

Unfortunately for us, the museum remained closed for the whole of August and September, despite our many attempts to visit. Normally, they open seven days a week between the hours of 0800-1100 and 1400 to 1700. According to online reviews, the museum is very low key, but hey entry is just $2.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

The Provincial Hall Cool Spots Around Kampot.

The Provincial Hall.

Next door to The Provincial Museum, stands the dramatic Provincial Hall. Although designed in the traditional Khmer style, it’s actually a modern building dating back to the 1990s. As functional government offices you can’t actually go inside, but it was still cool to grab an exterior shot.

National Bank of Cambodia Kampot.

National Bank of Cambodia.

Completing the trio is Kampot’s branch of The National Bank of Cambodia. Beautifully restored from a dilapidated old colonial townhouse, the centre opened in 2015. During our stay the gate to the compound was kept shut, except by appointment. Thus I had to snatch my photo through the iron bars.

The Durian Roundabout Cool Spots Around Kampot

The Durian Roundabout.

While on a Kampot walking tour, it’s also fun to go roundabout hunting! The city centre is home to a number of unusual and quirky roundabouts. Take the Durian Roundabout, for example, the city’s charming homage to the world’s most divisive fruit. Loathed by the majority of westerners for its unbearable smell, many Asians adore the durian.

The Durian Roundabout.

The Durian statue Roundabout Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

What’s more, Kampot is Cambodia’s durian capital, with around 1300 hectares of farmland producing over 1200 tonnes of durian per year. Much like the fruit itself, I found the roundabout both ugly and transfixing.

Seals roundabout Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

I’m not sure what message they were going for with The Seals Roundabout, just across from The Rusty Keyhole Boat House Restaurant. I can just about swallow the notion that nearby Chhak Kep Bay is one of the world’s most beautiful coastal strips.

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As for the seals, I’m a bit lost as to why they’re there. Despite also being one of Kampot’s ugliest roundabouts, I’d still find a place for it in my never-to-be-published Kampot Roundabouts coffee table book.

Salt Workers Roundabout Kampot.

Salt Miners Roundabout.

A more noteworthy Kampot landmark is the Salt Workers Roundabout, which stands in tribute to the region’s long history of salt production. They say there are over 1600 salt farmers across Kampot province. In 2020 Kampot produced over 84000 tonnes of salt.

The Salt Fields.

Salt fields Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

One afternoon, Sladja and I went to see the salt fields themselves. It was the off season, hence the road was dead and the empty fields looked quite ghostly. Due to its close proximity to the ocean, farmers manipulate the local waterways to let in water. They then block those waterways and wait for everything to evaporate, leaving behind salt crystals.

Salt fields Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

It really felt like an apocalyptic scene that afternoon, especially with the large, hulking warehouses that store all the raw salt. During the farming season, which runs from December to April, one can also visit Kampot Salt Museum. It’s a small centre that provides a brief overview of the local industry. Furthermore, one can buy a chunky bag of local salt for $2.

Muslim Fishing Village Kampot.

Muslim Fishing Village.

Staying with the water theme, Kampot’s rural roads also gave us the chance to add to our collection of Cambodian fishing villages. In Siem Reap province, we saw the amazing stilted villages of Kampong Khleang and Kampong Phluk. In contrast, Kampot’s Muslim Fishing Village (known locally as Phum Nesath) is a tiny little community with low-rise stilt houses and a single narrow waterway.

Muslim Fishing Village Cool Spots Around Kampot

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

As with their Siem Reap counterparts, village life revolves round fishing and boat building. Most days, locals will take these boats, moored in the main street, out to sea to fill their nets. It was a brief but fun tour and the locals were really friendly, with one old man even posing for my camera.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Muslim fisherman Kampot Cambodia.

Muslim Fishermen Village.

Back in Kampot’s city centre, one of our chief complaints about daily life was the general absence of a park or extended green space. That said, there is the Lotus Pond, a giant deep green bowl of pretty lily pads. It really is lovely and, surprisingly, as large as some of the waters we saw at the lotus farms of Siem Reap.

Lotus Pond Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Lotus Pond.

On occasion, it’s possible to see local men and women in the pond, up to their chests in water. This often happens early in the morning at daybreak so they can take bags of lotus stems to the local markets. In Cambodia lotus stems often find their way into salads. The seeds meanwhile, can be eaten raw, while the flower itself decorates traditional Khmer dishes, such as Beef Lok Lak.

Lotus Pond Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

A short walk from the pond, lies one of Kampot’s quirkiest spots. This is the abandoned Jue Ming Chinese school, which dates back to the early 1920s. You can’t miss it, what with its bright pink facade and traditional upturned roof.

Jue Ming Chinese School Cool Spots Around Kampot

Jue Ming Chinese School.

We first heard about the school in an excellent article by the Australian blogger Emily from wander-lush.org. Having spent so many years living in China, I was naturally keen to take a look. In the article, dated November 2019, she mentions that the school is still in use, serving Kampot’s Chinese community.

The Chinese School.

Old Chinese School Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

However, when we poked our heads into the main courtyard one afternoon, it was clear the place is now in some considerable state of decay. The classrooms were boarded up, with piles of stacked chairs and tables visible through the grimy windows. It was so quiet we initially didn’t notice the caretaker sat at a desk in the corner.

Caretaker Chinese School Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Oh shit, this is probably trespassing, I remember thinking. But Mr. Caretaker simply gave us a nod before returning to the task of clipping his nails. In any case, we figured it was probably best to start making tracks. So we headed outside to see the neglected, overgrown playground.

Playground abandoned Chinese school Kampot

Volleyball?

Seems like there hasn’t been much sporting action here for a while. Although, amusingly, there are a couple of volleyballs neatly stored between the bars of a classroom window. Just in case.

No Strings Attached.

No Strings Attached, Cool Spots Around Kampot.

Patrick.

Within the old quarter the scene is almost exclusively dominated by cafes, restaurants and bars. One building that stands out is No Strings Attached, a music shop on Street 703. We wandered in one day and got a warm welcome from Patrick, one of the store’s French co-owners.

Guitar store Kampot.

No Strings Attached.

A talented saxophonist since childhood, Patrick left a background in business to come to manage a music store in “this dynamic little town in Cambodia”.

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In addition to selling a wide range of musical instruments and accessories, No Strings does repairs and offers music classes through their network of professional musicians. Patrick’s business partner Max meanwhile, “the guitar expert”, is in a local band, Trousers Down, that plays live shows across town.

No Strings Attached Kampot.

Cool Spots Around Kampot.

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.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

23 Comments

  • vermavkv

    nice blog..
    thank you for sharing

    February 7, 2021 - 10:19 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      February 7, 2021 - 10:23 am Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Really like the style of the National Bank of Cambodia building and of course those lotus ponds!

    February 7, 2021 - 1:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Marion!

      February 7, 2021 - 2:49 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    It’s always nice to to take the road less travelled sometimes, it makes for a more authentic experience. The lotus pond looks beautiful. I’ve never seen something like that before.

    February 7, 2021 - 4:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      So happy that the lotus ponds appealed to you. Thanks for reading!

      February 7, 2021 - 4:33 pm Reply
  • Memo

    These round up articles are some of my favorites – a chance for you to bring in fascinating spots that aren’t large enough to justify individual treatment. The Lotus Pond must really be something when it’s full of blooms but I have to say the roundabouts were plain terrific. I’d buy your coffee table book.

    February 7, 2021 - 5:33 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re exactly right about the round up articles. It’s also the kind of stuff I know doesn’t get covered by most other blogs. When we eventually make it to Oaxaca, expect that roundabout book as a gift!

      February 7, 2021 - 5:48 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Love the variety of pictures, so much to see! I’ve never stayed somewhere else so long!

    February 7, 2021 - 5:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked it Lyssy! I think two months was just the right amount of time for Kampot.

      February 7, 2021 - 5:48 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Waiting for the coffee table book on roundabouts 🙂 Maggie

    February 7, 2021 - 8:46 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I’ll drop you one in the post! 😉

      February 7, 2021 - 9:04 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Wow, there looks to be more than what meets the eye in and around Kampot! The French colonial buildings like the Provincial House and National Bank of Cambodia really give off the European history behind the country, and the salt fields look impressive (and even more well-maintained than the ones I’ve seen in Malta). The Durian roundabout is an amusing one, although I would never dare to try durian; I’ve only ever had it as a paste in dessert, and I was incredibly put off by the smell and taste to even finish eating it! Looks like there are plenty of gems to check out, and such places are great to keep in mind should I go to Cambodia someday!

    February 7, 2021 - 10:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m with you on the durian. The smell is just awful, I’m not sure I could keep it down once I’d swallowed it. Glad Kampot caught your eye Rebecca, thanks for following another series! I will be back to Kampot next month with a full food and drink guide.

      February 7, 2021 - 10:54 pm Reply
  • jasonlikestotravel

    Looks like an interesting place, pleased you got to spend so long and experience it fully. The provincial hall building looks stunning. I love the unique roundabouts too!

    February 7, 2021 - 11:38 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Jason, appreciate the feedback. I’ve been enjoying your photo challenge posts.

      February 7, 2021 - 11:40 pm Reply
      • jasonlikestotravel

        Thank you! It has helped me get back in to some sort of blogging groove haha.

        Starting to post consistently and also managing to keep relatively up to date with everyone else’s posts!

        February 7, 2021 - 11:43 pm
  • rkrontheroad

    The roundabouts were a fun surprise! I loved the reflections at the salt farm.

    February 9, 2021 - 8:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m glad so many people have been tickled by those roundabouts. Thanks for reading Ruth!

      February 9, 2021 - 10:48 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    These groupings of different things end up giving the atmosphere of the city. I am always amazed by the number of expats, especially French, who have settled in the Cambodian discomfort, there must be an attraction somewhere.

    February 9, 2021 - 11:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I love this description, “the Cambodian discomfort”. There’s a lot of truth in that. It can be hard work at times, despite the kind people and the incredible history.

      February 9, 2021 - 11:55 pm Reply
  • thejourneyndestination

    It looks like a lovely destination to explore! The roundabouts are fascinating!

    February 10, 2021 - 8:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Maybe I will do that roundabout coffee book one day.

      February 10, 2021 - 8:58 am Reply

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