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

Travel Report: Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar Kampot Cambodia.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

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August 2020. There’s a well-worn saying about sleepy towns that goes something like: “It’s small and relaxed, but has everything you need”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the charming Cambodian outpost of Kampot. In fact, one of the things that struck me during our two month stay is how, if we lived here, we’d probably need to go to Phnom Penh every month just to address various needs.

Driving from Kampot to Phnom Penh.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

I was also left ruing the absence of a bookstore. Especially as Kampot is the perfect place to kick back and watch the world go by with a choice paperback. But then, one afternoon, Sladja and I stumbled upon Bookish Bazaar in the old quarter.

Approaching its handsome, balcony-laden facade, at first glance it seems like just another understated, pleasingly languid cafe. Always up for a coffee and a bite, we headed inside where, even by Kampot’s standards, the atmosphere was one of unapologetic laziness.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar book cafe Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

A pair of shaggy dudes sat completely immersed in the tactical battle of a board game. A cat napped on the sofa, while a dog audibly snoozed on the cool tiles of the floor. The cafe’s French owners, Maeve and Niko, shot us nods and smiles, seemingly happy to let us wander a bit before choosing a seat.

Boutique store Bookish Bazaar Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar’s ground floor Boutique.

At the far end of the ground floor, there’s a small but lovingly crafted boutique store that promotes the work of local artists. Sifting through the various tables and shelves, we found artisan dresses, hats and bags. Moreover, there are Kampot and Kep themed handmade greeting cards, fragrant organic soaps and lots of jewellery.

Handmade Kampot greeting cards.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Kampot Arts and Crafts.

It was also fun to rummage through the old cans of vintage Asian photos and postcards. Some of them date as far back as the 1930s and are well protected in little plastic covers.

Vintage photographs and postcards Kampot

According to the sign, the books are upstairs, so up we went, curious to see what kind of bookshop lay in wait. “Oh wow!” I found myself saying out loud, as we emerged into a large, high ceilinged hall home to over seven thousand titles.

Bookish Bazaar cafe and bookstore Kampot

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Opened in 2017, Kampot’s premier book centre started with around five hundred titles imported from Maeve’s native France. Over the years, she says, it has expanded beyond her wildest imagination. Due to the fact that so many bookshops closed in Phnom Penh and nearby Sihanoukville.

Book exchange Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

While the majority of titles are in English and French, there is an array of languages on display, including Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and Swedish. Prices depend on the number of pages. For example, a 150 page title goes for $3, while 500 pagers are priced at $5.

Science fiction books Kampot.

Kampot goes sci-fi.

Furthermore, they also have a decent exchange policy. Bring one book in and get 50% off any title. Or bring two books in and get one back for free.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Balcony table Bookish Bazaar Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

At the back of the top floor there’s a gorgeous little balcony with a much coveted table spot right among all the plants, flowers and trees. So coveted in fact that we never actually got to sit there during our visits to Bookish Bazaar.

Bookish Bazaar Cafe Kampot.

A bookish customer.

Instead, we made do with a ground floor table from which to enjoy our bookish meals. Happily, I can report that the cafe’s appeal extends way beyond the available literature.

iVisa.com

While the menu is somewhat limited, what they do they do very well, with an emphasis on fresh pastries and healthy, beautifully prepared mediterranean food from Maeve’s Spanish/Algerian roots.

Tapas plate Bookish Bazaar Kampot.

Bookish Bazaar’s excellent Tapas Plate.

Our favourite was The Tapas Plate, which can serve two people. It really is a festival of deliciousness, with mixed olives, oily peppers, seasoned feta cubes, toasted bread and crispy tortilla dipped in mayonnaise. They also do paninis, fruit shakes, the usual range of coffees and a house speciality dessert, the Coconut Milk Rice Pudding.

Homemade cookies Bookish Bazaar Kampot

Bookish Bazaar, Kampot.

Usually, on our way home, we’d grab a couple of their chocolate chip cookies, which in my book are the best in town. Since COVID broke Maeve admits business has been slow, with their clientele being almost exclusively expats from Kampot, Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap.

If you find yourself in town, do go and pay them a visit. You can get in touch with Maeve and Niko through their Facebook page.

Bookish Bazaar Cafe logo Kampot Cambodia

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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26 Comments

  • Little Miss Traveller

    What a gorgeous bookstore, it looks so welcoming and what a bonus that it serves food as well. Great that you get such a generous discount when returning books and buying more.

    March 3, 2021 - 11:48 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, this place had me pining a bit for my reading days. I used to be a big reader, but not so much since I got serious with the blogging. If I ever catch up with myself on articles, it would be good to get back to reading. Hope you’re having a fun week.

      March 3, 2021 - 11:57 am Reply
  • John Baumgartner

    Arts and crafts and cookies are my favorites!

    March 3, 2021 - 7:07 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Not a bad combo eh? Thanks for reading John!

      March 3, 2021 - 7:07 pm Reply
  • Nic

    This place looks like a little paradise to me 😊 and the food looks yummy!

    March 3, 2021 - 9:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Nic!

      March 3, 2021 - 10:31 pm Reply
  • Life...One Big Adventure

    That looks like my kinda place! Books and coffee…life doesn’t get any better!

    March 3, 2021 - 11:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad it resonated. Thanks for reading!

      March 3, 2021 - 11:12 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I can never resist bookshops. And what a good process, a book in exchange for two, that’s the solution to the luggage problem!

    March 4, 2021 - 12:00 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s perfect right? Thanks for reading!

      March 4, 2021 - 7:49 am Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    What a cool find! Thanks for sharing Leighton 😀

    March 4, 2021 - 3:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers for reading Lyssy, as ever!

      March 4, 2021 - 8:22 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    A lovely bookstore! No need to take over three hours to get to the city for that anymore! The atmosphere looks laid-back and tranquil, and having some grub and sweets certainly don’t hurt, either. Should I visit Kampot someday, I’ll be sure to keep this place in mind!

    March 4, 2021 - 5:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Rebecca. I hope these places I’ve featured make it through these financially testing times. Another of the Siem Reap restaurants we loved so much announced they’ll be closing their doors at the end of March.

      March 4, 2021 - 8:27 am Reply
  • InsideMySlingBag

    Nice place Leighton, very welcoming, relaxing, gorgeous and generous for sure!

    March 4, 2021 - 7:47 am Reply
  • Lingo in Transit

    What a lovely bookstore to relax in- so many things to peruse and eat.

    March 4, 2021 - 10:00 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Not a bad place to have on your doorstep during coronavirus right? Thanks for reading!

      March 4, 2021 - 10:01 am Reply
  • Vivi

    A quiet and peaceful place… Love to visit someday

    March 4, 2021 - 7:26 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Vivi!

      March 4, 2021 - 7:49 pm Reply
  • Memo

    My perfect place. Coffee and a book. When I need exercise, I can browse the shelves. When I get tired, I can snooze with the dog. I’d have to have a turn at the balcony table every so often though.

    March 8, 2021 - 11:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You might have to put your boxing gloves on for the balcony table!

      March 9, 2021 - 8:12 am Reply
  • jasonlikestotravel

    Looks like an incredible place to sit and enjoy a read. Hope they survive the difficulties of Covid because I’m sure it’ll prove a popular place when things are running a little more smoothly.

    March 17, 2021 - 2:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think they’ll be ok. Just about scraping by on the local expat scene and trickles of domestic tourists. And yeah, as you say when things return to normal I think they’ll do very well.

      March 17, 2021 - 3:05 pm Reply
  • nico

    Not only will we survive covid ,but for next season we are expanding the bookstore , several thousand titles on the way including a large section 6 – 14 ,an antique book section for collectors ,an ebook section ,and for the restaurant side we will be expanding the menu as well 😉 So dont worry when Covid passes we will still be there to greet you

    March 24, 2021 - 5:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Great to hear! Wishing you every success with your expansion plans.

      March 24, 2021 - 5:26 pm Reply

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