Tag - South Cambodia

Life in Kampot

Kampot, the perfect town if you’re looking for a place to stay longer

Posted on: June 20th, 2017

Often in our travels we may start to have a kind of overwhelming feeling fading in, due to all the new places we see and new things we learn. We suddenly feel the need to stop somewhere for a longer time, build longer relationships and make friends that are not leaving in the next day. Perhaps this is just to have some time to think and digest all the experiences from our trip.

If this is your case, one decision that you may have been struggling is which kind of place to choose for this purpose. From a bigger city like Phnom Penh, with its many activities but at the same time more hectic lifestyle, to somewhere quiet and with less things to do, like Koh Rong Samloem or Koh Ta Kiev.

Well, maybe Kampot can be the perfect option. It is an alternative that stands in the middle and provides a relaxed environment as well as some events and activities. If you are looking for a place to stay longer and relax from your travels, have a look on some of our arguments to choose Kampot!

It is a sleepy town by the river, with some interesting venues in its center and surrounded by nature and beautiful mountains (for that check out our article on the Kampot’s surroundings). For instance, if you are up to starting your day with some exercise, have a look on the Yoga classes on Simple Things (classes every day except Wednesday) or in the Yoga @ Bantey Srey (which also supports their social enterprise project, delivering training and jobs to local women). If you are more of a couch type of athlete, check Ecran Cinema and Movie House with screenings at 4pm and 7.30pm. They also give you the possibility to rent your own movie room at the time you prefer and even host the Kampot Comedy Club from time to time.

Life in KampotWith a four meters screen, this is the best place in town for watching interesting movies (besides the Khmer mainstream ones of the normal cinemas!)

On the cultural side, you have also Kampot Traditional Music School to learn more about Khmer culture and arts or watch a performance. Moreover, many bars in town host live music, namely the ones around the riverside or the Old Market area. Actually, Kampot is famous for its rock’n’roll bands such as Cambodia Space Project, Kampot Playboys or Bokor Mountain Magic Band. On Wednesday nights you can find an open mic at Magic Sponge guesthouse (8pm onwards), while on Fridays they host a quiz night (7pm onwards).

Alternatively, if your style is more staying at your guesthouse reading on the hammock, have a look at Bookish Bazaar, a highly pleasant café and bookshop with more than 7000 books available for sell or exchange. With the bonus of selling delicious and fresh bakery products, from italian delicacies to cookies and muffins. On the first floor they also have a gallery space hosting some exhibitions.

Life in Kampot

The entrance of the lovely Bookish Bazaar, more often than not with a tempting smell of recently baked goods (but that’s hard to photograph).

An interesting café is also Epic Arts. It not only provides delicious coffee but is also a social business, helping the local community with teaching skills and giving jobs to handicap youth. By the same organization, there’s also the Epic Creations shop with exquisite handicrafts and other products. A perfect place to find that perfect souvenir you are looking for.

Life in Kampot

The trendy Epic Creations shop.

Other great places for shopping are The Kampot Pepper Shop (don’t forget that it’s the main product from this area, considered by many people the best pepper in the world!) or Om fashion and organic shop for beautiful handmade clothes and special organic products such as moringa tree or cosmetics made with coconut oil. Check as well the vintage shop Kampot Head, housed in an old cinema from the sixties.

Life in Kampot

One of the cool remains of the Khmer architecture from the 60’s.

Have a look at the Night Market near the Durian roundabout (especially busy during evenings, where children flock to its tiny but quite kitschy amusement park). It is a funny place to spot locals and make new friends!

If you want to do some activities during the day you can also try the boat trips with the fisherman of the Trapangsangke Fishery Project (which supports the restoration of mangrove forest nearby Kampot). Alternatively, in the same social conscious mindset, you can volunteer at the Kep Garden Association and help their projects (English classes, skills training, among others). If, on the other hand, you are more a night person, head to Banyan Tree for their Friday parties and Naga House on Saturdays. Both guesthouses are on the other side of the river, a beautiful setting for dancing all night long, meet new people from the expat and traveler crowds or watching the sunrise by the river.

Hope we could give you some reasons why staying a bit longer in a charming and calm place like Kampot. It is definitely worth your time and will give back to you meaningful relationships with other like-minded people, in addition to time for you to digest all your traveling experiences… enjoy!

 

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Koh Kong

Koh Kong: a natural hidden gem by the Thai border

Posted on: May 31st, 2017

Koh Kong is the nearest province to Thai border, surrounded by the sea on one side and by the magnificent Cardamoms mountains on the other side. It is an amazing place with intact natural beauty and far away from the main touristic routes.

The main city of the province is Koh Kong city, where you can start most of the excursions. Koh Kong is 5 to 7 hours away from Phnom Penh and the only way to get there is taking the road from Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. Two bus companies are operating: Virak Buntham (which has an office in Koh Kong city) and Olong Pich, which pass by Sihanoukville first. If you want to fully discover this part of Cambodia you need 3 to 4 days, depending on where you come from and head after.

We arrived there on a Friday night, taking a taxi from Phnom Penh, and we went directly to Rithy guesthouse, where I had booked a room. I choose to book at Rithy’s because he is also organizing a lot of tours in the province.

Koh Kong Island & Mangrove Forest

On the first day, we did the Koh Kong island tour: it is a one-day excursion to discover Koh Kong Island. This island is still preserved from tourism and genuinely natural. At first I wanted to spend a night there but none of the hotels answered me on time. There are two hotels on the island: Koh Kong Island Resort and White Sand Villa. If you still want to spend a night on the island, Rithy tour is organizing a 2 days tour on the island where you either sleep in a hammock on the beach or in the only village of the island with the local community.

Coming back to my trip, we spend 2 or 3 hours on the island chilling and eating an excellent grilled BBQ fish, well prepared by our guides! Our group was really nice, which made the day even better! It was even more appreciated when we had to support each other trying to get back on the boat because of the very wavy sea. I almost lost my shoes!!

On the way back, we stopped at the mangrove forest which was really nice especially with the sunset.

Talking about that, be very careful with the sun: it is really hard in this region, especially if you are on the sea and my friend got some blisters because of it. In order to visit the mangrove, you stop at some point with the boat and you walk for around 10 minutes, then the boat is taking you back on another side. At the end of the day, coming back to the pier, we watched the sunset there with a beer. What else do you need?

Koh Kong

Koh Konh Island

Trekking, a night in the jungle & Tatai Waterfall

On the second day we went for a 2 days jungle trek. Don’t worry it is not difficult, everyone that is not 80 years old or hasn’t done sport for ages can do it!

You start at 8am and they bring you by car to the starting point (there is another option for these 2 days: you can a boat in the mangrove and do the hike up to a really good viewpoint). From the starting point we walked 4 to 5 hours with frequent stops all near a river where you can refresh yourself. We ate on the way and we arrived to the camp around 3pm leaving us plenty of time to enjoy this amazing experience. Then it was a great pleasure and a unique experience to swim in the natural swimming pool in front of the camp after this tough day! The camp is just near the river and in the middle on the nature, cutting you out from the rest of the world (also because you don’t have any network!).

Koh Kong

Our Jungle Camp

In the evening we did a fire camp with our guides and spent a really good time trying to understand their card game, which was at the end a Cambodian version of my French game card « the President ». At the end of the evening, we were watching the stars exactly as we were in an astronomy observatory.

Koh Kong

Delicious food and our natural swimming pool

The day after we woke up after the night in the hammock, which were quite comfortable for me and I was not even cold (on the contrary, my friends were freezing, probably also because I brought my sleeping bag). Then, we took our breakfast, did a quick dive in the swimming pool and started walking back. There, a car brought us to the Tatai waterfall, which were pretty nice. You can access by paying 4000 riels the entrance.

Koh Kong

Tatai Waterfall

For our last night, I had booked at Neptune bungalow, along the Tatai River. It was the cheapest one because the other hotels are resorts so a little too expensive. Even Neptune was not so cheap because the bungalow for 2 was 40$ for the night (but you can be 4 if you want). The owner is a very sweet German guy, he cooks for you really good meals and organize excursions like Tatai waterfall or tours on the river. To get there you have to go to the Tatai Bridge, call him and an old Khmer man is taking you there. In the morning we did a little kayaking (you can go up to a small waterfall just within 30m which is really nice!) and swam in the river. This day was really unique and nice because we were totally alone!

Koh Kong

Small waterfall near the river

In the end it was time to go back to Phnom Penh, to real life and to work after this great experience.

Going to Koh Kong is really doing something different than the traditional places everyone is visiting in Cambodia. It is a great preserved natural place, that everyone should experience having some time in Cambodia.

 

This travel memoir has been written by Marie, French expat living in Phnom Penh. Thank you for your precious tips on Koh Kong! 

< Original version in French below! >

 

Koh Kong est la province située en bordure de la Thaïlande. Elle est bordée par  la mer tout en étant entourée par la gigantesque et impressionnante chaine de montagnes des Cardamones. C’est un endroit fantastique qui a gardé tout son charme naturel et reste encore préservé du tourisme

La ville principale de la province est Koh Kong city à partir de laquelle vous pouvez commencer la plupart des excursions à travers la province. Elle se situe à 5 à 7 heures de bus depuis Phnom Penh. En effet, les seules routes pour y accéder viennent de Sihanoukville et Phnom Penh. Deux compagnies de bus desservent cette destination : Virak Buntham (qui possède un bureau à Koh Kong ce qui est plutôt pratique) et Olong Pich, qui passe par Sihanoukville avant. Si vous voulez profiter pleinement de cette partie du Cambodge vous aurez besoin de 3 à 4 jours en fonction de l’endroit d’où vous venez et de l’endroit où vous allez.

Nous sommes arrivés là bas vendredi soir après avoir pris un taxi privé depuis Phnom Penh. Arrivant tard, nous sommes directement allé à Rithy Guesthouse où j’avais réservé une chambre. J’avais choisi cette guesthouse parce que Rithy organise aussi diffèrent type d’excursion à travers la province de Koh Kong.

Le premier jour, nous avons l’excursion en 1 jour sur l’ile de Koh Kong. C’est une ile encore très naturelle qui reste préservée du tourisme. Au début je voulais y dormir mais quand j’ai essayé, aucun des hôtels de l’ile ne m’a répondu. Il y a deux hôtels sur l’ile : Koh Kong Island Resort et White Sand Villa. Si vous voulez tout de même dormir sur l’ile, Ritchie tour propose des excursions de 2 jours sur l’ile où vous dormez soit dans des hamacs sur la plage soit chez l’habitant dans le seul village de l’ile.

Revenons à nos moutons et à notre journée d’excursion! Nous avons passé 2 à 3 heures sur l’ile à discuter, se baigner et manger un excellent poisson au barbecue préparé par nos deux guides. Notre groupe était très sympa ce qui a rendu la journée encore meilleure! Cela a été d’autant plus vrai quand nous avons dû nous soutenir pour réussir à remonter sur le bateau alors que la mer était déchainée! J’ai même faille perdre mes chaussures!

Sur le chemin du retour, nous nous sommes arrêtée pour visiter la mangrove. C’était vraiment exceptionnel cette entrée dans la mangrove avec la lumière de la fin d’après-midi ! Faites d’ailleurs très attention au soleil dans cette région et spécialement sur l’eau, mon amie a eu des cloques à cause du soleil! Pour visiter la mangrove le bateau nous a laissé à un certain point, nous avons marché environ 10 minutes dans la mangrove et le bateau nous a récupéré à un autre point.

A la fin de la journée en revenant au ponton, nous nous sommes offerts une bière en regardant le couchée de soleil. Que demandez d’autre?!

Le deuxième jour nous sommes partis pour un trek de 2 jours dans la jungle. Ne vous inquiétez pas ce n’est pas impossible à faire, à part si vous avez 80 ans ou que vous n’avez pas fait de sport depuis des siècles. Vous partez à 8h du matin et ils vous emmènent en jeep jusqu’au point de départ (il y a une autre option pour cette excursion où vous prenez un bateau à travers la mangrove et vous marchez jusqu’à un très beau point de vue). Depuis le point de départ nous avons marché pendant 4 à 5 heures avec des arrêts fréquents, tous près d’une rivière afin de se rafraichir. Nous avons mangé pendant un de ces stops et nous sommes arrivés au camp vers 3h de l’après-midi nous laissant plein de temps pour profiter de cette expérience.

Là cela a été une superbe et unique expérience de se baigner dans la piscine naturelle en face du camp après cette dure journée! Le camp est juste à côté de la rivière et au milieu de la nature nous coupant du reste du monde (en grande partie aussi a cause du manqué de réseau!)

Le soir nous avons fait un feu de camp avec nos guides et nous avons passé un super moment en essayant de comprendre leur jeu de cartes qui au final n’était qu’une version différente du jeu de cartes français “Le Président”. Nous avons terminée la soirée en regardant les étoiles comme si nous étions dans un observatoire astronomique.

Après avoir passé la nuit dans nos hamacs, ce qui était plutôt confortable au final (peut être aussi parce que j’avais mon sac de couchage ce qui m’a évitée d’avoir froid contrairement à mes amis), nous avons pris notre petit déjeuner, fait un dernier petit plongeon dans la piscine naturelle et recommencez à marcher jusque notre point de départ. De là-bas une voiture nous a emmené jusqu’au chutes d’eau de la Tâtai qui sont très sympa! Vous pouvez y accéder par vos propres moyens moyennant 4000 riels pour l’entrée.

Pour notre dernière nuit, j’avais réservé une nuit le long de la rivière Tatai au Neptune Bungalow. C’est le moins cher des hôtels situés le long de la rivière car tous les autres sont des ressorts donc hors de prix. Et même le Neptune n’était pas si peu cher car nous avons payé le bungalow 40 dollars la nuit pour 2 (mais vous pouvez y dormir à 4). Le propriétaire est un Allemand très sympathique qui cuisine pour vous des plats réellement bons. Il peut aussi organiser des excursions  comme les chutes d’eau de la Tatai ou des tours sur la rivière. Pour se rendre là-bas nous sommes allés jusqu’au pont Tatai, nous l’avons appelé et un vieux monsieur khmer est venu nous chercher pour nous emmener au Neptune bungalow.

Le matin, nous avons fait un peu de kayak (vous pouvez aller jusqu’à une petite chute d’eau qui est à 30 minutes en kayak) et nous nous sommes baignées dans la rivière. Ces deux jours étaient vraiment super car nous étions juste toutes les deux sans personne d’autre dans la guesthouse ni même le long de la rivière.

Et le temps est venu de rentrer à Phnom Penh pour retrouver la vie réelle et le travail après cette expérience super! Aller à Koh Kong est vraiment faire quelque chose de diffèrent au Cambodge en dehors des circuits traditionnels. C’est un superbe endroit préservé où chacun devrait se rendre si il a du temps à consacrer au Cambodge.

 

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Explore Kampot’s surroundings

Posted on: May 29th, 2017

We know that the charm of Kampot has the power of relaxing even the most hectic traveler and the reasons to stay in town to enjoy its river and calmness are more than many. But we also know that, as soon as you get out of the city, Kampot’s surroundings offer a lot to explore and marvel at. Stay tuned from some suggestions on where to go!

kampot surroundings

Getting out of the city is a great way to meet some locals and experience a genuine Cambodian lifestyle.

Kep: a quiet coastal town with memories of a glorious past

Of course the first place to mention is Kep, the small and quiet coastal town popular since the sixties, when it was a resort area for rich Khmer families. Famous for its beach and its seafood market (crabs are so well known that they even deserve a statue in their honor on the sea in front of the town). Kep is also as a getaway to take the boat to Rabbit island, or Koh Tonsai, as known by Cambodians.

Koh Tonsai or Rabbit Island: palm trees, hammocks and glowing pankton

And here we go, Koh Tonsai is our next spot on this list! An island just a half hour boat ride from the coast, filled with nature and perfect to relax on a hammock, sunbath or swim in this gorgeous ocean. The beach is especially gorgeous on some nights, when the plankton appears in the sea and glows in the dark. Besides that, you can engage in snorkeling, fishing or trekking.

Natural Parks and Mountains: amazing views and local fauna

Back to the mainland, near Kep you have a national park with an entrance ticket of just one dollar, perfect for spotting the local fauna and trekking in a pure rainforest jungle. You can breathe some fresh air and maybe take the opportunity for that exercise you were looking for after eating such delicious seafood in Kep! Moreover, there’s a wonderful place to watch the sunset called, appropriately, Sunset Rock.

If you are passionate about birds, you should not miss the Anlong Pring bird sanctuary, not far away as well.

Not only for nature lovers but also for riders, a beautiful day trip idea to go to Bokor Mountain with a motorbike. There you can enjoy the view and have fun driving its winding road. You will be able to find a bit of everything, from wildlife (Bokor is also part of a national park) to an old vacant and forgotten casino on the top of the mountain. Worth some mysterious pictures for your travel album, namely if you are going in a foggy day. And, well, if you are really trying to do some kind of tour along the mountains and parks around town, you still have the Phnom Sor, or White Mountain, in the north of Kampot.

Traeuy Koh: local villages and salt fields

Tired of trekking and mountains? Much closer to the city you have Traeuy Koh, a small island just across one of Kampot’s bridges. Another option is to visit the salt fields in the surroundings which, depending on the time of the year, can provide you with one of the most incredible setting for photography in the whole country. Just imagine very shallow salt lakes where the water perfectly reflects the sky and you can picture it!

Kampot Pepper: a legend for a reason

There are also the well known farms of delicious Kampot pepper, famous all over the world for its distinguished taste. If you want to buy some, only trust the farms themselves. The pepper sold in Kampot’s markets is more often than not a fake one, cheaper and produced in Vietnam.

The famous Kampot pepper.

Secluded places: a secret lake, misterious caves, hidden temples

Not far away you can also find a beautiful lake, which somehow got named as the Secret Lake. If you are really into this kind of secluded places and want a beach only for yourself go to Angkoul beack! Ask your guesthouse or checkout the maps (typically available on bars and cafés in Kampot).  If, in the other hand, suntanning is not your thing and you are missing is some cool shade to break the Southeast Asian weather, check out the caves around Kampong Trach. Another interesting place is Phnom Sorsia, a Buddhist hill temples complex, a cave filled with bats and another one where you can see limestone stalagmites that resemble elephants (hence its name of Elephant Cave).

Crossing the border: your bridge to Vietnam

Last but not least, a good option can be crossing the border to Vietnam, which is just 40km from Kampot. The border is Prek Chak on the Cambodian side, and Xa Xia in Vietnam side. Ha Tien is a nice town nearby, around 20 minutes from the border and a lovely place to start exploring the country. It is also a good spot if you are on your way to Phu Quoc island, highly recommended and not so far away. Just bear in mind that you can not make your visa on arrival on the border to Vietnam, you should have it already with you (the nearest place to Kampot to deal with the visa process is Sihanoukville).

Kampot's surroundings

As soon as you pass the border you can check some Vietnamese “street market art”.

Hope you got some ideas on where to go if you are in Kampot and looking for something different. Its surroundings are definitely worth to see! Check out Camboticket website if you need to book tickets for your trip. You can even book tickets from Kampot to Ha Tien and other places in Vietnam.

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South Cambodia

The charm of Kampot

Posted on: January 19th, 2017

Not only is one of the most relaxed towns you can find while traveling in Southeast Asia, Kampot is actually an interesting historical site with its colonial buildings and a thriving artistic hotspot full of Cambodian and expat rock bands and trendy cafés! It is the most attractive destination in South Cambodia.

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