We are working our way slowly – s-l-o-w-l-y – through Cambodia. From Sihanoukville we continued about 100 kilometers east along the coast to Kampot, where we stayed in a simple guesthouse right on the appropriately named Kampot River. Our fantasy when we started thinking about this adventure was that we’d have time to enjoy the small towns off the beaten track. And while Kampot isn’t completely off the tourist route, it’s not exactly a must-see destination, either.
There are two main things to do in Kampot – eating dishes with Kampot pepper, and visiting the abandoned French hill station in the nearby Bokor National Park. We did them both, and added a third: sitting in a restaurant watching a huge rainstorm blow through town.
A word about Kampot peppers. They are amazing, and have a great story. Apparently there is something about the microclimates in this area that is ideal for pepper, and these world-famous peppers add a unique sweetness to the normal peppery flavor. And you don’t just sprinkle it on – dishes with Kampot pepper have full strings of the peppercorns that you eat along with the other ingredients. Years ago, large amounts were shipped all over the world, particularly France, but Pol Pot – who really screwed things up – had a “rice, not spice” policy and had nearly all the pepper plantations destroyed. Fortunately, they are making a comeback now, so if you get a chance to try them, do so!
All said, a pleasant two-day stop, after which we grabbed a tuk-tuk for the 25-kilometer trip to our next stop, Kep. From there we’re going back to Phnom Penh for a day or two to take care of stuff and then heading north up the Mekong River to explore northeastern Cambodia before moving into Laos. I never imagined that we’d spend weeks here, but we’re loving it, so no need to hurry on out.
In case you’re wondering, by the way, the huge typhoon that slammed into the Philippines and then moved onto Vietnam hasn’t affected us at all. We were supposed to hop up to Hanoi a few days ago to visit my brother and his family, but his business trip got cancelled a couple weeks ago. We’re all glad we dodged that one.