Kampot

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Khalid
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Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:20 pm

Tipps to Explore Kampot

Many of the best things to do in Kampot, Cambodia take advantage of the mighty Praek Tuek Chhu River and the numerous side streams where birds catch fish in mangroves. Only around 50,000 people call Kampot home, but the sizable expat community lends a lot of diversity. It's not Siem Reap, but that’s alright: The riverside setting and pleasant vibe attract just enough local and international tourists. Wandering town to enjoy French colonial architecture and strolling the riverfront promenade at sunset are enjoyable in their own rite.

Take a Sunset River Cruise
Getting on the river is a must when visiting Kampot, and taking a sunset or firefly cruise is the easiest way to do so. Numerous boats depart from town every evening. With so much competition, prices are surprisingly cheap (around US$5) and include a drink or two. Choose your boat carefully. Some cruises are all about karaoke and loud music while others offer a more serene experience. You’ll find many choices for evening cruises by walking along the river south of the Old Bridge; smiling agents will be standing by the gangplank of each boat around 4:00 pm.

The Crab Shuttle to Kep
The province of Kep is around 16 miles southeast of Kampot. Although taking a boat down here will take an hour or so longer than a bus, taxi, or tuk-tuk, the Crab Shuttle has a way of encouraging visitors to slow down. Once on the coast, you’ll get to enjoy a small beach, national park, and fresh crabs eaten within eyesight of the boats that caught them. You also have the option of popping over to Rabbit Island, a scenic island 20 minutes from Kep. The Crab Shuttle departs Kampot around 9:00 am. and returns at sunset. You can book via email (crabshuttle@gmail.com)

La Plantation
La Plantation is a social-and-sustainable “agritourism” project and certified organic pepper plantation. The rural setting is pleasant, and free guided tours of the operation are available. One-hour “buffalo cart” tours to a lake and nearby villages are also an option. Two restaurants, one serving traditional Khmer food and the other French cuisine, are located onsite and offer cooking classes. To organize a visit, get into the La Plantation Information Center in Kampot; pickup service is available.

Kampot Pepper
If you don’t have time to go tour a plantation outside of town, you can still cross the Highway 3 bridge to Farm Link, right in Kampot. Farm Link is partnered with 120 small pepper farms, providing them access to an overseas market. Natural growing and sustainable practices are taught and encouraged. Farm Link is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am. to 6:30 pm.; it closes for lunch. Visitors can enjoy a free tour, samples, and buy local pepper products to take home.

River Boat Tour
Booking a Love-The-River-Boat-Tour (3 hours; US$20.00) is one way to really experience the Praek Tuek Chhu River. Your small boat will float down a narrow side stream (as opposed to out in the middle of the river), allowing you to enjoy the flora and fauna up close. The knowledgeable captain helps people spot birds in the mangroves and explains daily life along the river. Every excursion includes fruit, cold drinks, and an optional swim to cool down. Tours begin each morning from Greenhouse, a guesthouse 15 minutes north of town.

Climb Inside a Cave to See a Hindu Temple
Located around 30 minutes east of Kampot is Phnom Chhnork, a Hindu cave temple thought to have been constructed in the 7th century. The road getting there is a bit rough, and you’ll have to climb down 200 stone steps - but looking around the ancient shrine generates a feeling of adventure. Be aware that local children will approach you at the entrance and offer to be your guide for US$1.00, and mischievous macaques patrol the area. Get to Phnom Chhnork by hiring a tuk-tuk from town (around US$12.00). Phnom Sia is another nearby cave, but you’ll want a flashlight to explore it. Wear real shoes instead of flip-flops if you plan to climb inside!

Ride to the Top of Bokor Mountain
Preah Monivong Bokor National Park is a 550-square-mile reserve located about an hour west of Kampot. The hill station atop Bokor Mountain was a retreat for French colonists in the 1920s. While you're here, you can visit abandoned buildings, including a dilapidated Catholic church adorned with graffiti and bullet holes. Preah Monivong Bokor National Park is one of only two ASEAN Heritage Parks in Cambodia. Sadly, a casino resort and apartments have been awkwardly constructed atop the mountain by foreign developers. Go early to beat the tour groups, and take a windbreaker.

Cool Off Under a Waterfall
Tada Roung Chan Waterfall, about a 30-minute drive from Kampot, is a scenic area with natural pools for swimming. The waterfall sometimes dries up between February and April, but when there’s water, dipping under Tada Roung Chan is a refreshing way to escape Cambodia’s heat. Entrance is only $1; holidays and weekends are busiest as local families go here to enjoy their time off. Located deeper in Preah Monivong Bokor National Park and harder to reach, Popokvil Waterfall is a two-tiered waterfall in a more natural setting. Consider deviating if you’re already exploring the hill station atop Bokor Mountain. Again, there may not be much water during dry season.

Local Artists
The Kampot Art Gallery isn’t very big, but that doesn’t stop it from being memorable. The gallery showcases unique work by Cambodian artists, and a shop on the ground floor sells souvenirs and art pieces creatively upcycled from trash and discarded products. Visiting the gallery is a nice way to support local artists and escape the sun while exploring town. Find the Kampot Art Gallery just south of the Salt Workers Roundabout (the one south of the big Durian Roundabout). You may not have time to volunteer while visiting Cambodia, but you can still help a good cause. The Epic Arts Cafe is an atmospheric restaurant, gallery, and shop in Kampot with the motto: “Every person counts!” Any money you spend (100 percent) on food and handmade gifts goes directly to helping provide opportunities for people with disabilities. With a very central location in town, the Epic Arts Cafe is open from 7:00 am. to 4:00 pm.

Visit a Waterpark
If the waterfalls near Kampot are running dry, you’ll certainly be able to cool off at one of Kampot’s two waterparks. Daung Te, the waterpark most popular with locals, has a mix of free and inexpensive activities such as zorbing balls, kayaking, a water slide, and a giant inflatable on the river. Arcadia, the other waterpark, is a hostel and social scene for backpacking travelers. You’ll find a bar, restaurant, rope swing, zipline, inner tubes, water slide, and more. Hiking, kayaking, and guided boat trips are also available.

Take a Cooking Class and Eat Fresh Seafood
A popular seafood restaurant in town, Kampot Seafood & Pepper also offers well-executed cooking classes on site. Classes begin with a trip to the nearby market, finishing three hours later with students enjoying their creations. Kampot Seafood & Pepper is located just south of the Old Market in town. Book your cooking class (US$ 20.00) the day before.

Surrounding Sightseeing
Kampot is surrounded by small fishing and farming villages where traditional life moves slowly. By driving south only 15 minutes, you can explore a patchwork of salt fields, rice paddies, and rural communities. Fish Island, south of town where the river splits, is photogenic and easy to reach. Be courteous: Don't photograph local residents without their permission. Renting a scooter allows for the most freedom; however, conditions and road quality can be challenging if you haven’t driven much in Southeast Asia. Going by bicycle, either independently or as part of a group tour, is an alternative option.
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Kampot Pepper | The Worlds best Pepper !

"Kampot pepper is very special. It grows best at the foot of the mountains because of the quartz in the soil," says Sorn Sothy, the owner of Sothy's Pepper Farm, a small pepper farm near Kampot, Cambodia. The region, along the country's southern coast, is famed for the spice, which was the first Cambodian product to receive a Protected Geographical Indication (the same certification that protects regional products like Champagne). The mineral-rich soil and rainy weather in the high-elevation areas near Kampot and Kep are perfect for pepper production, and I was here to see it firsthand.

From our home base in riverside Kampot, what had looked like a short trip on the map actually took about an hour. As our tuk-tuk pulled away from the crumbling colonial town, the landscape gave way to lotus marshes and houses on stilts. I closed my eyes each time a bus passed on that unpaved road. I feared that we'd topple into the fetid gully, where earlier, our driver had stopped to collect water to cool his overheating engine.

We spotted pepper vines on either side of us as our driver turned off the road to ascend a hill. Peppercorns have been cultivated in Cambodia since the 13th century, but the industry really boomed under French colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, when European chefs started appreciating Kampot pepper's notably floral and slightly sweet flavor. The pepper's most important characteristic, according to Sothy, is its tendency to linger on the tongue. "The taste of Kampot pepper stays in your mouth for a long, long time," she says.

Cambodia's pepper industry went into a major decline thanks to the Khmer Rouge regime's policies in the 1970's, but today it's experiencing a renaissance as the country reopens to the world. Sothy's farm is relatively new — the vines were planted in 2007 by the former owner. Until last year, Sothy was working as a midwife in the capital of Phnom Penh. "I had always dreamed of having my own garden, to get away from the city," she says. So when she and her husband, a journalist, had an opportunity to buy a pepper farm, they went for it. Besides pepper, the farm is filled with pecking chickens and fruit trees like mango, durian, papaya, and rambutan.

The pepper vines take three years to grow to production stage, but "they can grow for twenty years if you care for them," Sothy explains. Pests are a major problem in this tropical climate, but growers typically use natural pesticides. Sothy also uses cow manure and guano collected from the bat filled caves nearby. Peppercorn vines are extremely sensitive to sunlight, so meticulous rows of dried palm branches protect them from the harsh rays.

After reaching maturity, pepper can be harvested every year from February through May. Peppercorns are removed from the stem, boiled for two minutes, and then left to dry in the sun for one week. Black peppercorns are actually green when harvested, but they change color during the drying process. White peppercorns are simply black pepper with the skin removed, so they aren't quite as spicy. The red peppercorns are green peppercorns that have been left on the vine for four months longer. They retain their color when dried and are the sweetest and most expensive variety because they take longer to mature. All colors of Kampot pepper have the jasmine-like quality that makes them justifiably famous.

But the best part of visiting a pepper farm is having access to fresh peppercorns, right on the stem. Most pepper is dried, and when you do find fresh peppercorns in the United States, they're usually pickled or brined. Fresh peppercorns are bracingly spicy at first but then mellow into a sweet herbaceousness.

Following the farm tour, we feasted on a dish featuring Kampot's two most famous ingredients —seafood and peppercorns. At a rustic Khmer restaurant by the river, between intermittent bites of spicy pepper, we ate whole crab stir-fried with nothing but the fresh peppercorns themselves. They imbued the seafood with that unmistakable floral flavor while highlighting the subtle sweetness of both ingredients.

Kampot pepper delivers strong yet delicate aromas. Its taste, which can range from intensely spicy to mildly sweet also reveals floral and citrus hints. Kampot pepper has a unique flavour and smell distinguishing it from other types of peppercorns. The hot taste also has slight flavours of eucalyptus and mint.
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