Hanging around the Phnom Penh riverfront or Siem Reap’s ‘Pub Street’ tuk-tuk drivers will flock to offer you massages with; fish, their sister, grannie, themselves as well as attempt to flog you the gamut of soft and hard drugs – some may even offer you a ride – but turn up in Kampot these days you’re more likely to hear, “Pssst – want to buy some river-front property?” Kampot, a charming little riverside town in Southern Cambodia, is packed full of old French period villas and shop-houses and as yet has escaped the ravages of Phnom Penh’s ‘modernization’ or the large scale atrocities inflicted on Battambang’s old architectural stock by wealthy local Sino-Khmer merchants’ ‘upgrades’.
Not that Kampot isn’t changing and it’s certainly undergoing something of a dramatic renaissance at present but much of that development is being spearheaded by foreign investment rather than local. And by foreign we refer more to ‘Westerners’ for whom restoring an old French shop-house and opening a coffee shop or boutique guesthouse is an option rather than say Korean or Taiwanese businessmen for whom new is good, old is bad and who can’t see beyond demolition followed by lashings of new glass and concrete!
As your tuk-tuk driver will point out there are plenty of options around though key locations are being bought up fast. When we first saw the below building, now the nicely restored small hotel/restaurant/cafe ‘Java Bleue‘, it looked pretty similar to the one above.
Reckon the above would make a great and breezy upstairs bar or coffee shop whilst below is another successful restoration – now the famous Bokor Mountain Lodge.
This relatively long-standing hotel led the way in Kampot and for several years was the only restored, Western-run property, though these days the whole riverfront is coming back to life.
There’s quite a bit to see around Kampot Town; Kep’s just down the road, Bokor Mountain towers over the town to the west, there are waterfalls to bathe in, boat trips to be taken and the surrounding countryside is studded with picturesque limestone formations and caves. Highway #3 from Phnom Penh has been upgraded so even by public bus Kampot’s now only a 3-hour drive and certainly makes for an interesting and relaxed getaway alternative to the hectic and pretty-sleazy-around-the-edges Sihanoukville scene.
A visit to Kampot is included in our All Points East, Beyond Angkor tour. Cheers and if you’re interested in investing just have a word with your nearest friendly tuk-tuk driver/estate agent!