On the coast, close to Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, you’ll find the charming towns of Kampot and Kep. The name Kampot is perhaps best known for the black pepper grown here, whilst sleepy Kep, a former colonial retreat, is the place to come for sunsets and seafood – particularly the crab for which the town is famous.
The riverside town of Kampot exudes the sort of relaxed atmosphere that it’s impossible not to be charmed by. A peaceful stroll along the tree-lined riverfront promenade gives beautiful views out over the river to Bokor and Elephant Mountains beyond (a sunset river cruise is a lovely alternative) whilst you’ll also find Cambodia’s best, albeit crumbling, collection of colonial architecture and the Old Market. Head just out of town to find the pepper plantations – Kampot Pepper is world-renowned – and the fascinating 7th century Hindu cave temple of Phnom Chhnork.
Established by the French elite in 1908 and enjoying a heyday into the 1960s, Kep today is perhaps not the seaside town you would expect. Relaxation is the byword here, with leisurely strolls past the ghostly shells of old many old colonial mansions and gentle swims in the sea the order of the day. A visit to the famous Crab Market to sample the day’s catch is a must – crab cooked up with local Kampot pepper makes a delicious feast. A 20 minute boat ride from the town is Koh Tonsay, a quiet and quaint island that is perfect for a day on the beach.
Covered in primary rainforest and centred on the remains of an old French hill station, Bokor National Park offers a somewhat quirky range of attractions. The wooded areas offer cover for little seen endangered species such as elephants, bears, gibbons and slow loris whilst perched on a cool and breezy hilltop you will find the haunting husks of a French church and casino. Sat on the cliff edge, the crumbling casino particularly offers spectacular views down over the coast. Other sights include the Black Palace, the former holiday home of King Sihanouk, and a waterfall.
Travel out of Kampot, through lush rice paddies and little villages, for about 8 kilometres and you’ll come across Phnom Chhnork, a Hindu cave temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple was built in the 7th century, the cave sheltering the shrines within and keeping them in excellent condition. The trip to the limestone mountains that this and several other caves hide in is worth it alone – this is a glimpse of rural Cambodia at its best.
Spread through four villas, three of which are renovated modernist structures from the 1960s, the Knai Bang Chatt resort revels in rustic simplicity and exudes stylish tranquility. Set amongst beautiful gardens with sea views and a beautiful infinity pool, there is also a private beach area to enjoy.
Overlooking the ocean from it's hillside location, the Saravoan-Kep Hotel is just 10 metres from Kep Beach and within a short walk of all of the restaurants and amenities of Kep's centre. This tastefully decorated property features a swimming pool, coffee shop and bar.
Located in Kampot town and offering mountain and river views, the accommodation in the Kampot Diamond Hotel offers cool and airy rooms with a private balcony - the perfect place to relax after a day of exploration. Dine in the terrace restaurant which serves a range of Khmer and western cuisine.
Located amongst the verdant beauty of Kep National Park, on a hilltop overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, Veranda is a tranquil nature retreat. Stylishly rustic accommodation nestles in nestles in Khmer bungalows just a short walk from the beach, whilst the hotel's spa and gastronomic offerings are excellent. Veranda Natural Resort is also heavily involved in community programmes including education, environment and clean water.
This small, European-run boutique hotel is set on Kampot's charming colonial riverfront in a beautifully-restored warehouse. The interiors are simple and stylish Asian chic with a terrace restaurant overlooking the river and accommodation that is designed to provide the utmost comfort.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.