I often got asked by people like this ‘Are you sure you have so many holidays that you have been travelling around. Yes ! It is a privilege working and enjoying all 28 days of public holidays Cambodia has given us in a year. Orkun ( Thank you)Cambodia. And so I went on adventure to Kampot & Kep.
You might think that I have always been travelling alone all these while. The truth is, I was only adventurous lately and did solo travel to unfamiliar places twice, first was Ho Chi Minh then to Kampot & Kep ( provinces in Cambodia) recently. Here’s how I did it and additional tips I gathered from the new friends made during my trip.
Option 1- Road Trip by Bus
Cross province travelling is convenient in Cambodia with the availability of coaches by transport companies like Giant Ibis, one of the best bus operators in Cambodia. How do you purchase a ticket from the bus company? Bus tickets can be purchased online from their website here
If you are based in Phnom Penh, you can always drop by at their offices and purchase a physical ticket from the counter right away.
Complete information on timings and schedules are also available on the website too. When on board, a bottle water, bread or cake and wet tissues will be provided to all passengers and stops at rest stations in between for lunch or toilet break. Kampot shall be reachable in 2 hours time on road but due to the road condition, it took me approximately 4 hours to arrive.
Option 2 ( Train to Kampot)
This is a tip from my new US friend, Frank. He said go and a train. You will like the view along the journey. Travelling on a train in Cambodia has always been on my Must-Do list but I still haven’t got the chance to do so yet due to its schedule. Another option travelling to Kampot is via train using the Royal Railways ( Cambodia). For updates on schedules, timings and booking, check out the Royal Railways FB page
The journey from Phnom Penh to Kampot will take up to more than 4 hours to reach the destination.
The Kampot province is located in the Southwest of Cambodia, bordering to the North with Kampong Speu, in the east with Takeo, west with Sihanoukville and Koh Kong and to the South with the Gulf of Thailand. The East of the province consists of the typical plain area for Cambodia, covering rice fields and other agricultural plantations.
The Western part of the province shows up with the well known Bokor National Park, being a part of the grant Elephant Mountains, which is rich in lush forests and a huge range of wildlife. ( Source : Tourism of Cambodia)
Day 1 – Countryside Sight Seeing
Generally, Kampot is a quiet and peaceful town with pristine natural surroundings such as the mangrove, river, hills that makes it a good place for nature based activities like Kayaking, cycling, hiking , countryside sight seeing and more.
Prior to my arrival to Kampot, I called up a tour a company and booked for half day sight seeing tour with Vichet Tours at only USD12 per person . Itinerary and detailed elaboration as follow
1pm Pick Up from Hotel/ Hostel via Tuk Tuk
Tour to Salt Fields & Secret Lake
3.30pm Tour to Pepper Farms ( La Plantation)
The salt production area covers some 421,805 hectares and the annual salt production is between 800,000 – 900,000 tons. Salt production requires high temperatures and so salt is largely produced in the hottest months between December and May. Salt has become one of the major produce and export from Kampot.
Watch this video by the Department of Kampot Tourism on how salts are mined. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to go near to the fields as it was raining.
My journey continues on the tuk tuk ride with my guide Bong Sapi on the road as we headed for our next destination, the Secret Lake. The journey on the road can be quite bumpy due to Kampot’s road condition but was worth it with magnificent views as we passed by the paddy fields, sugarcanes plantation, streams, wat ( temples) and the railway ( Fortunately, there were no trains passing by or maybe there is No train)
The Secret Lake
The Secret Lake not named for it’s outskirt location but rather of dark history that comes beneath. This beautiful lake- the irrigation dam that sets between the mountains and rice paddies established through hard labour under the Khmer Rouge regime. Some came here for tubing, rafting activities but mostly came here to wash their motorbikes. As for me, I came here for the view and soak my feet into it.
The Peppery Tour at La Plantation
Save the best for last, they said. Here comes the best part of my half day tour as we continued the bumpy road trip adventure to Peppery Tour at La Plantation, a few kilometres from the Secret Lake.
La Plantation is an organic pepper farm and social enterprise project founded by the big hearted couple Nathalie & Guy. The pepper farm uses a combination of traditional farming and modern processing. At La Plantation, the black, red, white and fresh salted kampot pepper, red long pepper are produced with the finest peppers planted. On social dimension, La Plantation aims to improve the living conditions of many people in the rural area by taking care of the primary school. To know more about the Kampot pepper, read here
For quick updates, check out the La Plantation Facebook page
Soon as you arrive, a crew will guide to the reception- a big house for a free guided tour conducted by the friendly employees in English, Khmer or French. In case if you’re wondering where will your drivers be while you’re at the tour, you can be assured that they are well taken care of too where owners set up a hub with drinks, games and food so that they can wait for guest in comfort.
Soon as I stepped foot at the house, I was greeted by the friendly staffs on duty and was informed that the guided tour will begin 25 minutes. While waiting for the tour, guests are served with cold water, chips and nuts. Being a foodie myself, I immediately bought the pepper ice cream ( Pepper infused ice cream) – Lime Pepper flavour for myself. The ice cream itself is smooth in texture with mix of sweet, salty and spicy taste.
I was then greeted by a Brazilian volunteer by the name of Tina who took me and my new friend Frank from the US for a detailed guided tour at the farms. During the tour, Tina gave us an introduction of the farm. Just when me and Frank thought the farm was a family business inherited for centuries, we were totally wrong ! because La Plantation is only 5 years old according to Tina. Throughout the journey, we were taken and stop by to taste different types of raw peppers from the land. Tina changed my perception towards raw pepper being awful when eaten raw. We are once again in the wrong. Raw pepper taste good even to eating on its own.
The farm tour took approximately 40-45 minutes to complete but that’s not the end yet. Our dear volunteer Tina insisted that we must NOT miss the Pepper Tasting session where she patiently explained about the peppers. I never know that peppers can be processed and eaten like snacks after Tina showed us so. Thanks Tina.
Now meet Tina. Tina is an engineer by profession in her homeland Brazil , currently on sabbatical for her career and volunteering at La Plantation previously.