The sleepy town of Kampot in Cambodia’s south is known for its pepper farms and riverside ambience. Fairly new to the backpacking trail there is much more to this little town than meets the eye. I was only meant to stay here for two days but ended up extending my stay to five and probably could have extended even longer had I not planned to move on three hours north to the country’s capital Phnom Penh. I put together this guide for people looking to get a feel of the mixture of countryside and riverside this small town has to offer, and also support the good work that goes on throughout the local community.
Epic Arts Café
If you’ve come to Kampot it won’t be long until someone mentions the Epic Arts Café. Located near the old market, this café is renowned for it’s mission to create equal working opportunities for Kampot’s disadvantaged. Employing ten staff, including some deaf staff members, the menu gives visitors instructions to order their food in sign language. The café also supports creative initiatives for locals, and houses an art gallery that sells jewellery and crafts made by children associated with the Epic Arts foundation.
Top pick: Order the chocolate brownies
The OM restaurant is located opposite the Epic Arts Café and is run by the owners of the OM permaculture farm, about 20km out of town. The owner, Akoo, believes that permaculture farming is the future of farming in Cambodia, due to the sustainable practices and ability to produce an abundance of the right kind of foods with the right kind of nutrients. The restaurant has a range of enticing Khmer and Western dishes, using many of the ingredients grown on their farm. The restaurant is also famous for using locally grown Moringa in their shakes, a known super food with extensive nutritional value.
Top pick: Banana, Pineapple & Moringa Shake
Khmer Roots Café
Located about 13kms out of town in some of the most breathtaking countryside in Cambodia, the Khmer Roots Café is a place where you can relax under a bamboo hut by the lake and enjoy some of Soklim’s delicious Cambodian cuisine, made using ingredients grown from their organic farm.
Soklim also runs a cooking class which is quite famous here in Kampot, so if you’re looking to get a little more hands-on then book one of the classes and enjoy a small trip around the farm as well.
Top pick: Kampot Pepper Stir Fry
This small café located on the western side of the river is a an extension of the Banteay Srey Project, providing a safe place for Cambodian women to work in a supportive environment while developing skills for a better future. This cute riverside tree house offers a range of vegetarian tapas and juices. Stop in on your way to the day spa or after a yoga class.
Top pick: Hummus using locally grown chickpeas with flat bread and olive oil
OM Permaculture Farm
The OM permaculture farm is associated with the OM café in town. The farm is a temporary home to a number of volunteers who have come here to get away from city life and learn the ins and outs of permaculture, as well as assist with the upkeep of the farm on a daily basis. If you’re looking to get out of town the journey up to OM provides you with breathtaking scenes of the mountains and fields. You will need a bike or tuk-tuk to get there, otherwise Akoo can organize a day tour for you, which includes lunch and the chance to learn about the farming practices and visit the local villages.
Mangroves of Tropaing Sangke
The Tropiang Sangke community is a small ecotourism community that is working with local and international NGO’s to conserve the local Mangroves that play a vital role in Kampot’s ecosystem. You can help them preserve their environment by booking one of their nature experiences with all proceeds going back into the community and helping to purchase items such as mangrove seeds for planting.
Your tour will consist of a sunset cruise down the river, bird watching, spotting fireflies and the chance to plant your very own baby mangrove. It really is a worthwhile way to spend the afternoon. Visit their Facebook page or make a booking by calling Rosat on +855 069 306 505.
Banteay Srey Spa
The Banteay Srey Women’s spa is a women’s-only day spa that works in conjunction with the Banteay Srey project. The project has developed a vocational training centre where vulnerable women, who once could have ended up in the trafficking trade, can now develop skills needed to be able to provide a better life for themselves. Many of the trainees end up working at the spa however others are provided with job placements elsewhere. The Women’s spa also offers yoga and meditation classes for those looking to wind down in a relaxing space by the river.
If you’re in town for a few extra days, the Buddhist Library Cambodia Project are often looking for volunteers to assist the Khmer teachers with after school English lessons for the students. They welcome volunteers who can give as little or as much time as they can, as the students stick to a certain curriculum and the volunteers are there to assist with pronunciation and practice. They also have a dental clinic for the children and offer volunteer opportunities for those with dental skills. If you’d like to volunteer you can fill out the request form here.
Stand up paddle boarding
Supasia provides unique stand up paddle boarding tours to suit your liking. Paddle through mangroves, river villages or just down the lovely riverside of Kampot town and a portion of your tour will go to providing environmental education and recreational therapy to Cambodian youth. Supasia also runs campaigns to keep the river clean and helps to promote sustainable tourism throughout the region.
Mad Monkey Hostel
The Mad Monkey chain has recently opened a hostel by the river in Kampot. Although the hostel is famous for it’s backpacker party vibe, the chain does a lot to assist the local community including supporting local schools, water projects and community programs. The Mad Monkey Hostel in Kampot also supports the Epic Arts group and you can purchase some of the art made by the students right here in the hostel. Read more about the Mad Monkey community projects here.
Eden Eco Village
The Eden Eco Village is located on the river and has pretty much all the aspects of your average eco accommodation, plus the perfect location as well. Solar powered, these bungalows offer you a complete views of the river right from your balcony. The Eden Eco village supports small local businesses and hire and train local villagers wherever possible. You can grab a picturesque riverside bungalow for $15 per night.
Located on the western side of the river nearby the Banteay Srey Spa, the Bodhi Villa offers garden, rooftop and tree house style accommodation for guests to stay. The Villa employs environmentally sustainable practices such as limited plastic usage and outsources its laundry facilities to provide income for local Khmer families. You can also rent out scholarship bicycles for $2 a day, with some of the proceeds going to the Chumkriel Language School to assist poorer students who cannot afford education, books or uniforms.
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