On the south coast of Cambodia close to the Gulf of Thailand, Kampot is the capital of Kampot province and it’s a distinctly serene and naturally beautiful riverside town, surrounded by national park; it’s equally agreeable during wet and dry seasons. Before the days of the Khmer Rouge, Kep, 24km to the southeast, was a playground for the rich and famous (and known as the Riviera of the East), where royals and celebrities sunned themselves by crystal waters. It was eclipsed as a port when Sihanoukville was founded in 1959; tourismcambodia.com.
Villa Romonea in Kep is a beautifully restored property available for exclusive rental, or individual rooms can be booked, and it’s where I always stay in Kep; Rikitikitavi guesthouse, with seven ground-floor guestrooms with rattan ceilings and four-poster beds and restaurant/bar on the above level, is set in a converted riverside building in the heart of Kampot. It has been a rice barn, a theatre and home to a former governor of Kampot, and is a recent TripAdvisor Travellers Choice winner; villaromonea.com; rikitikitavi-kampot.com.
Hike through beautiful rainforest in the Bokor National Park; there are many trails to explore, suitable for hikers of all levels of fitness. Catch a longtail boat along the Kampot River to the island in the middle; or do a walking tour of the abandoned French colonial mansions in Kep, which are eerily frozen in time; travelfish.org.
Famous Kampot pepper is used all over Cambodia in Khmer cuisine and is also found in leading restaurants in Paris. Kampot pepper crab is divine, with the best specimens coming from the mud flats; the sweetness of the crab meat contrasts beautifully with the kick of the pepper. We use Kampot pepper in our dishes at Song Saa and provide it to guests as a gift with turn-down service; songsaa.com.