The pepper plantations of Kampot
From Otres Beach I pay $ 6 for a minivan and head towards Kampot with Luis (a friend of mine) and Javier (a Spanish guy I met here in Cambodia). In total it is 2 hours of travel.
Kampot is a city on the Pruek Teuk Chhu River in southern Cambodia. It is known for its pepper plantations and salt fields. Many buildings of this city date back to the colonial period. Very nice is the area of the long river with various boats used as restaurants and bars.
We stay at the Mad Monkey Hostel for $ 6 a night. The hostel is very nice, room with 10 beds and 2 bathrooms in the room. It also offers a swimming pool and a restaurant. It is 1.5 km from the centre.
The first day we walk through the streets of the centre. We cross various markets, shops and many roundabouts (among the most famous there is the one with a giant Durian: a very common fruit here).
In the afternoon we take a coffee at Epic Arts Cafe, a bar that works with a community of children with various handicaps such as dumb or deaf (exquisite cheesecake).
We spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool of our hostel: relaxing day.
The next day we rent a scooter at Elephant Guesthouse for $ 4 and explore the surroundings of Kampot.
The first thing we visit is the Phnom Chhngok caves paying $ 1 admission but they are really nothing special.
After an hour-drive, we reach the Secret Lake and then "La Plantation", a pepper company. We do a free tour and try various types of pepper. Their best seller is the salty pepper. It's really good. Then we walk through the plantations. Here we see many ladies who work by selecting pepper (it's a hard job!). In total there are about 60 employees who live in the lodgings here. They get accommodation and free food and a wage of about $ 120 a month, in line with the average salary of the population in Cambodia.
Then we continue to the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park, located west of Kampot. It has a cool climate with forests, waterfalls and wildlife. After 1 hour we reach the great Buddha with a panoramic view. From the top, you can see the Vietnamese island Phu Quoc in the sea.
We keep going until we reach Bokor Hill Station where there are a hotel and a casino built by Chinese. We watch the sunset and return to the city.
The next day we decide to visit Kep. It is about 30 km from Kampot.
Kep is a coastal province in southern Cambodia, known for its seafood and tropical islands. The relaxed capital of the province of Kep, or Krong Kaeb, has wide streets with dilapidated villas reminiscent of its former glory of French colonial city. Kep Beach has calm waters, while vendors overlook the seafront at the nearby crab market - "Crab Market" (here I eat delicious shrimp and calamari -1.5 kg for 3 people paid $ 13).
Then we explore the Kep National Park by doing an 8 km trek; we expect to finish it in maximum 2 hours but we spend 4 hours trekking because we get lost once again in the forest! Fun experience but luckily I was not alone. The route is reported up to a certain point. If you reach the Sunset Rock then you have to go on a downhill path near the Buddha.
Talking about Kampot again, I recommend the following restaurants: Aroma (Lebanese restaurant where you can taste a delicious hummus wrap), Ciao (Italian street food - where you can taste pizza and ravioli) and Ecran Noodle (Khmer restaurant).
Also, if while visiting Kampot you want to discover the nightlife, I suggest you go to the local "Banyan Tree" on Friday evening. It is located near the river, there is a dance floor and it is the meeting point of all the hostels.
In short, it was really interesting to visit Kampot and its surroundings; it gave me an overview of how local people really live. I recommend it if you have enough days to spend in Cambodia.