Kampot is not the first place that travellers think of while visiting Cambodia. After getting templed out in Siem Reap and moved by their visit to Killing Fields and S21 in Phnom Penh, travellers usually tend to head the partying beach town of Sihanoukville or to one of the islands in the south. And this is exactly why you should visit Kampot. Mass tourism like that in Angkor Wat has is miles away from this town. Both literally and figuratively. Change is slowly coming to Kampot. With more guest houses, hotels, bars and restaurants opening up and tourist infrastructure developing Kampot is developing. Therefore it becomes very important to actively participate in responsible travel in Kampot.
Responsible Travel in Kampot: Things to do
It not surprising at all the travellers give this sleepy little town a miss. Truthfully speaking nothing much happens in Kampot. The Kampong river calmly flows by the colonial houses in downtown. While a couple kilometres away the locals while away their time lying in the hammocks along the dirt roads by the river. Having said that, there’s still a lot to do and see here in this quintessential Cambodian town. Here’s are a few things you can see and do while in Kampot
Visit a pepper farm
Pepper farms are a plenty around Kampot. The town is very famous for its fiery hot pepper throughout the world. The staff at pepper plantations give you a free tour of the plantation. There is also a detailed presentation right of the entire process from the planting to the harvest. La Plantation located kilometres outside the city is one such plantation and it is completely organic. An independent body Eco-cert audits the plantation every year and makes sure it adheres to all standards of an organic farm. Besides the organic certification, Kampot Pepper is the first Cambodian agricultural product to receive a GI status. A visit to a pepper farm is essential to understand how an agricultural enterprise is working towards enriching the lives of the locals
Visit the Trapang Sangke Ecotourism community
Trapang Sangke is small eco tourism community that offers tours with all proceeds going back to the development of the local communities. The tours focus on the nature experiences like bird watching, spotting fireflies and cruises down the Kampong River. Besides this one, the main activities that the community works on is the conservation of mangroves that play a vital role in the local ecosystem. Spend an afternoon here and you won’t be disappointed. Contact them via their Facebook page to book a tour or get involved.
Go cycling (or motorbiking) outside the town
Hiring a bicycle or a motorbike and riding around is easily the best way to get a glimpse of Cambodia countryside. Besides the usual temples and caves and what not on this self-guided tour you can peek into locals’ life. All you have to do is get off the main highway and detour into one of the many dusty roads. Cambodian kids are cute and will shout greeting and wave as you go by. Take a stop try and talk to them in gestures and have a look around the villages and the farms. The locals are always welcoming and will give you the widest of smiles even if you can’t understand a word of what they say.
Indulge in yourself at Banteay Srei Spa
This women’s only spa, trains and equips local at-risk women with skills to build a better life for themselves while working along with Banteay Srei project. You can spoil yourself in a variety of spa treatments knowing that all proceeds go to the empowerment of local women. The project offers free accommodation, food and vocational training to the trainees. Many of them stay on and work at the spa after their training. The spa also offers yoga session by the calm and relaxed surroundings of the river.
Responsible Travel in Kampot: Places to Eat
The number of socially responsible eateries in Kampot though not many in number are not hard to find. Here are some places that not only offer delicious local and western cuisine but also offer their local staff a way to better their living conditions
Located at the Banteay Srei Women’s Spa this cafe is where everyone is welcome. Offering juices, smoothies, milkshakes along with vegetarian and vegan options you can spend an afternoon watching the world go by. The cafe serves food fresh to order and as much as possible uses ingredients from their own organic garden.
Epic Arts Cafe
Ask for a recommendation on places to eat and chances are Epic Arts Cafe in Kampot will make it to the list. The staff employs locals with some of them are deaf. Therefore they offer a menu with instructions on how to order using sign language. Besides gobbling some delicious eats you can also shop for trinkets and souvenirs made by children supported by Epic Arts foundation.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are options for the vegetarian/vegan traveller though not many. The above to cafes are some of them but besides the same, there are some others which I mentioned in my guide for vegetarian travellers to Cambodia. You may follow the tips provided there and am sure anyone other local restaurants can make a dish suited to your needs.
Responsible travel in Kampot: Places to stay
The tourist infrastructure is only just beginning to develop in Kampot. Therefore there aren’t as many ethical stays in Kampot. Having said that the few here do provide some great value for money while serving a social cause.
Eden Eco Resort.
Located at 5-6 kilometres outside the town the resort has pretty much everything you need and nothing you don’t. Almost all the bungalows are right on the river and you can jump right in for a swim straight from your balconies. The bungalows are built using local material and are equipped with eco-friendly sanitation facilities. The pee toilets in every room are a great way of helping in the growth of the organic garden in the resort. They also have compost toilets which produce organic fertiliser for the garden.
Mad Monkey Hostels.
The hostel chain is known for its partying backpacker environment but they do a lot to support the local communities. The hostel in Kampot have already built a playground in Kampot for the local school kids and are on their way to build a couple more in the surrounding areas. Besides that, they also sponsored an installation of UV water filtration project for a Cam bombs school outside the town.
As I mentioned earlier, the waves of mass tourism haven’t hit Kampot yet. However, the government and the local authorities do plan to implement plans that will attract more travellers to Kampot. It won’t be surprising if the face of Kampot changes in the coming few years. One can only hope that the people power do take steps to encourage a responsible sense of travel while visiting Kampot and help in keeping the atmosphere of this town as laid back as it is now.
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Disclaimer: I was hosted by Eden Eco Resort while I was researching for this article and was offered a 3-night complimentary stay. The other enterprises mentioned in this write-up have been either personally visited by me on my own cost. Or have been recommended multiple times by fellow travellers or internet reviews. If something has been misrepresented or reported incorrectly in this article, please feel free to drop a line in the comments or email me. I‘d be glad to hear your views and may edit the article to include the same