From KAMPOT to THANSUR BOKOR and back

I want more. Much more. Money? No way! I want more time! More time to live – 106 healthy years. But I first and foremost want longer days – at least 36 hours, better yet 48.

Wat Trauy Kooh in KAMPOT from where to go to THANSUR BOKOR and back
Wat Trauy Kooh on Fish Isle Kampot: Studying with a view

I came to Kampot today.

Kampot is very, very nice, actually the nicest place in Cambodia so far. Apart from the deserted beach on Koh Rong, but you cannot compare a secluded beach to the capital of a province.

While Kampot is nice, the guest house I’m staying at is the coziest I’ve been to in Cambodia by now. The room is quite small, but it’s so pleasant and with all these pretty, pretty details. I’d like to spend time here.
Quality time.
Reading. Writing. Cherishing.

So Much Joy, So Little Time

Lack of Time Off Travel

There are so many things to do that they just don’t fit in 24 hours. And don’t think I’m suffering from this shortage of time only during my travels. No, I’d need extra hours when I’m at home, too.

There is my day job that I have to do in order to pay my rent – and of course my travels. Most of the time I even like it. Then there is my blogging which is very important to me, but it’s extremely time-consuming, especially since I still have to cross-publish on social media. Then I need to do some sports and I enjoy a relaxing visit to the Spa afterwords. Takes a couple of hours. And of course there are all the chores and errands we all know. Oh, and I need to get enough sleep so I’m less grumpy.

Lack of Time On Travel

When travelling I like to see as much a possible, that’s obvious. But I also like to relax a bit. I’d like to enjoy the beautiful hotel rooms and get pampered at the hotels’ facilities. In the evening I’d like to go out and chat with people on the one hand, on the other I’d enjoy some quiet time bye:myself. I’d like to do some beauty treatments, I’d like to read my book – and of course I need a lot of time to write my blog posts and edit the pictures. And I’m not even following all these blog boosting activities that I do at home which immediately affects the traffic.
All these activities – and passivities – do not fit in 24 hours.

Monks at Wat Trauy Kooh in KAMPOT from where to go to THANSUR BOKOR and back
I should learn equanimity from these young students at Wat Trauy Kooh.
On the other hand – they don’t look that very happy….

Why I am complaining about this while I’m here in Cambodia? Because I constantly have to choooooose! And my choice ought to be everything, but obviously, that’s impossible.

Yes, it’s not a very Buddhist approach, the Zen-philosophy didn’t rub off on me as yet.

River Deep

The City of Kampot

But as I said: Kampot is very, very nice. And, unfortunately, I was there for just one day.

So after checking in I spent about ten minutes in the room and off I went on my bike to explore more of this extremely charming town.

Promenade in KAMPOT from where to go to THANSUR BOKOR and back
Kampot’s elegant promenade.

First of all there is a promenade along Kampot Bay River that has an almost mediterranean flair to it. A couple of architectural treasures from the colonial time are on the opposite side of the river walk. The more you approach the city center, the more rather hip-laid back restaurants and bars and little specialty shops are on the buildings’ first floor.

Many of these businesses are run by expats who obviously fell in love with Kampot just like me.

For instance Ben, the Irish owner of the lovely guest house Mea Culpa* stayed for good and opened a guest house after having spent just two daysin Kampot.

Maybe it was a smart decision to stay only one day there, after all.

Street in Kampot
Colonial charm along the riverside.

The Marketplace

There is the so-called Old Market which today is no market at all, but rows of cafés, souvenir shops, and tour operators.

If you arrive by bus, you can arrange all your further travels right here – like for instance trips to the salt fields and pepper farms surrounding Kampot, where the region’s pride and export hit is growing: Kampot pepper.

Durian statue in Kampot
Too bad one cannot smell it: A gigantic durian in the middle of a traffic circle.

There is also a real market, not the touristy kind, which is quite impressive for the European eye.

I did buy pepper here – fresh green pepper and two kinds of dried one. Since they make such a fuss about the real Kampot pepper, I’m not sure if mine is the real one, but it is pepper that I bought at a real market from a real Cambodian market tender – and I paid really half of what the stuff in fancy packs costs at the small specialty and souvenir shops, so I guess it’s ok and I’m happy with what I got.

Market in Kampot
The fruit department,….
Market in Kampot
…the dried fish’n’shrimps section,…..
Market in Kampot
…the food court,….
Market in Kampot
….and finally the butcher shop that will make that I’ll never worry about hygiene or continuous cooling-chain again.

So, we’re done with the pepper business, now let’s enjoy the charming little streets and places.

Difficult Neighborhood

They also have some monuments here in Kampot – the most unusual being a gigantic durian, the terribly stinking fruit that’s tainting South East Asia from Singapore to Viet Nam.

Cambodia Vietnam Friendship Monument
Every city has its own Cambodia Vietnam Friendship Monument – here Kampot.

Then there is the memorial dedicated to two salt workers and the one celebrating the friendship with Viet Nam, which probably makes the inhabitants gnashing their teeth; Cambodians generally aren’t that fond of Vietnamese people, to say the least, but they have to celebrate the friendship since it was the Vietnamese that liberated them from the Red Khmer’s terror.

Kampot’s Rural Backyard

Pepper plantations and salt fields – Kampot’s main source of income. Or maybe they are outran by tourism by now, I’m not sure.

However, you can visit pepper farms and some other sights by an organized tour. Or you hire a tuk-tuk that takes you there for 15 bucks – but that would be exclusively the pepper farm.

I opted for cycling

Crossing the Bridge

There is the old bridge which is really old and in lamentable condition so that no cars let alone busses or lorries are allowed to cross.

Old Bridge in Kampot
These are the heaviest machines that are allowed to cross the Old Bridge.

Once you cross it, you’re on Fish Isle where you get in close touch with the real and rural Cambodia: People working on rice paddies and salt fields, but also in construction. Large families putter around their one to two-room houses built on steles while kids and dogs are playing in the adjacent yards. Birds are singing, palm trees are swaying, it’s very calm and soothing and a joy cycling through all this harmony. Therebetween a small mosque and a big Buddhist temple.

People harvesting rice on Fish Isle at Kampot
A couple harvesting rice by hand. The bunches are disposed on top of the crop.
Three little girls on Fish Isle at Kampot
These ladies are enjoying a nice afternoon treat.

All this is very appealing and worth to be embraced and appreciated.
That’s exactly what I did for the rest of the day until I got really tired and planned to grab dinner and then just go back to my homely room. Reading. Writing. Cherishing.

So after a lovely Khmer dinner I cycled along the promenade and it was exactly the hour when the big houseboat-like ships take off to a river cruise in the dark, i. a. to spot fireflies.

Night Cruise

Although I had initially decided against this tour – since I intended to enjoy my homely room doing some reading, writing, cherishing – seeing the first ships passing by, nicely illuminated, people enjoying a drink on the top deck…I left my bike at the promenade, forked over five bucks and faster than you think I was one of the people on the top deck enjoying a beer that’s even included in the already reasonable fare.

Cruise on Kampot Bay River
So we took off into the sunset, heading towards the old bridge,….
Cruise on Kampot Bay River
…which is really very, very low. Extremely low.

What can I say, there are too many nice things to do, sometimes I just let my gut decide.
In this case, my mind happily followed.

Mountain High

A Trip to Thansur Bokor

Besides the pepper farms and salt fields a trip to the Thansur Bokor mountain is the tourists’ favorite activity when in Kampot.

View from the Thansur Bokor
It sure is high on Thansur Bokor.

Up on the mountain, there are ruins of King Sihanouk’s summer residence. Also, there used to be a casino for the French colonialists that today is in ruins, but being renovated. The French used to come to Thansur Bokor for the cooler climate, just like they did in Viet Nam in Đà Lạt.

Wat Sampov Pram - golden Buddha
The golden Buddha at Wat Sampov Pram. One of the many sights we were not able to see on the first day in the mist.

You’ll find the remnants of an old Catholic church and marvelous Wat Sampov Pram. Most impressive, however, is the ‘ghost town’, a former settlement destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

On top – literally and figuratively speaking – there is the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, a huge hotel with an adjacent casino.

Before I came to Cambodia, I had booked a room at the resort since it has five stars and I got it at an unbeatable price.

But as everybody goes only on day trips, it’s either complicated or expensive to get to Thansur Bokor to spend the night.

Therefore, I had to arrange my own transportation. At Kampot, they offered me a shuttle for 12 Dollars, but since a guided tour including all the iconic sights is only one Dollar more, I obviously opted for that. Plus, it’s more fun to be with some cool people from time to time.

Bad Weather Conditions

Cool is key. The higher we got, the colder it was.

There was an ice-cold wind blowing and a damp mist came down on our lot – mostly dressed in shorts and little T-shirts. The mist did not cover only us, it covered actually everything and obstructed the view at things that were farther away than six feet max. That’s not so good when you go up a mountain for the views. Or to take pictures of picturesque ruins. Or both. The poor guide was so apologetic, I almost pitied him.

Renata Green on the Thansur Bokor in the mist.
And when there is now view, there is no view at all.

Since we couldn’t see anything, the trip that is advertised as an all-day-excursion – which is a teeny swindle, anyway – was over by 11:40 a. m.

To me, it didn’t matter since I had booked it as my mean of transportation, so while the rest of the group headed downhill, I happily checked in at the hotel .

Gimme Shelter

I was welcomed by the very nice Mr. Nam Sambath, the front office manager. He took his time to explain all the facilities, escorted me to my room and made sure I’d be perfectly comfortable here.

Unfortunately the swimming pool and the Spa are undergoing renovation, but therefore I finally had the pleasure of limited choices.

I couldn’t go out in the mist and williwaw again, it was far too cold.

I couldn’t hang out at the Spa.

Perfect, finally time to read my book, to write my blog, to share a thing or two on my social media channels, to take a bath, to enjoy an oil-cream-peeling, to book my flight to Brazil.

I spent about eight hours in a bathrobe in bed – evidently apart from the bit when I took the bath – and was still so productive.

Since I had eaten only some fruits from the platter Mr. Nam Sambath had sent for me, at eight at night I decided to get dressed and have dinner. Of course, they offer a 24 hours room service and it’s even at the same price like the restaurant, but I needed to leave the room at least for a bit.

Life in a Golden Cage

The hotel is impressively big.
Long hallways between vast sitting areas.
Super high ceilings over a huge reception and the adjacent bar.
Waitresses and Maître D’ at every turn, all dressed in sleek uniforms.

Everything seems to be prepared for large crowds from the high society.

Instead, they had me, walking around in my sensible travel skirt and matching sensible sandals and a striped T-shirt.

The very nice guy at the bar told me that during Cambodian public holidays they are fully booked. Well, this was clearly not the Cambodian holiday season, I can tell you that.

I Can See Clearly Now

Same place, next morning. Glorious blue skies – bright sunlight over the mountains. Aaaah, this is what this place looks like; beautiful!

Mold-covered building on the Thansur Bokor in the mist.
This is what it looks like in heavy mist….
Mold-covered building on the Thansur Bokor
…and here with clear skies. The first day we didn’t even anticipate that there might be a fantastic view behind the building.

After a generous breakfast I hop on a posh mountain bike with eight gears, they even put a complimentary bottle of water in the holder, and off I go exploring what our group missed in yesterday’s mist – pun intended.

Looking from the Thansur Bokor across Kampot.
Looking from the Thansur Bokor across Kampot.

Well…’off I go’ is downhill, uphill it’s a drag, no matter how many gears. But that doesn’t matter, I’m so thrilled to see this majestic landscape, revisiting many of the spots we’ve been to.

Mold-covered building on the Thansur Bokor
And the building itself deserves a little sunshine to present all its pretty red mold and moss.

It’s amazing, yesterday there wasn’t even the slightest hint that there are these fantastic views all over Kampot and the ocean.

Old Catholic church on Thansur Bokor
My favorite building on Thansur Bokor: The old Catholic church – now almost in ruins.
Flowers at the old Catholic church on Thansur Bokor
There are obviously still faithful going to the church – there are pictures of Jesus, crosses and flowers.
In this demolished building it deems almost like a cult.

Beautiful Structures

Besides the gorgeous remnants of a sunken world, there is also the majestic Wat Sampov Pram to be visited, the less spectacular Prasat Proasath, the ancient Khmer temple, as well as a Chinese pagoda.

Wat Sampov Pram on the Thansur Bokor
A last look back at wonderful Wat Sampov Pram.

I’m so thrilled that I forget to put on sun protection and in the evening – now back to Sihanoukville, I have not only a fire red nose, I also have red arms with light ‘sleeves’ where my shirt’s sleeves protected the arms against the sun.

Carvings on Prasat Proasath
Beautiful carvings covering the walls of Prasat Proasath
Chinese Pagoda on Thansur Bokor
The Chinese Pagoda – located right next to the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort is another beautiful building not to be missed.

So mind you that visiting this area up the hill, you are exposed to sun, but possibly also rain and unexpected cold.

Apply sun cream – even if its a bit cloudy, the rays get through the clouds, wear a cap or hat. And make sure to have a rain skin on you and most of all a warm sweater – which you might need at the van because of the air con, anyway.

Sidenote

On my way back to Sihanoukville, I had an interesting encounter: A lady and two teenage kids, a girl of maybe 14 and a gorgeous boy of about 12 – if I needed a 12 year old male model, him I would pick in a blink of an eye. They were speaking Russian to each other.

Tourists, I thought, whereby I was puzzled when the lady asked the dispatcher in Khmer if the bus was fully booked. And the kids exchanged pleasantries with the other passengers in perfect American English.

Turns out they are from Ukraine and have been living in Cambodia for six years. The father is a medical doctor at the international clinic in Sihanoukville and the kids are going to the international school, hence the great command of English.

Motor Bike with Furniture in KAMPOT from where to go to Thansur Bokor and back
This is how it’s done, IKEA: furnishing for the whole house delivered on a motor bike – and no assembly required!

The lady told me that live was so miserable in Ukraine that they needed to leave and picked Cambodia more or less by incident. Meaning that he was not sent over by the red cross or an NGO or something alike.

Interesting that for a certain group of people things seem to be worse in Ukraine than in Cambodia.

Preparation

Hot to Get There And Around

Although their price policy in this particular case was a little sketchy, I liked travelling with Anny Tours & Travel since the drivers didn’t actually seem to care that their passengers survive the trip, they were very reliable and their pricing in general okay.

Anny Tours & Travel
Phone: + 855 – 76 – 368 99 99 / + 855 – 96 – 893 66 66 / + 855 – 88 – 567 22 22 / + 855 – 36 – 65 23 999
Email: Annatours10@yahoo.com

Of course, I had paid much more – the additional 9 $ for the way back and they didn’t give me the voucher for the cruise on the river which is worth 5 $ – but it was my choice to stay up there instead of just doing the tour everybody does and it’s not very easy to reason with some people, especially not when their English is very limited.
Although my trip turned out to be more costly, it was absolutely worth it and I would do it again exactly the way I did it.

The same driver picked me up on his tour – charged 9 $ – and took me with the next day’s group back downhill.

Street in KAMPOT from where to go to Thansur Bokor and back
If you’re not in the mood for cycling, you can always take a tuk-tuk.

Mainly young couples are renting motorbikes to get up the hill, but every tour operator in Kampot offers guided bus tours for about 13 $ – and even the above described evening cruise on the river is included, so it’s a great deal.

Where to Stay

In Kampot

Hotel Room in KAMPOT from where to go to THANSUR BOKOR and back
It’s quite small, it’s not luxury, but it’s so cozy and inviting. I’d simply like to live on this bed for at least half a day; but pleasure is calling from outside.

On Thansur Bokor

While everything is so perfect and nice at the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort*, there is one thing that they have to improve.

They have this really good deal where they pick you up at the Sokha Hotel in Sihanoukville*, take you to Thansur Bokor, give you a room with breakfast and dinner included. Moreover, you get a 10$ voucher for the casino and a free 30 minutes tour on the lake. Eventually, they cart you back to Sihanoukville.

Thansur Bokor Highland Resort on THANSUR BOKOR on a day trip from KAMPOT and back
This is where I’ve spent my day. You can even see the bathrobe I was wearing.

You can stay either only for the day or choose an overnight stay. However, I couldn’t take advantage of this offer since they aren’t offering it for a single traveller. Also, the tea time they serve in the afternoon is only for two people.

I should put this in my list of the – thankfully very few – disadvantages of solo travel.

Nevertheless, a stay at the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort* is highly recommendable – especially since this way, you don’t depend that much on good weather condition.

Where to Eat

If you go on the sunset cruise on the Kampot River, you can order dinner on the ship – after all, it’s a floating restaurant.

Nevertheless, I recommend to have a typical, very tasty Khmer dinner at Veronica’s Kitchen right across the street from the pier where those boats are parting.

Veronica’s Kitchen
Phone: + 855 – 13 – 900 016
Email: kongsovandy@yahoo.com

Cash and Cards

Inspite of the fact that there are many tourist-oriented businesses in Kampot, credit cards are not more accepted than in other parts of Cambodia. And even in places where you can pay with plastic, people are much happier if they get cash.

Kampot is a city, after all, therefore you won’t have difficulties getting money at a bank respectively at an ATM.

Language

Although Cambodians in Kampot don’t speak more English than in other parts of the country, it’s still a bit easier since there are many ex-pats running shops, restaurants, and guest houses so that you should be fine.

Do you want to read about all the other exciting places I’ve visited in Cambodia? Then go to the main post and take your pick!

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