Suostei (Hello in Cambodian) fellow travelers.
Cambodia is the home to the world’s largest Hindu temple in the world- The Angkot Wat. The above is the picture of the iconic destination. There are two sides of Cambodia, first is the rich ancient culture during Angkor period and second is the Khmer Rouge period when millions of innocent people died due to civil war. The former can be witnessed at Siem Reap and the later at Phnom Penh. Then they have beaches as well. Even though the coastline is very less compared to the neighboring countries, still they have the best islands. That’s why the islands Koh Rong and Koh Rong-Sanloem are called the backpackers’ Maldives.
The people of Cambodia are extremely humble and welcoming. They would always welcome everyone with a smile. They have a very laidback lifestyle. The official language here is Khmer, but the people in touristy places can somewhat understand English. But then most of the people cannot understand or speak English.
We visited the below places.
Siem Reap- Gateway to Angkor Wat (4 days),
Phnom Penh- Capital (3 days),
Kampot- beach side town to experience the countryside (3 days)
VISA and IMMIGRATION:
Where to apply: Cambodia offers Visa On Arrival for Indians with stay of 1 month and a validity of 3 months which costs 36 USD per person. However, it can be applied online as well in the Khmer official website here and payment can be done by Visa and Master credit cards. It takes 2-3 Business days for processing. I applied for e-visa online and got it within 2 days. I have also read that the Visa Officials ask for bribe while crossing the land border. So, it is always advisable to go for the e-visa.
We entered Cambodia at Siem reap international airport. We had to fill the arrival card and show the visa printout to the Immigration Officer. It was quick and smooth which took around fifteen to twenty minutes.
Documents required for e-visa:
1.Just a valid passport copy with more than 6 months of validity
2. Address of your first destination stay
3. Photograph may be required for VOA
How to Reach:
Cambodia is well connected via air and road. Many people visit Cambodia via land border as well who are covering south-east Asia in one go. But we went via Flight as Cambodia was our only destination this time.
Our Flight bookings were done as below. We chose Thai Air Asia via Bangkok as we found the timings to be suitable.
Bangalore-Siem Reap -10th Jan:11 PM IST-11th Jan 11 AM Local time- 40000 INR
Phnom Penh-Bangalore -21st Jan: 5 PM Local time-21st Jan-10:30 IST - 530 USD
Pro Tip: While booking flights to Cambodia from India, make sure one side flight is booked using one PNR, else you might have to get the Thailand transit visa as well. If the booking is with two PNR, then one might have to go outside the airport and enter again to check in the luggage which would lead to acquire transit visa for Thailand.
We pre-booked all our hotels and here are the details below. All are mid budget hotels with breakfast included. The hotels at Siem Reap and Kampot had the best views. I booked the hotels in the Central locations, so that it would be easier for us to stroll around. In Siem reap, it is better to stay near Pub Street to enjoy the night life. In Phnom Penh, it is better to stay near river side Sisawoth Quey area. This is a happening place with all the major attractions nearby. In Kampot, it is better to stay near river side or the Durian roundabout. Anyhow, it is a small city and hence all the places are near by.
Here are the details of our booking.
11th -14th Jan (4 N)- Siem Reap-Chhay Long Angkor Boutique Hotel-Rs.16000/-Bookings.com-
15th -17th Jan (3 N)-Phnom Penh-Okay Boutique Hotel-Rs.5000/- Agoda.com
18th -20th Jan (3 N)-Kampot-Sunny Hotel-Rs.10000/-Agoda.com
Transportation is not an issue at all in Cambodia.
The best option for intercity travel is bus, even though they have trains and flights as well. Flights are expensive and I don’t prefer travelling in trains. Hence, I chose to travel via bus. The “Giant Ibis” bus operator is the best and safest, most importantly they are punctual. They stop at descent stops for food and toilet. I took a local bus from Siem reap to Phnom Penh which I booked via a local tour operator in Siem reap and it took around 10 hours to complete the trip. So, it is not advisable to travel on these buses as none of them understands English including the driver. Here are my bus booking details.
Siem Reap - Phnom Penh Local Operator 24USD for 2 PAX
Phnom Penh- Kampot Giant Ibis 20 USD for 2 PAX-booked online
Kampot-Phnom Penh Giant Ibis 20 USD for 2 PAX-booked offline
They have app based taxi or Tuktuk or Auto-Rickshaw service available in the major cities. We used Pass app to book Tuktuk in Siem reap and Phnom Penh. It was very convenient. But if you are good at bargaining, then go for local Tuktuks as in all the places you will find the rickshaw drivers chasing you. The issue is again the language, sometimes even though we booked the auto rickshaw via Pass app, we were unable to guide the driver to our location. We somehow managed to communicate and used the app efficiently. Interestingly, I found they have all Bajaj(Humara Bajaj) and TVS auto-rickshaws running on the road. In Kampot also they had Pass app, however as the place was very small, we covered almost all the places by foot. And here, we rented a bike for a day as well to go to nearby places which costed 5USD per day. In short, there are many options available for commutation.
The local currency is Cambodian Riel, but US Dollars is widely accepted everywhere. So, it is a convenient option for Indians.
1 USD=4000 Cambodian Riel
This is the standard conversion rate everywhere. If you buy something that costs less than a dollar or in cents, then the change would be given in Riel.
Pro tip- Make sure you carry new crisp notes for the smaller denominations of USD, else they won't accept it. Even though for Riel, it does not matter how soiled the note is, they will take it. I have seen people arguing with the local vendors and restaurant owners for this, but no luck.
Local sightseeing / Activity Bookings: This can be done via Klook.com or via local tour operators as well. I booked few via Klook and few via local tour operator. In Siem reap for the temple tours, I booked via Klook.com. I also found many people using Klook.com while chatting with the fellow travelers. There are multiple types of temple tours available. I booked the group tours as Guide is also included here which makes it easier to explore the huge temple campuses.
Siem Reap Bookings:
1.Angkor Temple tour with Sunset: 1160 INR per person- Klook.com
2.Grand circuit tour: 1440 INR- per person- Klook.com
3. Kulen mountain National Park and waterfall Tour: 40 USD per person- Local
4. Phare Circus: 28 USD for B rows per person- Local tour operator
5. Apsara Dance show with dinner: 18 USD per person- Local tour operator
1. Stand Up Paddleboarding booking done via WhatsApp, payment by cash- 65 USD per person
2. Kampot countryside tour: 30 USD - booked locally
I felt Cambodian food is better than any other south-east Asian country. Because the food here is not smelly. I think all over south-east Asia, they use some sort of fish sauce that makes the food smelly. But Cambodian food was different. I loved the famous Chicken Amok. Traditionally they prepare both Fish and Chicken Amok. I loved the chicken one more. It is chicken cooked with lemongrass and some other spices and steamed in coconut cream based gravy. It is kind of chicken curry with different flavors. I also liked the chicken with cashew nuts. They had vegetarian options available in almost all the restaurants. The Tender coconuts here were huge and refreshing. They were served chilled which was cherry on the cake because the outside was too hot. This chilled coconut water was like heaven for me. South east Asia is famous for varieties of tropical fruits. I tried Mangoes, Longan, Rambutan, Dragon fruit, Snake fruit, Persimmon and Star apple. I felt Mangoes are tastier in India. I liked all fruits there. These are a must try while in south east Asia. The food costed around 7 USD per meal per person without alcohol in an average restaurant, which I felt was little high as compared to other South east Asian countries. In Kampot, the food was not that expensive and costed around 4 USD per meal.
This day we landed at Siem Reap by 11 AM and it was drizzling there. I had requested the hotel owner to send Tuktuk for pick up on prior notice which was free of cost. In Siem Reap most of the hotels provide pick up or drop to airport (one side only) as a complementary gesture. We had not planned anything for this day as we knew we would be jetlagged. We took rest and in the evening, we walked around the Pub Street to enjoy the local night life. It was nice happening place, but too noisy at night. So book hotels little away from pub street, else you cant sleep due to the noise. We took a sim card(Smart network) for 10 USD which was valid for 15 days with 10 GB data and talk time of 100 minutes. We also booked the activities at a local tour operator as mentioned earlier.
We had booked group tour to the Angkor wat with sunset for this day. I know that the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a sight to behold, but I am not a morning person and hence decided to go with sunset only. One can also go via Tuktuk for the temple tour which would cost around 15-20 USD based on your bargaining skills. Tuktuk drivers could be your guide for the entire day, however they have certified guides by Government who can explain in detail about the temples. Hence, we chose to go for the group tour. The temple campuses are huge and we knew that we could not cover all places all by ourselves without Guide.
We were picked up by a minivan by 7.40 AM and taken to the office. Then, people were divided into groups as per their bookings and started towards Angkor wat.
Angkor Archeological Park Pass and Temple timings:
First, we were taken to the ticket counter and here are the prices for the passes.
1 day Pass: 37$ - Valid for 1 day
3 days Pass: 62$ - Valid for 7 days
7 days Pass: 72$ - Valid for a month
There were multiple ticket counters, and it did not take long to get the tickets. We got the 3 days pass. In general, there are more crowd at the one-day pass counters, lesser for three days pass and least at the seven days pass counters. They take a photo and print it in the pass. They also accept Visa and master cards for payments apart from cash. The Angkor pass is very important and is checked at all temple entrances. Hence, make sure to keep in a safe place and not lose it at any time as the fine for losing the pass is high and can be up to 300 USD based 0n the type of pass you had purchased. The tickets can be purchased online as well from the official website only. Here is the link to it: https://ticket.angkorenterprise.gov.kh/. Do not trust anyone else if they say they can buy you a pass.
Most of the temples in the park can be visited from 7.30am – 5.30pm, but there are exceptions:
1.Angkor Wat and Srah Srang can be visited from 5am – 5.30pm, to witness the sunrise
2.Phnom Bakheng and Pre Rup can be visited from 5am – 7pm, to witness both the sunrise and sunset
We visited the main temples on this day as below.
1. Angkor wat
2. Ta-Phrom or the Tomb Raider temple
3. Bayon Temple located in the city of Angkor Thom
4. Terrace of Elephants in Angkor Thom
5. South Gate entrance and moat of Angkor Thom
6. Phnom Bakheng for sunset
We started with the iconic Angkor Wat. This is World's largest religious complex comprises more than thousand buildings. It was constructed by King Suryavarman II during the first half of 12th Century and it took around thirty years to be completed. The temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu and hence we can still see a huge statue of Lord Vishnu inside. Angkor Wat literally translates to City of Temple. There are 5 tower like structures in the middle of the temple which represents mount Meru as and were surrounded by a moat representing the Ocean. As per Cambodian belief, the mount Meru is the Centre of the universe where the Hindu Gods reside and is surrounded by the Ocean which is considered to be the edge of the world. The temple is reached by passing through three galleries, each separated by a paved walkway. The walls of the temple are filled with intricate carvings depicting scenes from Mahabharata, Ramayana, ancient Khmer lifestyle, Hindu Gods, many Apsaras and most importantly the "Samudra Manthan" (churning of ocean of milk) which depicts the time during creation of Universe. Even though it was dedicated to the Hindu Gods initially, later it became a popular worship place for Buddhism. The temple complex is massive and took around half a day to see it around. It was raining and we got drenched while visiting the five towers. Our guide explained in detail about all the important places inside the temple and took some nice groupfies. It is impossible to describe about Angkor Wat in a small blog, hence it is better to read about it online and watch some YouTube videos on the same to understand the beauty.
Then we quickly finished lunch at a restaurant near by which costed us 7.5 USD and headed to Ta Phrom temple.
Indian Government is helping the Cambodia for the restoration of this temple. It is also a huge temple complex. This became famous after the filming of movie Lara Croft-Tomb Raider. The temple walls are covered with roots of huge trees and that is giving a unique look to the temple. Now those cannot be removed, else the temple would collapse.
Our next stop was the Bayon Temple inside Angkor Thum, my personal favorite temple. Angkor Thum was a city where millions of people used to reside. There are four entrances to the city used for different occasions, like death, victory, royal entry/exit and one for general public. The south gate is the one where some of the sculptures are still remaining. Most of them were broken during civil war. They have demonstrated the "Samudra Manthan" or the churning of the see which is considered to be the beginning of life on earth. All the temples are built with four faces of Buddha representing simplicity, compassion, equanimity and wisdom. Some also say that the smiling faces represent the faces of king Jayavarman VII. Some also say that the faces represent faces of Brahma- the Hindu God. Multiple theories have been derived due to the dominance of both Hinduism and Buddhism in the place. There are 54 faces in the temple, in total.
There was also a terrace of elephants inside the city, which has elephants constructed on the walls as the name suggests. It was built in the late-12th century as a viewing platform, from which King Jayavarman VII looked over his victorious returning army. There are many small temple-like structures inside the city campus, and it is a huge campus too. Then we stopped for a while near the south gate to witness the beauty of the structure and left for the next destination.
It was already evening by then and hence we headed towards the Phnom Bakheng temple. Even though it rained in the morning, the sun came up by afternoon and hence we were able to enjoy the wonderful sunset views behind the temple from the hilltop. First, we had to walk up the hill to reach the temple and then climb the stairs to reach the temple top. Many people gathered around the place to witness the sunset and the view was just splendid. Ankor wat was also visible from the temple top.
This evening, we had booked for the Phare circus show. This was a very good show organized by locals. They depict a story through their act with their fine aerobatic skills. This is a show for an hour with full on entertainment. This is a must watch when at Siem Reap.
This day's plan was for Kulen mountain day Trip, which included the below.
1. Kulen Mountain viewpoint
2. Temple of Reclining Buddha
3. Origin place of the river and Riverbed with 1001 Lingas
A special pass is required to visit the Kulen mountain, which was arranged by the tour operator. Our Driver cum guide picked us from the hotel by 8.30 and then we picked our fellow passengers who were of Chinese Cambodian ethnicity. We started the day with Kulen Mountain viewpoint and then moved towards the temple of reclining Buddha. The next stop was the pool where the river has originated and then the river bed where 1001 Lingas has been carved on the river bed. As per Hindu mythology, water is poured on the Shiva Lingam and then the same water is consumed as prasadam as the water becomes holy. In India, we have the holy river of Ganga, but they did not have Ganga, and hence to make the water holy , they carved 1001 Lingas on the river bed. I liked this concept very much. Finally we headed towards the fountain where we saw carved structure of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva- all the three main Hindu Gods. The waterfall was gorgeous, many people were taking bath there as well.
We had lunch while going back to siem reap. I loved the chilled tender coconut water there and the chicken cashew nuts and rice here which costed us 8.5 USD per person.
This evening we had boked for Apsara dance show with dinner. This show was good to understand the Apsara culture that are carved on the walls of Angkor Wat. The food was also yum at the restaurant. There are multiple restaurants who arrange Apsara dance with dinner show. You can choose any. All of them are good.
We had booked the grand circuit tour with Bantey Srei for this day. Even though we had booked a group tour, but no one else was there with us and it became a private tour with tour guide. The Bantey Srei and Bantey Kdei temples are also included in the Angkor Pass, which are located little far away from the main temple campus. We visited the below temples.
1. Pre Rup Temple: This is even older than Angkor Wat build during year 961.It is a three tiered mountain temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The pyramid structure represents sacred mountain Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu mythology. Pre Rup means Turn the body and hence it is believed that this place was used for funeral purpose. Sunset is best enjoyed from here as it is build on a higher platform.
2. Eastern Mabon Temple: This is similar in design with Pre Rup, but smaller is size. This temple has a huge elephant in one of the corner which looks gorgeous. The architecture marvel include carvings of Indra on Airavat, lord shiva on Nandi, Varuna on peacock and many more. This was built near a reservoir which now has dried up. Stones from Kulen mountain were brought here via river to built the temple. Millions or people used to live here.
3. Bantey Srei Temple: Bantey Srei means Citadel of Women. The name has been given recently due to the pink color of the temple. It is a small temple campus located around 25 KM away from main temple campus. It was originally called Isvarapura. I fell in love with the temple by seeing the architecture, the carvings and looks, everything was just perfect. There is a front entrance, a courtyard and then the main temple. I was just mesmerized by the beauty.
Then we had lunch at the same restaurant as the previous day and the food was yum there. We tried chicken amok for the first time and was delicious and the food costed around 8.5 USD.
4. Ta Som Temple: It is a small temple and the gate here is similar to Bayon temple with four faces of Buddha. Even though, it is small, the architecture is unique here. It is just astonishing to see that even though there are so many temples in and around the place, but each has its unique identity.
5. Neak Pean Temple: It is an island temple with the entwined snakes dedicated to Lord Buddha. A wooden walkway over the waters leads to the central sanctuary. This is very unique and gorgeous.
6. Preah Khan Temple: This is a huge temple campus with multiple architectural marvels. Preah Khan means Sacred Sword. The king Jayavarman VII built this temple to honor his win against the Chams of Champa region (now in Vietnam). This has multiple sections inside and is still under restoration process. The temple complex includes entryways, towers, ceremonial spaces, courtyards, shrines, a variety of connecting corridors, the once bronze-plated sanctum sanctorum and its Hall of Dancers. My favorite part was the two-story pavilion which had very unique architecture.
We spent the evening by strolling around the pub street on our last night at Siem Reap.
We travelled to Phnom Penh via bus which took us around 8 hours. It was not a good experience as mentioned earlier. We reached hotel by evening, rested for a while and walked towards the Sisowath quay by the evening to enjoy the night life. The riverside area was decorated and filled with restaurants. At one end, there was the Phnom Penh night market. it was nice to take a walk at the Boulevard.
This day we visited the main attractions of Phnom Penh.
1.Royal Palace: We started our day with a visit to the Royal Palace, which is located at the river front. It was at a walkable distance from our hotel. The entry fee was 10 USD per person. This is huge with multiple building inside. The main building, the silver pagoda, the Buddha temple are few major attractions here. This is somewhat similar to Thailand's Royal palace, but it is comparatively smaller.
2. National Museum: We walked to the National Museum next which was located behind the Royal Palace. The entry fee here is 10 USD per person. They have huge figurines of old Khmer empire kept where which were stolen from Angkor region. This was a nice place to understand the great Khmer history and culture.
3. S-21 prison (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum): We took a Tuktuk to reach here next which costed around 8000 Riel. The entry fee to the place is 6 USD per person. They have audio tour available included as part of entry fee. This is a place that tells us about the dark history of Cambodia during Pol Pot regime or the Khmer Rouge. He was a dictator who ruled the Democratic Kampuchea between 1975-1979 and destroyed the country. S-21 was a school converted to prison where they used to bring the prisoners and torture them. There was no such reason behind this. They just wanted to threaten people and show power. We saw some beds where they used to electrocute people. There were many more methods of torture which were being used. I started getting goosebumps by listening to the torture stories and could not even listen to the story of the victims. The experience was horrifying. But, I wanted to understand the reason why people were being tortured and how did it end and hence I listened to most of it. It was very informative and taught us the importance of freedom and independence. They also told that there was no intention to spoil the mood of tourists, but they want everyone to understand the pain they went through, so that it is never repeated anywhere. Many people died here unable to tolerate the torture and they have stored the skulls and bones of people in a room to give tribute to the people who died. Almost one third of the population were wiped off during this period. There is no proper information on what exactly used to happened inside the prison as none of the victims survived from there. They tried to destroy all the evidence, but very few were left out, from which they are predicting what could have happened inside. Only seven of them survived who were working at the site as engineer, cook, doctor etc.
4. Killing fields (Choeung Ek Genocidal Center): This is located around 12 kilometers away from the main city. We took a Tuktuk here which costed us 18000 Riel from the S-21 museum. Luckily the same driver agreed to wait for us to return to the city for 20000 Riel. The entry fee is 6 USD per person, and they ask the Nationality of the everyone visiting here to keep the record. So, don't be surprised if they ask the same. This place has also Audio guide included in the entry fee. There is a monument built here to respect the victims where they have kept the skulls and bones of the victims and everyone who visits there can pay respect as well. So, this is the place where they used to bring the blindfolded people in the trucks and kill them all. They did not want to waste bullets as they were poor and hence they used to kill the people by hitting them with heavy instruments or hitting them on a tree(this is still here). Imagine how barbaric they were, to kill thousands of people just by hitting them and to hide this from others near by, they used to play some music using loud speakers. They had large holes where they used to throw the dead bodies. They used to put DDT there so that the dead bodies would not smell and also the people who were still alive, would die completely. They used to believe that the entire family should die, so that no one would be left to take revenge. Hence if one person in a family was found guilty, the entire family was killed. They have stored the clothes of many people in a box in their memory. It was too tough for me to listen to all these stories and hence I skipped few, else I would have broken down.
In the evening, we visited the Independence monument and the statue of king Sihanouk near the National Palace. The entire area was lit up and decorated beautifully as the Chinese new year was around the corner.
This day was for souvenier shopping and Wat hopping.
1.Russian Market: We went to Russian market for souvenir shopping. This place has multiple entrances and exits. I had heard that this is the place to bargain hard and get stuff and I did not want to miss the chance. We got some fruits from here as well like Persimmon, Longan, Star Apple etc. to enjoy in the evening. The timings for this is from 6 AM to 4 PM. Do not visit after 4.30 PM , else you would be disappointed.
2. Central market: This is another shopping place located in a dome like structure designed by a French Architect. The opening hours here from 7 AM to 6 PM. Hence better to visit these markets in the day time as they close early in the afternoon.
3. Wat Phnom: This is one of the Buddhist temple located on a hill. This is a beautiful temple. There was another temple near by where some ceremony was going on and people were offering meat and eggs to the status of Lions. It was something unusual for us , but the temple was beautiful.
4. Wat Langka: This is located near the Independence monument. This is a beautiful Buddhist temple. It is a perfect place to take some pictures.
5. Wat Ounalom Monastery: This is located on the riverside and is also a gorgeous one. But we were not allowed inside the main shrine as some ceremony was going on, however we visited in and around the temple and took some beautiful pics.
6. River Cruise: We finished the day with river cruise located just opposite the monastery. They charge 5 USD per person and take on a sunset cruise trip. It was amazing to watch the sunset in d middle of the river.
We started our journey to Kampot on this day. We had pre booked the bus tickets online on Giant Ibis bus. We took an auto to the Giant Ibis bus terminal and boarded the bus by 8. It took 3 hours to reach Kampot. We got down at Giant Ibis bus terminal, Kampot. Kampot is a small beachside province in Cambodia. This is gaining popularity among the European bag packers recently. It's a small town and everything is near the main landmark- The Durian round about. We chose this location to try the Stand up paddle boarding and to have the countryside experience.
Our hotel was also near Durian roundabout, so we just pulled our luggage and walked to the hotel. The hotel room was spacious airy. We had booked for Stand Up Paddle boarding for this day. So, they came and picked up from our hotel and took us to the place. I was somewhat nervous as this was my first time, but I had heard that Kapot is the best place to try Stand up paddle boarding. This sport is gaining popularity these days.
We had booked through SUP ASIA. I had contacted them before via Watsapp and booked our session for the day. We paid via cash post our activity was done. We went for the half day mangrove conservation tour and it costed us 65 USD per person. They gave us waterproof bags to keep the stuff and one special bag for the phone. The trainer gave us the basic information first and asked us to start. He came with us in a separate paddle board. Initially I was nervous and getting stuck here and there. My paddleboard was getting struck inside mangrove roots or in one shore, but gradually I learned and I was able to ride it. We were asked to sit on the knees and start and then stand up gradually. I tried to stand up in the middle of the water, but I could not balance and hence I sat down and paddled through out. We paddled for around 5 Kilometers and it was fun. At some point I was tired, but then our guide asked us not worry and just sit and relax on the boat and the wind helped us to paddle till the end. It was an amazing experience. Once we reached, we were given tender coconut water, fruits and water. It was very refreshing after the journey and trust me, it was completely worth it. There was a jetty made near the mangroves and there were some nice places to take photos and enjoy the sunset. Later we were given mangroves to plant at the site. It was fun. We came back via motor boat to the starting point and then back to the hotel vis Tuk Tuk. It was worth an experience. Our trainer helped us to book countryside Tuk Tuk tour.
We spent the evening by the riverside. It was at walkable distance from our hotel. This place becomes happening by night.
We started by 8 in the morning. We had multiple stops planned for this day. The roads were bumpy and there was no proper Tar road. We drove on a road next to the canal built during the Khmer Rogue. So many people died during the construction of this, but it is very useful these days for irrigation purpose. We could see many paddy fields and farming lands on both sides of the road.
1. Cave Temple: Our first stop was Cave Temple. It is a limestone cave created due to stalactite and stalagmite formations. We had to climb stairs to reach the temple. This is a small cave temple inside which there is a Shiva lingam which is being worshipped.
2. LA Pepper Plantation: We were greeted here and asked to wait for people to gather to start the plantation tour. They have tours conducted in French and English Language. They took us and showed us around. A couple from French purchased the land there and started the plantation. They have varieties of Pepper planted over there. The climate of Kampot is suitable for pepper plantation. We were showed and explained the processing of black and white pepper. After the tour, there was pepper tasting session. It was fun. Even though all the pepper were somewhat spicy, but I liked it.
3. Secret Lake: This is the manmade lake created during Khmer Rogue. It is part of the canal we saw before. There was Durian plantation next to the lake as well. It is a small lake. We took some photos here and moved ahead.
4. Kep Town: Then we reached Kep and had crab lunch at one seaside restaurant. The food was delicious there. We had Kampot famous pepper spiced crab. Then it was time for beach. It was too sunny outside. So, we took some photos near the beach moved to the next destination.
5. Kampot Salt fields: The salt fields were filled with water as it had rained then and hence we could not see the salt in there. It is located at Kampot. So, we went to the riverside post this to enjoy the sunset and called it a day.
We rented a bike for 5 USD for this day and visited the Bokor Mountain National Park on this day. There were various things to see here. It was chilly on top of the mountain even though it was hot in Kampot. There were several buildings constructed here during the French Rule as they wanted to make it a hill station. But due to some reasons the place was abandoned and never used. Below are few of the must visit places at Bokor Mountain.
1. Lok Yeay Mao Monument: There was a statue of lady Lok Yeay Mao while going atop the mountain. Locals consider her to be the protector of the jungle, travelers, hunters and fishermen. It was super windy there and the view was amazing.
2. Black Palace: There was an abandoned structure opposite to the Lok Yeay Mao monument. Apparently it was the summer palace of King Sihanouk, built in 1936. There was nothing much to see there.
3.Sampov Pram Pagoda: Wat Sampov Pram, or the 5 boats pagoda, is one you can’t miss . It was built by King Monivong in 1924. It offers stunning views of the canyon and sea from behind the temple complex, making it unique. Few Buddhist monks reside at the temple and worship here today as well. There are five large rocks located next to the shrines in the shape of boat and the temple is named after them.
4. Old Bokor Church: This was built during the French colonization era of 1920. This is an abandoned but picturesque church. There is nothing left here apart from the building, but is worth a visit for the views around.
5. La Bokor Hotel and Palace: This was also built by French, used to be the epicenter of the city town built by French. The hotel was first abandoned in the late 1940’s during the Indochina War. It was reopened in the early 60’s, only to be abandoned again in 1972 when the Khmer Rouge took over the area. I also read that this has plans to be reopened, but due to covid-19 outbreak, the plan has been paused temporarily. It was closed completely during our visit, so we could only take few pictures from outside.
6. Popokvil Waterfall: Popokvil in Khmer means swirling clouds. There was an entry fee of 2000 Riel per person which included a water bottle. This is a small and well maintained waterfall on top of the mountain. The waterfall becomes gorgeous during monsoon, however there was plenty of water during our visit as well. There was a small restaurant nearby offering limited options and descent food.
We came back by afternoon and had lunch at Kampot. We spent the afternoon by watching sunset at the riverside and exploring the city by foot. We also booked our tickets at Ibis bus terminal to Phnom Penh to end our Cambodian Sojourn.
Ah-Kun(Thank you in Khmer)
Thank you for your patience and kindly let me know if you need any help on planning a trip to Cambodia.
Li-haey (Namaste and Bye bye in Khmer)