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VIVE LA FRANCE:
Thank you France.
Unlike many other places in Cambodia, Kampot has not been built on the sex tourism industry. It feels cleaner, safer, more decent, and much more inviting.
I caught the 8am Giant Ibis Minibus from Phnom Penh directly to Kampot.
I booked the Minibus at my Hotel and paid US$9. I got them to reserve me one of the single seats near the window.
My hotel pick up was arranged for 7:30am (my hotel was only about 600m away from the Giant Ibis bus station). At 7:15 I get a knock on my room door… the not-very-friendly night receptionist shouts out ‘your pick up is waiting’. I open the door and explain that it is early and I need a few more minutes.
I finish my packing quickly and get down stairs within 3 minutes. As I walk towards the pickup minibus the boy on the front desk stops me and says that I need to pay.
??? I thought that I paid by Visa when I booked through Expedia online ???
No he says… I need to pay. I doubt myself – perhaps it was one of those ‘pay the hotel directly’ things. The pressure was on and the Minibus was beeping his horn… I quickly paid cash. Too late, my pickup had lost patience and had driven off.
It is still only 7:20am so I say to the boy behind the desk to phone them up and ask them to send another pickup. He calls them but they will not resend a pickup saying ‘I should be ready and waiting pickup 1 hour before the pickup time!’.
I say to him that I booked through the hotel, that my ticket says pickup at 7:30am, it is now only 7:20am, it is the hotel’s problem, the hotel can pay for a tuk tuk. He agrees and calls a tuk tuk that is idle outside. I get to the Giant Ibis bus station by 7:25am.
On the Minibus to Kampot, I get on line and check my Visa Transactions. Sure enough, I paid Expedia using my Visa Card when I booked online. According to the online Hotel Reviews, this is not the first time that this has happened – another traveller had the exact same check out issue as I did and missed his bus to Sihanoukville because of the check out delay.
I logon to Expedia support and ask for a full refund. I get an email back from them saying that they tried to call the Hotel without success and now want me to call another Expedia number. I email back to ask Expedia to communicate by email as I have no phone in Cambodia. I never hear from Expedia again.
I have now contacted Visa and raised a Transaction Dispute against Expedia.
Today I hear from Visa that, unless I have a receipt for the cash payment, they cannot do anything. I don’t have a receipt.
The guy on the check out at the Hotel has a nice scam going. .. I may have lost my money but Expedia have a responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Needless to say, the chance of me doing business with Expedia again is very low. It is now up to them to impress me and change my mind.
Lesson Learnt: Before you check out, make sure that you know whether or not you have already paid.
Meanwhile, the Minibus journey goes smoothly and we arrive in Kampot 30 minutes late at 11:00am.
I have booked a Guesthouse for 1 night within 200m of the Giant Ibis Bus Station. I have done this on purpose so that I don’t have far to go on arrival.
I run the gauntlet of awaiting tuk tuk drivers and I am at my hotel within 5 minutes.
For general information about prices, travel money, SIMcards, Visa Extensions, etc please read my post on Siem Reap.
Whilst in Kampot, I topped up my SMART SIMcard. I got a 4Gb High Speed Mobile Data package that lasts 1 month for US$5.
Near Captain Chim’s Guesthouse there is a small shop who do Visa Renewals. They have to get them done in Phnom Penh so you pay a little extra to get your Passport there and back.
It cost me US$88 for a 3 Month Business Visa (Single Entry) Extension and another US$1 for the required photo (which they get by scanning the photo that is already in your passport).
Turn-around is 7 days. You can pay an extra US$20 to get it done in 2 working days.
WHERE TO STAY:
Kampot is not a big place. It is just a small town.
The best area to stay in is around the Old Market – which is the area defined by the Highway 3 bridge over the river to the north, the National Bank of Cambodia to the south, the Dunan Roundabout to the northeast and the Salt Carriers Monument to the southeast.
There are a few good places further south past the National Bank along the river but, for some people, they start getting a bit too far to walk to the ‘centre’. Most notable of the places further south are The Mad Monkey and the Two Moons.
I booked into the Sebana Guesthouse 30m north of the Dunan Roundabout. I did so because it was within walking distance from the Giant Ibis Bus Station and was US$7 / night for a double room with fan, cable tv, in-room wifi, and hot water en suite.
I booked into the Sebana so that I could spend some un-pressured time looking around for a nice place to stay for the next 2 weeks.
On my scooter, I had the freedom to drive up and down every street in my target area and stop and look at many places to stay.
May in Cambodia is ‘Shoulder Season’ (the rains start in a few weeks and the monsoons start in August) so prices were starting to come down.
For US$6-8 you could find many double rooms with fan, cable tv, hot water ensuite, and in-room wifi. They were usually in smaller, older places – and the rooms were ‘snug’. BUT THEY WERE ALL EXCELLENT VALUE FOR MONEY – especially for backpackers.
I am a GRANDPAcker, so I wanted something a little bit better. In particular, as we weren’t near the coast, I liked the idea of getting somewhere with a pool. Some days the temperature can get as high as 40 degrees this time of year.
It worked well for me at the Funky Flashpacker in Siem Reap, so why not do it again?
I searched the internet and made a shortlist of all of the places on the internet that had swimming pools. On my rental scooter (see below), I got to each of them.
- Villa Vidici was too far away from centre (for me) up a dirt road; There was no-one around the pool and no atmosphere – I didn’t even stop to view a room
- On that basis, I knew that the Bohemiaz Resort was a no-go as it was too far away – so didn’t even go there
- The Two Moons wanted US$25 for a Double Aircon and US$35 for a Twin Bungalow with fan – but, I thought, it was too far from centre and overpriced
- The Mad Monkey wanted US$18 for a modern fan room; it reminded me a lot of the Funky Flashpacker in Siem Reap except that (a) it was too far away from the centre (b) it had a roof bar that was only open between 5 and 7:30pm and (c) it only had happy hour beers at US$1
- The Borey Bokor had older style Doubles with fan, cable tv, in-room wifi, and hot shower en suites for US$8; This was the best value so far – BUT the pool was next door and you had to walk out onto the street and back in again to get to it
As I am criss-crossing up and down the streets working my way out from the ‘centre’, I found a new-build guesthouse called Vibola.
You could immediate see that the place looked clean and tidy and ‘voi la’ right in the middle was a little plunge pool.
It is one of the best rooms that I have seen all day – it is aircon (not fan). I ask whether they have a room with a balcony over-looking the pool.
I go back down and ask to speak to the manager. I ask him to put a table and chair on my balcony so that I have somewhere nice to sit and work.
I ask him for his ‘best price’ for a 2 week stay.
We finally agree US$12 / night (I tried really hard for US$10 but I could see that he was in so much pain that I couldn’t push him that hard and feel good about it).
I thought that US$12 was an excellent price for somewhere new with aircon and a pool.
On that platform, I could look forward to a good standard of LIVING in Kampot.
The Sebana Guesthouse rents out scooters and bicycles. I took a scooter for 24 hours for US$5. Sebana don’t have their own scooters – they, obviously, have a deal going with another party.
Within 5 minutes a scooter turned up. It was a clapped out piece of junk. The automatic gears only kicked in after 2 seconds if you had it at full throttle. Crap but good enough for what I needed it for: to spend a few hours zooming around town finding the best place to stay at the best price.
I found the Vibola Guesthouse (see, above). They rent near-new scooters for US$4 per day that are much more economical on petrol than my old banger from the Sebana.
If a guesthouse rents near-new for US$4 / day then, I would guess that, you should be able to get a longer term rental (say, 2 weeks) somewhere around town for US$3.
I quite enjoyed doing Siem Reap by bicycle so I have already decided to do the same in Kampot. The ‘clincher’ was that Kampot is as flat as a pancake and easy to get around on a bike (and on foot).
WHERE TO EAT:
There are many places to choose from in the ‘centre’. Most cafes and restaurants do a mix of Asian and Western cuisine.
A simple breakfast (such as 2 Fried Eggs with a warm Baguette) starts at US$1.5, Muesli and Fruit at about US$3 and a Full English at about US$5. Coffees range from US$1-2 depending on whether or not you like a cappuccino.
I ended up having many breakfasts at Captain Chim’s where I had Baguette and 2 Fried Eggs (US$1.25) and black coffee (US$0.40). They give you free water bottle refills too.
Lunch & Dinner:
I tried the famous ribs at the Rusty Keyhole – US$5.50 for the ribs and US$1.50 for a pint of draft beer. It was very tasty – but, I can’t help feeling that any meal in Cambodia over US$2.50 should be coming out of my LIVING expenses.
You have all of the usual stuff (like Tom Yam soup) and some places do dishes with the famous Kampot Peppercorns. You have to give the latter a try – those green peppercorns served up still on the twig are to die for.
There are still hawker stalls in the streets around the centre where you can get your usual eats for US$0.75-1.50.
WHERE TO DRINK:
Captain Chim’s has a standard price of 60c for a draft beer and a few places have a standard price of 75c. The majority of places have draft for US$1.
There are a few ‘Pub’ style places to choose from: for a typical Cambodian Style ‘pub’ try NOLA’s (about 20 meters on the right up Old Market Street from Captain Chim’s).
If you want to ‘party’ try Oh Neils (riverfront), the backpacker-oriented Lazy Cat, The Living Room (riverfront), Titch’s (riverfront with a rooftop bar), or the Indo Sports Bar. But, there are many more.
EVERYWHERE: Pack of 20 local cigarettes: 25c-75c. Pack of 20 Marlborough Lights: US$2.
LOCAL CAFES: Tea & Coffee = US$1. Cappuccino US$1.75.
REASONABLY PRICED RESTAURANTS: Fresh coconut drink = US$1.
LOCAL SHOPS: Bunch (approx 16) ‘stubby’ bananas = 50c. 1 Kg (in season) Mangoes = 25c. Large 1.5L water = US$0.50. Water refill = Free (at Captain Chim’s). 750ml Mouthwash = US$4.30. 475ml Shower Cream = US$1.30. 320ml Shampoo = US$2.30. 500ml Baby Lotion (to mix with Dettol against sandflies) = US$3.20.
OTHER: 1Kg of Laundry = US$1. 100ml Bottle of Betadine = US$3.50.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
When you come to the realisation that there are no rules, then everything is OK.
The traffic around town is normally going too slow to be of any real danger to you (as long as you pay attention).
The locals are friendly and you do not get harassed by beggars.
The Drug Scene:
You can get a bag of top quality marijuana heads for US$10. You should be able to pick some up from any backpacker place / bar. At that price, there’s bound to be a drug scene.
In Kampot, the drug scene is in the background. Occasionally you catch the smell of marijuana in the air whilst sitting in a bar. So what.
The drug scene seems to be marijuana based… I saw no indications that there were problems with harder drugs. That’s a good thing because where there’s hard drugs, crime is sure to follow.
Kampot is a quiet town. You make your own entertainment.
There are also several trips that you can do:
- 5hr Scenic River Cruise US$8
- 2hr Sunset Firefly Cruise US$5
- 10hr Kampot Grand Tour US$16
- A Day Snorkeling & Fishing US$17
- A Sunset BBQ with A Night Squid Fishing US$15
WHEN TO GO:
Peak Season is November through April.
Monsoon Season is August through October.
But, as most rains miss the coastline, you can come to Kampot any time of year.
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