Kampot has been the administrative center for southern Cambodia for hundreds of years, and the small town is dotted with government offices. The small scale of this town makes it great for walks. Bring along your camera as there are plenty of photo opportunities.
Kampot is home to a striking collection of French colonial architecture dating from the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century.
My favourite colonial buildings in Kampot – in no particular order – are the Red Cross building, the Governor’s Mansion and rows of workers’ houses along the riverside road as well as the crumbling prison and the Radio 9 January building in the streets just behind the riverside. There is also some nice examples on the hospital grounds. Some of the government departments house in these century old buildings.
After World War I, the French Colonial building style changed – largely due to the invention of reinforced concrete – to modern and geometrical lines. Kampot has a great selection of these buildings from the era of Le Corbusier. The old cinema, old theatre, the old market, the railway station and the Department of Tourism are wonderful examples of this style.
Kampot sadly lacks historical Cambodian architecture, but the more recently built Traditional Music School and the building on the grounds of the Olympic Stadium are worth a look.
There are three temples on the outskirts of town (Wat Kampong Bye, Wat Sovan Sakor and Wat Traoy Koh) – Wat Traoy Koh is set on beautiful grounds on Traoy Koh (literally: ‘the island on the other side’), overlooking the river.
Khmer style wooden houses can be found north & south of town along the riverside, around the new market area and east of town.
Besides two Chinese temples, there are also plenty of Chinese style shop-houses dotted around town. There is a nice row of old salt-workers’ houses just before you get to the road out to Kep.
Kampot is located on the Kampong Bye river, crossable via four bridges.
The characteristic ‘Old Bridge’ shows the wear and tear it has had to endure, and is one of Kampot’s iconic structural features. The new bridge just to the north was inaugurated by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May 2007. Further north again the railway bridge crosses the river – it is possible to pass this bridge by foot – nice views! The fourth bridge connects ‘the other side’ of Kampot with ‘the island on the other side’.
The Khmers are very practical people, and to ease giving directions they place statues, sculptures and monuments on strategic points (‘go straight at the Durian, then turn left at the 2000 monument’).
Kampot boasts the fore-mentioned Durian (symbolising the high quality of the fruit grown in this area – note that the province sign for Kampot on road 3 also features the durian), the 2000 monument (the numbers 2-0-0-0 with a seagull on top), a salt workers statue (symbolising the salt production of the area) and the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument (depicting two machine gun toting soldiers and a young lady – similar monuments can be found in towns and cities around the country).
For unknown reasons, Kampot is not (as yet) graced with a Kampot Pepper Monument.
Not quite one to add to your ‘things to see’ lists as these windowless concrete buildings playing recorded bird sounds will never appear in an Architectural Digest. I have added this for those who are wondering or have wondered what these structures are for.
Harvesting swallow saliva as an ingredient for bird-nest soup has become a booming business around Cambodia. Bird-nest soup lovers should not get their hopes up, the entire harvest is being exported. Fortunately (*knocks on wood*) only a few are in town, most are on the outskirts or just out of town.
advise animal bird Bokor Cambodia day trip fish flower fruit health history hospital Kampot Kep Khmer Khmer Rouge Koh Kong mammal map money Phnom Penh safety Sihanoukville superstition telephone tree volunteer weather