With a sultry, unhurried air, little traffic, and some fine cafés, Kampot is among the most atmospheric towns in Cambodia. Nestled along the Kampot River, the town’s riverside promenade is a delight at sunset, as fishermen cast their lines and locals enjoy a drink against a backdrop of the Bokor Mountain Range.
Kampot’s central area is quite com pact and easily explored on foot. Its French Colonial buildings, although in an advanced state of decay, remain impressive. An ideal starting point is the riverbank close to the old bridge, which was badly damaged during the Khmer Rouge years. Visitors can then head southeast to the old, disused market with its incredibly steep pitched roof. Many of the shops and houses around here show clear Colonial influence – louvered windows, terra-cotta tiles, and fine balconies. An interesting stop is the Kampot Traditional Music School, south of the town center, where disabled students learn traditional dance and music. Alternately, visitors can head for the Provincial Training Centre, located in a com- pound behind the main post office, which trains women in textile weaving. The center aims to teach them a trade that will give them a sustainable income, although there is not enough demand for their products. Visitors can help by buying a silk length or a cotton krama (scarf).
Those staying longer can also visit some of the sights around town. About 2 miles (3 km) south of Kampot, on the road to Kep, are impressive salt fields, with some 1,000 pans. The prepared salt is collected at harvest time by hundreds of locals. About 2 miles (3 km) farther along the same road lies the small Khmer Muslim fishing village of Kabalromih, an important boat-building center located on the fringes of a large mangrove swamp.