Originally sent in 2014 we thought this review of kampot, Cambodia may help with the most depressing day of the year, 18 jan
The postcards from Ann in Asia are arriving thick and fast now. Having moved on from Battambang, she’s now in the town of Kampot in Southern Cambodia – her last stop before moving on to Vietnam:
Kampot is a French Colonial Art Deco beauty on the river banks, close to the sea, in Southern Cambodia. It’s so laid back here it is truly horizontal. The riverside boulevard is a wide, traffic free, smooth pavement that goes on a for a couple of miles – ideal for sunset viewing. There are plenty of things to do including cruising the river viewing fireflies at dusk or just relaxing on the river with the beautiful hills as backdrop to your G&T or fresh coconut juice.
The town’s architecture is extraordinary: the 1920s French architecture that time forgot is pretty faded and maybe a bit grimy but remains atmospheric and authentic. OK, this town isn’t for the unadventurous… but you wouldn’t forget it it.
It costs $40-$50 to get from Phnom Penh to Kampot – that’s 2-2.5 hours in limo aircon comfort. Once there you can continue the luxury touring by limo, or if you feel adventurous try out a tuktuk and feel the hot wind in your hair and breathe in the scents and sounds of the countryside.
I’d sort of written off Kampot as a Blue Badge venue – for one thing getting on the boats would be a nightmare – but two things changed my mind. The first was that I met a feisty independent lady of a certain age staying in our bungalows. She can walk a couple of steps, but is mainly wheelchair mobile. She’s been living here for six months and has the whole thing worked out. Her bungalow isn’t ideal, but she’s carved out a comfortable life with the hotel staff cooking, washing, cleaning and, most importantly, helping whenever she wants. The second thing was a visit to the chic and yummy La Java Bleue restaurant in the centre of town.
La Java Bleue is a French run establishment, where Le Patron is as Gallic as it comes. The food is very good (ultra fresh, finely prepared tartare fish is a high spot) and the wine is limited, but nicely chosen- check out the rose from Provence or a nice Chilean merlot (we did). You can also get a fabulous plate of french cheeses which, after 2 weeks on the road slurping noodles and rice most days, is a real treat. Proper Paris-grade French breads, especially baguettes, are staples in Cambodia and the garlic bread here is a treat.
Ending the evening with home made cinnamon and star-anise grappa is an attractive, if possibly unwise, choice. Monsieur Le Patron just plonks down a bottle with a grin and leaves you to it.
The Java Bleue has a hotel upstairs, but the steep flight of steps is pretty prohibitive (yes of course we will carry our guests if they need it!), so stick to the lovely twinkly rattan-and-glass bar and restaurant, with is short exquisite menu (mainly fish). Having discovered Java Bleue, but also finding the disabled access a little below par, I set about trying to see if I could find couple of stylish places to stay that wouldn’t be prohibitive accessibility wise.
My first choice of venue would be Villa Vedici, up the coast from Kampot, but easily reachable for evenings out. This place is geared to a more sporting crowd, but it’s very inclusive. I wouldn’t advise solo travel, not because you wouldn’t feel welcome, but it’s not all plain sailing on the accessibility front. It’s a small, intimate hotel with spacious bungalows and colonial type houses set around a pool and bar. The views of the surrounding hills and the river are pretty stunning. There are balconies on all front sides of the rooms which give you a stunning view over Bokor mountains just behind the Kampot river.
Inside, the accommodation has comfortable sofas, a large flatscreen TV with an 80 channel satellite, a Playstation and an entertainment database containing more than 600 movies and series. There is WiFi in the entire compound and a desktop is available for those who didn’t bring their own equipment. The free to use pool table, basketball court, ping-pong, jeu de boules and weights give you plenty of options for recreation.
The restaurant menu offers Cambodian, Western and Mexican food. The quesadillas in Villa Vedici are very popular, but the kitchen closes at 8pm! The bar is open late. I’d recommend this for a family holiday in an exotic location, with loads to do for all ages and needs.
Next, The RikiTikiTavi hotel, right in the centre of Kampot town, at the riverside with a backdrop of the Elephant Mountains. The ground floor rooms are minimalist chic with a Cambodian character. White meets teak, clean lines and boutique smart.
The wheel in shower has a teak floor, totally level with the tiled bathroom floor. Looks gorgeous. There are steps, but efforts have been made to minimize and round these off to small lips, so it’s relatively workable. The loo does not have bars (these are rare in Cambodia anyway) but the bathroom is laid out in a way that makes it feasible for most people.
The big problem with the RikiTikiTavi is that the bar and restaurant are on the first floor, up a flight on wooden steps. Having said that, they do offer breakfast in bed and of course they are happy to carry you upstairs… if you want….