Kampot – Salt, Pepper and The Central Market

When figuring out where to stay on the Southern Coast we had the choice between the ocean side town of Kep or the river side town of Kampot. In the end we decided that Kep was more towards our liking and decided to just do a day trip to Kampot while in Kep. I was glad we did because I liked the slow pace of Kep much better. Kampot had a bit more busy city feel.

We took a nice tuk tuk ride to Kampot and the road was quite good. It is under construction but the dirt parts were smooth and the dust was low due to the rain from the previous day.

Here is a little view into what it looks like along the road to Kampot.

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Once arriving in the city we are greeted by a big durian statue in the center of a round about. This area is a big durian producing region. I have noticed that there are many statues in the center of roundabouts in Cambodia. Makes it a little hard to get to them with traffic and all.

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Jose with our tuk tuk driver, Mr. Sa

No day in Kampot is complete without experiencing pepper. Kampot is famous for it’s great tasting peppercorns. We stopped off at this small workshop to see how it is processed. I would have loved to have bought some to use at home but having just my backpack on my back, there is just not enough room to start picking up souvenirs unless I’m willing to give up something else in my pack and I’m not ready to do that for pepper.

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In this area of Cambodia we have been served a great sauce with our meals made from Kampot pepper and lime juice. It tastes fantastic! I will for sure be giving this mixture a try back home.

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On our way into the central market we stopped off for some sugar cane juice. This is a very popular drink here and it tastes great. I have big ideas of bringing it back to the states and selling it at festivals. It is so very refreshing now just how to get the sugarcane there…

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I’d like to load a video of him making it up Youtube is not being my friend right now. Find it here on my Facebook page instead.

Mr. Sa (our tuk tuk driver/guide) took us on a grand tour of the Central Market in Kampot. He and his mother own a shop inside. Central markets are where you find the real Cambodia – not made up nice nice for the tourists. People come here to shop everyday like Americans go to the grocery store, Target or Costco. There are multitudes of small shops with vendors selling everything you can imagine. Making our way around the maze we saw clothes, hair products, household goods, jewelry, prepared foods, veggies and fruits, grains and beans, and all kinds of meat and sea creatures for sell.

It’s impossible for you to get the full feel of this market by pictures alone. You must put yourself inside the cramped corridors where women sit with no room to move with raw meat surrounding them, you have to breath in the hot and humid air rich with the smells of freshly processed meats and fish. Listen to the sounds of vendors and customers negotiating the price for goods and the chopping of meat and slicing large tropical fruit like durian and jackfruit.

Jasmine flowers for temple offerings.

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There were live chickens and live ducks lined up to be slaughtered right there on the spot. They had their legs tied so they could not leave.

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I have to admit that I am confused a bit about all of this meat processing just out in the open market like this. In America, we are terrified of meat being exposed to even the tiniest amount of room temperature air. When raw meat is cut up at home we clean the equipment and surfaces with solutions that will kill any bacteria. How is it then that all the Cambodian people have not died from bacteria? Are we being duped?

Women vendors are basting in raw animal juices all day long. The meat is out in the open, with flies on it all day. Maybe Cambodians have better good gut bacteria or they cook everything very very well so that the bacteria die off or people are becoming sick and dying? If you have the answer to this please let me know. I’m very curious about it.

Moving on…

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We head to the old market area, which is where the ex-pats hang out, for some lunch. It’s blazing hot outside again but we find some relief from the heat under the fans at Ellies, a vegan friendly healthy restaurant. Al and I had a great sesame crusted tofu salad while Jose tried out the peanut butter and bacon sandwich. He said it was pretty good.

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Admittedly I’m just not a big fan of Cambodian food. The curry (Amok) tends to be bland to me and I can only eat fried rice so often. I’d like to think that I eat somewhere in the middle, local some days and ex-pat tourist foods others.  I think that if I ate meat my choices would be more substantial. Al has always been happiest eating a vegan diet of mostly fresh vegetables, fruits and grains. He has been getting by on stir-fry veggies and fried rice when we are eating local style. Jose seems to be doing just fine. He had some ginger chicken the other day that smell fantastic. Jose is a great traveler and when it comes to food, he can eat anything. He does have his limits though and declined trying fried grasshoppers.

Hygiene plays a major role in our food choices too. It can be very limited in many of the local roadside stands to properly wash-up. The ex-pat places are more likely to use western style hygiene practices. We have all experienced a bit of travelers gut on this trip but we have been able to mostly keep it from becoming bad. If we were eating cheap $2 meals at roadside stands all day long, I think things would be much worse.

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After lunch we drove past the river and out of town towards Kep stopping briefly at the salt flats and trying some freshly dried salt. It tasted like salt. We were told that the people who work in the salt fields, all day (12 to 16 hours) get paid very little money, $2.50 for the men and $2 for the women per day. The women are paid less, I am told because the men have to do the heavy lifting.

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There are many more things to do in this area. Ruins to see, caves, temples and more. As travelers we looked at our time and our interests and choose according to that. This is just one glimpse into Kampot. I hope you enjoyed it. Check out this Wikitravel page – Kampot – for more information.

Next stop – Sihanoukville.

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