East of Kampot, looming up from flat rice paddies, the rugged limestone outcrops of Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorseha have some caves to scramble through. Although you could visit both these sites in a morning, to give yourself time to travel between them and explore properly, you’d do as well to allow a couple of hours each. Note that there are no facilities in the caves and it is a good idea to wear stout shoes and take a torch.

Phnom Chhnork (foreigners’ fee of 4000 riel) is closest to Kampot; turn left off the road to Kep about 5km from town, signposted through a portico, and then head out along a well-made but unsurfaced road to the hill (about 4km in total). The entrance to the hill is through a wat, where you can leave your motorbike with a local boy for a few hundred riel. From here it’s a kilometre-or-so’s walk through fields of well-tended vegetable plots to the foot of the hill. Intrepid explorers can explore a couple of pokey holes at the foot of the hill before venturing up the rickety steps, passing a collection of pagoda buildings, to the main caves. If you look carefully, through the gloom you will see a brick-built pre-Angkor prasat; the rock seems to be trying to claim the ruin, which is slowly being coated with limestone as water drips from the roof. Child guides don’t have much information but for a dollar or so they are very helpful for negotiating the paths within the caves.

Back at the main road, the dirt-track turning for Phnom Sorseha is further on towards Kep, on the left about 14km out of Kampot and signposted in blue and white through another grand portico; the track stops after 1km at the foot of the hill; steps within the grounds of the pagoda here lead up to the caves. From the top it has a great view over the province to the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, and more caves to explore.

Turn left at the top of the steps and follow the rocky path for 50m to reach Ruhng Dhumrey Saw (White Elephant Cave). Just inside the entrance is a seated Buddha statue, from where rickety steps head down into the cave proper; here you can see the large cream-and-grey rock formation, vaguely resembling an elephant’s head, which gives the cave its name. Back at the main steps, take the path to the right, which leads after about 150m to the far side of the hill and Leahng Bpodjioh (Bat Cave), filled with the ear-splitting sound of squeaking bats. The stench of ammonia is overpowering, and watch you don’t get guano in the eye if you look up. The cave is smaller and darker than Ruhng Dhumrey Saw, although a few shafts of light penetrate the gloom, highlighting the tree roots that poke down spookily from the roof of the chamber. Back outside, you may be lucky enough to see the monkeys that live in the woods on the hillside, while from the top of the hill there’s a good view over the rice paddies along the coast.


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