There was a time when the only easy entry into Cambodia was through Kampot. At its port, the biggest in the country, goods would be shipped to Singapore, China or Thailand, and imports from these countries would go inland by the Kampot road, the only good one linking the coast to Phnom Penh.
But Kampot’s glory era—which began in 1851 when King Ang Duong built that road between the town and his capital of Odong 140 km away—came to an end with the construction of the port of Ream in the 1930s and the port of Sihanoukville in the 1950s.
Built in the muddy waters of the delta 5 km inland, the port of Kampot was able to accommodate the flat-bottomed boats of a century ago, but was inadequate to handle bigger ships, said Luc Mogenet in an interview about his book “Kampot, Mirror of Cambodia.”
Launched at the French Cultural Center earlier this month, the book covers various facets of Kampot—its history from prehistoric times to today, the origin of people living in the area, its economy and sights of interest from Kep to Bokor.
Mogenet, a rural-development economist now working on a French aid project in Cameroon, used historical documents and studies, official statistics and his own observation to compile the 320-page book, which is written in French. He talks about pepper cultivation that brought Kampot prosperity toward the end of the 19th century. In the 1920s, almost all of the pepper consumed in France came from that region of Indochina, Mogenet writes.
Mogenet, who also has worked five years in Laos and two years in Thailand, became interested in Kampot because his Cambodian wife, Iv Sophannary, comes from that region, he said. It took him three years to complete the book during his free time. It can be consulted at the French Cultural Center library and will be available at Phnom Penh bookstores in the coming months.