From the moment we first arrived in Kampot in August 2014, the phrase we instantly grew accustomed to hearing from the expat scene was, “Meet you at Epic Arts.” Even for the local Khmer people who could not speak English, those two words would bring about cheerful grins and enthusiastic pointing in the direction of the café.
“Oh, you have to go to Epic Arts Café,” our friend Greta immediately declared when we asked about the best places to visit in Kampot. It was decided – we had to go.
The name alone attracted us and the hand-made wooden sign above the door lured us in. The café was packed with an eclectic mix of foreign travellers and local students while electronic jazz music created a relaxed atmosphere. Drawings and handicrafts peppered the walls and a staircase led to the workshop and art gallery.
A smiling Khmer lady waved from behind a counter and gestured towards the only empty table in the place.
We sat down and started reading the menu, being distracted by the story of how the café came about rather than choosing what food we wanted to eat. We learned that all the staff were deaf or disabled, and there was even a page dedicated to learning how to order in sign language.
A laminated sheet had the entire menu condensed on a small leaflet and we ticked what we wanted to order so the chefs in the kitchen knew what to prepare. Our coffees came out quickly, as did our food. Both were delectable and fresh.
Epic Arts Café would become our makeshift office and meeting place during our three weeks in Kampot, and we would eventually return again the following month. Kampot stole our imagination while we were there, but Epic Arts Café stole our hearts.
What’s So Great About It?
First opened in 2006, Epic Arts Café was created as a hang-out for deaf students that would also provide work opportunities for those in the local community who were disabled and hearing impaired. Over the years, it grew to be a fully self-sustained café, art gallery and training facility, which provides employment for ten Khmer people and raising funds for other community projects.
Not only does Epic Arts Café provide opportunities for the local disabled community that would otherwise be unavailable, it now attracts tourists who long for a decent coffee, delicious food and wish to learn more about the work that is carried out there. Every Friday a free workshop on Cambodian Sign Language is open to those who are interested in learning this fascinating vernacular.
All of the profits go towards supporting the enterprise and as the café grows they now have enough funds to benefit other NGOs in the area. The simple act of buying a coffee or a muffin directly helps the deaf and disabled community in Kampot.
How to Get There
1 May Road, Kampot, Cambodia.
On the main road separated by the wide median strip, Epic Arts Café is on the side where traffic leads towards the river.
Recommended by Alesha and Jarryd
Alesha and Jarryd from NOMADasaurus are travel writers and photographers currently wandering overland from Thailand to South Africa without flying. Documenting their experiences in sustainable, long-term adventure travel, they aim to discover the best off-the-beaten-path destinations and unique cultures from around the world. Read about their Cambodia Motorcycle Adventure and find out more about this amazing country.