Top tip: don’t buy a bus ticket from the local pot dealer
Our one and a half hour bus journey to Kampot lasted nearly five hours in a cramped non air-conditioned mini van and included various pick-up and drop-offs along the way. This is the norm in Cambodia with journey times often trippling if someone has an errand to run or their neighbour’s nan wants to pop to the shops etc. I mean, what were we to expect after buying our tickets from Mr Bong, Otres Beach’s local pot dealer? It was an experience anyhow.
We arrived in the town of Kampot famous for it’s French architecture and decided to hop in a Moto to our hostel Bodhi Villa which we were recommended by friends at Otres Beach. Five of us crammed into one tiny Moto plus backpacks and day bags. I was certain the small motorbike wouldn’t have the power to move. We made it though and settled into our dorm for the next few nights.
The next day we hired mopeds to explore the surrounding area. I had never ridden a moped before so I jumped on the back of Curtis’s. Later that day I taught myself to ride and now I can’t wait to hire my own. We visited the rapids and made our way up to the dam which was built by a Chinese company who forbade us to travel any further up the river.
I had read about White Mountain which was nearby so I suggested we go and climb it. Astonishingly we found the mountain just by looking at the horizon for a mountain that matched the picture and headed straight towards it. The view from the top was fantastic and there was a small house and an area to pray.
That evening I ate some of the best ribs I’ve ever had at Rusty Keyhole, a must if you’re in the area. So popular, the ribs have to be booked in advanced and half a rack per person is plenty. At just $5 for a huge feed and pint of Angkor beer I was left more than satisfied. Dan had booked the hostel’s floating bungalow which as you may have guessed, was a floating bungalow on the river with just three walls, a curtain and it’s very own family of rats. It was also slightly sinking in one corner which provided much amusement and was a great base for a night of music and drinking.
After a few days of chilling it was time to see some of Cambodia, so we booked an organised tour on our final day after hearing the road to the Bokor National Park and all the sights wasn’t roadworthy. Don’t believe everything you read in a guidebook as it turns out the road around the national park is the best in the country and travelling by bike would have been fine.
The tour was just like most other tours, a day spent hopping on and off a mini bus to take photos of historical sights such as the ruins of the Black Palace and the Bokor Hill Casino. A word of warning, the old casino no longer looks like it does in photos as it is now newly plastered as part of the restoration project to turn it into a five star resort.
Talking of five star resorts, there was a whopping great resort smack bang in the middle of the national park which looks like something out of a movie and certainly doesn’t belong in rural Cambodia. Sights like these sadden me as much of Asia is becoming heavily westernised to cater for tourists, their main source of income. I fret that too much development will one day prevent westerners from visiting since it’s the culture and traditional way of life which draws people here.
The highlight for me was listening to the chants of monks and speaking to them afterwards. For the cost of $12 lunch was provided (rice of course) and a sunset cruise which departed a couple of hours after arriving back. The sunset cruise up the Kampot river was beautiful and ever so relaxing. The evening ended with another western meal (after a week in Cambodia I was yet to sample the local food!) to cure our hangovers from the night before. It was the weekly music night at our hostel and after experiencing their new sound system in rehearsals a few days before, we headed down the road to a more chilled out hostel, Nana’s House. Exhausted, we lounged until midnight and tried our best to get some sleep.
Early the next morning Curtis, Jess and Laura headed to Rabbit Island but I decided against it after a rubbish nights sleep and a panic about running out of time in Asia. I’m not sure why I have these panics every now and again as it’s not like I have a job or need to be anywhere, but the sheer size of Asia is so over whelming I keep adding destinations to my list (China, Indonesia, Philippines, Fiji etc.,) which adds months to my trip and I suppose I will have to make it to Australia at some point before I run out of money.
I dragged myself out of bed and booked a last minute “express” bus to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Pen to sort out my visa for Vietnam. One thing I love about Asia is that if you want something last minute, the people will make it happen. Luckily I had time to visit Epic Arts Cafe, run by disabled people and supporting a good cause. My Mediterranean veggie panini and iced coffee was incredible and I picked up a delicious oatmeal and raisin cookie for the journey which I was told would take just three hours…….
Living life, loving travel,