We’ve spent the last 5 days in Kampot, Cambodia. Kampot is a small town, with a population of roughly 40,000. It is in the southwest corner of Cambodia, just a few miles from the Gulf of Thailand, and is largely known for growing pepper and durian. It is a sleepy little town, where the main event each day is watching the fishing boats head out to sea around 5:15 p.m., followed by a beautiful sunset.
We booked a room at a lovely little guest house run by a man from Australia. So lovely that one day we never even left the property. And most days we didn’t leave until we started thinking about dinner. Rather, after sleeping in (we generally forced ourselves to get up around 9) and eating breakfast, we would sit on the second floor and enjoy the breeze while reading. I could get use to more days like that…
The guesthouse should be about a 1.5 km walk from the heart of the town. However, the authorities recently closed the old bridge closest to the guesthouse, making it a 2.7 km walk. The holes in the bridge and the broken supports might have something to do with the bridge closure. I’m just guessing. So…some days we walked the long way, some days we made use of the free bikes at our guesthouse, once we took a tuk-tuk, and some days, you guessed it, we just jumped the barrier and walked across the old bridge. We figured if the locals are out there all day fishing, we weren’t going to fall through. And, we didn’t!
The highlight of our stay, other than how chill the place was, had to be the scooter ride to Bokor Mountain. (Although, note to self, when riding a scooter all day in a skort, remember to put sunscreen on the knees…And, note to Robert, remember to smooth out the sunscreen or you might come back with stripes…).
The scooter ride started with a stop for gas. Cambodia has big, modern gas stations. Did we stop there? Of course not. We stopped at the local gas station. In other words, our gas came out of an old Pepsi bottle. No clue where the gas comes from, or what the quality of the gas is, but it is cheaper and it is what everyone uses to fill up their scooters according to our guesthouse owner. So, when in Rome (or Cambodia)…
Bokor Mountain is about 1100 meters tall (or 3608 feet for those who find the metric system challenging). Long ago and far away, the French colonial settlers built a resort on top of the mountain, along with a casino, a church and a post office. The resort was abandoned twice — once during the Indochina war and again in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge took over this region of Cambodia. Today, you can still see the remains of the casino and the church. The views at the top are absolutely stunning and we even saw the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc (which certainly seems like it should be in Cambodia when you look at a map). Apparently, we got quite lucky, as many days the top is encased in clouds and you can’t even see the casino from the road.
There is also supposed to be a fair bit of wildlife on the mountain. The only thing we saw, however, were some great hornbills. We didn’t get a photo, but you can see what a great hornbill looks like here http://www.factzoo.com/birds/great-hornbill-large-bird-larger-bill.html. They were huge and most of them were pretty high up, but one of them flew right in front of us on the road. Amazing!
The road up is about 32 km long and probably the best road we have seen in all of Cambodia. That is both good and bad. The road was built by the Sokimex group (which largely seems to be a petroleum company) and they apparently used all sorts of novel approaches to drainage to prevent landslides. That is good. However, they are planning to heavily develop the mountain and have already built a huge resort and casino complex. Not so good. (We didn’t go in the new casino, but someone at our guesthouse did and said there was plenty of staff but no customers.)
The signs on the road also made us laugh. There are numerous signs saying not to litter and, if you do, there is a $5 fine. Yet everyone was littering. Trash just comes flying out of car windows. There were also signs saying that one could not stop and eat in certain places. The fine for eating in those places was $50. Nobody was eating in front of one of those signs. I’m thinking that perhaps littering should bear the $50 fine….
The other highlight was the sunset cruise on the river. Nothing too special, but it was nice to get closer to the fishing boats and see the riverside.
Next stop is Kep, where is a mere 20 km from Kampot. The main attraction of Kep is the crab market, so Robert is really looking forward to that. Rumor is that there is horseback riding in Kep, so I am looking forward to that. Although putting pants and shoes on to ride instead of a skort and sandals will be rough!