On Sunday 19th January, after the somewhat sobering visit to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, I was picked up from the hotel by minibus, which was to be the transport for the 4 hour trip to Kampot. Arriving around 5.00pm, it was just a brief stroll to the hotel. Titch’s place is run by an Aussie and English expat couple and the dorm was the bargain of $3 per night!
My first day was spent exploring the town and generally chilling. The town is very small and quiet, which is great after the recent busy Saigon and Phnom Penh; it was so relaxing that I extended my stay from two to four nights. In the evening, it was up to the hostel’s rooftop bar for a beer or two and a view of the sunset at 5.30pm; this was to end up being the routine for each evening of my stay!
The dorm I was in had 12 beds but plenty of space and was pretty empty during my stay (on one night there were only two of us in residence!). However, the only drawback was the karaoke bar across the river! As you will see from the photos, Titch’s is right on the riverside, which is great for the views. However, directly across was one of the (as I was to find out) ubiquitous karaoke bars and it blared out wonderful music from 7.00pm to midnight every night; still, a small price to pay for being in such a great little town.
Another thing to do with music in Cambodia I found out the hard way was about weddings. Weddings are very important in Cambodia and the celebrations last at least all day and sometimes for two or three days. Nothing surprising there, except that the days in Cambodia start around 5.00am, and that’s when the loud music commences; it then continues for the entire duration so, if lucky, it’s only one day and will finish around 2.00am the following day! Needless to say, there was one close by during my stay.
There are a several things to see and visit around Kampot, so I hired a motorbike for a couple of days to visit Bokor Hill Station, Kep and Rabbit Island. The roads were generally ok, except for the road to Kep, which was just a dusty, gravel road.
The Bokor Hill Station and mountain has, apparently, been purchased by a Sino-Vietnam joint venture and they are in the process of building a massive resort at the top of the mountain. After an hour or so of climbing up the brand new road, with more street lights than in the whole of Kampot, you finally arrive at the new casino and hotel…and quite monstrous they are too! However, there is nobody here, although I am sure that this will change in a few years, which will pretty much destroy this area but the local population will not receive much, as all the money (and jobs, probably) will be Chinese and Vietnamese.
The Bokor Hill Station was originally built by the French but was abandoned as the Khmer Rouge approached in 1975. Unfortunately, the Chinese has commenced some “restoration”, which has completely destroyed the old charm of the abandoned casino; see the difference between the church and the casino in the photos.
Unfortunately, the bike I had hired was guzzling fuel as fast as me with beer at a free bar, so I was running really low. Fortunately, the route back was 20km downhill, so I knew that, at worst, I could free-wheel back down to a nearby petrol station. However, I found that the restaurant near the top was selling fuel, although at a premium: from the petrol station fuel was around US$1.25 per litre but it cost US$4 per litre at the restaurant…no profiteering there, then!
After having spent all day on the motorbike, it was time for a beer at the bar and watch the sunset again; it’s definitely one of those fantastic sights that you should never get bored of. In the end, a good evening was had as a small group formed and I met up with Ellie (English) and Steffi (German); good all round group discussions with some of the expats was fun!
The next day was a trip to Rabbit Island. Whilst pretty, there’s not a lot to do and, after the walk around the island and lunch I was ready to return to the mainland. However, having paid extra for a boat at 1.00pm, it didn’t turn up and the local restaurant owners were less than happy to help. Fortunately, a kind British couple had chartered a boat, so they offered me and another couple a lift to shore. The trip back was even choppier than the journey over and we all got thoroughly soaked, although as it was 28oC, that wasn’t a problem.
This was my last night in Kampot and I went out for a bite to eat with Steffie (met previously) and Lucas (South African) who was in my dorm. I had somewhat mixed feelings leaving Kampot as I could well have stayed longer but I only have three weeks in Cambodia and there is a lot to see. The following day I had booked a bus to travel to Pursat, in central Cambodia; the bus was due to leave at 7.00am and arrive in Pursat at 3.00pm.