On Thursday 23rd January I caught a rickety old coach from Kampot to Phnom Penh at 7.00am, for the first part of the journey to Pursat. Arriving in Phnom Penh on time (at 10.30), there was some confusion about my ticket. It finally transpired that I had been given a travel coupon in Kampot that needed to be changed for a ticket, but this was only made clear after four visits to two different booking offices, the last of which occurred at bus departure time (11.30). During the hour long wait for the bus to leave, I met Elaine and David who were also on the way to Pursat; they are an English couple who try and travel for three months per year.
After leaving Phnom Penh on time in another fairly battered coach, it was quite a slow journey to the north. We had one stop for refreshments and then we were fairly unceremoniously (but in a friendly way) booted off at Pursat. Disembarking together, I accompanied Elaine and David to their hotel in the hope that there might be room for me, and there was; $7 per night with hot water! The shower wasn’t brilliant, but it was the first hot shower since Saigon.
After freshening up we all went for a stroll around Pursat, which is just a simple Cambodian town with no real tourist attractions. The reason we stopped here was to visit the floating village of Kompong Luong, which I about 35km south of Pursat. After a stroll around the vibrant market and the temple, we stopped off for some food at a local eatery. We weren’t exactly sure what we were eating as our Khmer is non-existent but it was quite tasty, especially when accompanied by a couple of cans of Cambodian lager.
The following day we found a tuk-tuk driver who, after hard haggling by Elaine (she’s great at that), agreed to take us to the village and back for $15. The trip along the main highway was fun as there is not a great deal of traffic, However, what private cars there are all appear to be new, large pick-ups, which seems somewhat incongruous in such a poor country.
Once at the village, you are obliged to take the official tour boats, which have fixed prices for one and two hours. After a little while, we stopped at the floating restaurant and had a bite to eat. While we were there, I chatted to a French family (mum, dad, and two boys (5 & &) on a year long round the world trip) who were staying at the restaurant on a “homestay”; that sounds like a great idea, which I must consider seriously. At the end of the tour the boat driver tried to fleece us for extra money as we had gone over the hour but Elaine was having none of it…good girl.
Once back in Pursat we wandered off to see the other sights, but that didn’t take too long; the only “sights” to mention were the river island shaped and painted like a ship, a wrecked Khmer Rouge dam, another temple and the bamboo train. Once the “tourist” bits were done I decided that I would head back to the floating village, Kompong Luong, and stay there for a day or two. However, finding a sensible ticket price was a challenge; most of the bus ticket offices wanted to charge $5 for the 35km journey when $5 will take you all the way to Phnom Penh! Finally, I found a little kiosk that sold me a ticket for 7,000 Riel ($1.50), although I wasn’t sure that the lady understood; I am hoping that I have booked a bus from Pursat to Krakor (the closest town on the main road) at midday, but only time will tell!