A chilled couple of days in Kampot
Feb 10, 2017
|The following morning we made our way back to ‘our favourite’ guest house (the one with the good food) as we had been told that the lady there sells onward bus travel which would include a pick up from the pier when we returned from the early boat. True to everyone’s word we were able to pick up tickets – me for Kampot and Audrey for Sianokville. Tickets in hand we gathered our things and headed in the direction of the boat to go back to the mainland. It was quite a windy morning which meant boats couldn’t dock on the beach we were staying on so we had a mini trek across the island to get to where they were – pretty hot with backpacks on it meant we arrived quite sweaty!
The boat was interesting full of a few Spanish / South Americans that we hadn’t come across the evening before – quite strange given it’s such a small island and everyone congregates at the one guest house for food / drinks so I was surprised (but actually, on hearing them on the boat) not that disappointed we hadn’t crossed paths before now.
The pick up bus was at the pier within two minutes of us arriving and we headed (via a few other pick ups) back to the bus station for our buses. The lady in the guest house had said my bus wasn’t until 12.30pm so I was expecting a bit of a wait, turns out I was able to join Audrey on her bus at 10.30am as it went via Kampot so I was on my way a bit earlier than I had originally thought which was a bonus.
After a short but hot bus journey I arrived in Kampot, said goodbye to Audrey (we were going to try and catch up again in a few days to do a jungle trek in the Cardamom mountains) and set off in search of a hostel for the night. I had originally booked one for the night before but as I extended my stay on the island and didn’t have wifi to be able to cancel – I would be down as a ‘no show’ and would have had to pay for the night…. First time on the trip I simply haven’t turned up for accommodation I’ve booked but I had to weigh up the no show cost vs. turning on data roaming and in this case the former won. I headed back to that hostel though as it definitely seemed like one of the better ones in the town…. I was armed with an apology in hand and a sweet smile to assist -hopefully iy would work out.
The hostel was owned by an American guy – he did accept my apology and was able to give me a bed for the night but he did say he had charged the cancellation fee….which was fair enough. I booked myself in for two nights and then settled into some wifi catch up and a bit of food. I had a little slump this afternoon as I was contacting a friend and telling them what I had been / was going to be doing over the next few days and mentioned trekking in the mountains. They said that now I had found this love for trekking I could join her on walks / treks. This was a lovely thing to say (and I definitely will be taking them up on it when I’m back) but it really hit home to me that I haven’t been completely true to the life I want to be living at home…. I’ve enjoyed trekking / walking for years and it surprised me that a close friend didn’t really know that about me. This was absolutely no reflection on them – completely on me living a fast paced, London life and not necessarily doing the things I truly enjoy doing. I spent a fair amount of time thinking about that in the afternoon and made myself some promises that I will be true to myself when I get home and try not to get pulled along with the lifestyle of the environment around me.
It was never my intention to ‘find myself’ when travelling as I think travelling in your 30s is a different experience – you know who you are generally but I think having the opportunity (and time) to really step back and think about things really is a good thing. If I had been at home I possibly wouldn’t have had that conversation and, even if I had, I potentially wouldn’t have taken the time to think about what it meant to me. Along with the amazing things I’m doing and seeing I definitely think this is an advantage of taking some time out to yourself and reflecting a little bit.
Anyway – I headed for a wander around the town in the afternoon – picking up some bits I needed from the supermarket, walking along the river and heading into the market to experience the hustle and bustle of a local food and goods market again. Laughing as I went down one street to hear a rubbish van blaring out ‘Jingle Bells’ as it went along its round.
As the late afternoon / evening drew in I headed back to the hostel and had a bit of a chat with Sarah on facetime before showering and heading downstairs to the garden. The hostel had live music on that evening so I made myself comfortable, chatted with a lovely Canadian family who had taken their 10yr old child out of school to travel the world for two years, and ordered myself a jacket potato with cheese and beans (yep – I’m totally not ashamed…. I was SO pleased to see it on the menu) before settling in to enjoy the music.
I didn’t sleep all that well overnight – no good reason why but sometimes it happens so I was a bit jaded in the morning. I headed downstairs for some breakfast and tried to arrange an automatic scooter from the hostel owner to head out and about for the day. Unfortunately the company he used only had ‘semi-automatic’ which I didn’t want to use, never having ridden one before I wanted to keep things simple. He suggested I held out as people return them in the mornings before catching buses from Kampot but at 10.30am unfortunately there still wasn’t one available. I think the hostel owner wanted me to order from him though, I guess he must get some sort of commission for renting out the bikes. Instead I popped across the road and found a little place renting them (and selling bus tickets which was a bonus as it meant to could sort my ticket for the next day to Koh Kong) and managed to pick up a very pretty, sturdy and new(ish) automatic scooter…. So I was on my way.
The main reason for wanting to head out on the scooter was to head out to Bokor mountain just outside the city so I set on my way in that direction. Arriving at the national park and a quick 2000r (about 40p) later I was on my way up the mountain. It was actually quite nice as there was another girl travelling alone just ahead of me who was taking the ride up at a pretty nice (not too fast but not a snail) pace so I stayed with her in my sights for a good portion of the first stretch of the mountain. I stopped at Yeay Mao initially – this was about 35km up at the mountain road.
The statue was high on the hill overlooking the valley – it is the goddess of protector, keeping peace and calm in forest and costal provinces of Cambodia, almost a female St. Christopher equivalent, overlooking all those that travel…. It felt kind of apt to me!
Continuing on my way I headed to the waterfall (with very little water because it is dry season), stopped for a drink in a little random side of the road drink place which was playing ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ as they gave me a bottle of water (what it is about Christmas songs still being played in February??) and winded my way through to the 100rice fields, slightly off the main mountain road. It was so lovely driving, very few people on the roads at all which meant it was quiet and easy driving.
The final stretch was up towards the derelict casino….passed the new hideous Chinese development which appears out of no where….. a Vegas sized hotel and casino with nothing else around for miles… it’s such a shame! It was interesting though as there was also a walk in area to see the ‘exciting developments’ for Bokor mountain near by – they are completely developing the whole area….guest houses / shops / restaurants etc…. in a place that is currently completely unspoilt. Much like Rabbit Island (or possibly even more so in this case), this is another area of natural beauty that is simply going to lose its charm in the very near future. I had even read that they have recently banned trekking I this national park – which is very unusual…. There aren’t many (/any that I’ve heard of before) national parks where it isn’t encouraged to get your hiking boots on and get out into the fresh air!
I completed the final stretch up to the colonial church and the derelict casino which had some incredible views…unfortunately it was a bit hazy so my picture didn’t come but wonderfully but it was amazing to the eye before beginning to feel a bit warm and so deciding to head back down again. By the time had reached the top I had ridden about 65km so it was a relatively decent round trip.
On the way back down I stopped as I had spotted a sign on my way up for a sport event being held in the area. Being quite interested in sport in developing countries I stopped to take a photo with the intention of looking it up when I get home.
I arrived back to the hostel / hotel much to the relief of two Canadian men that I had absolutely no idea had even clock me. Immediately they said how pleased they were to see me back in one piece and how they were concerned about me going up the mountain. It transpires they were both in their late 50s both with daughters in their late 20s so they were ‘keeping an eye on me’ which made ma laugh a lot. I was going to join them for lunch (as I was famished by this point….it was coming on for 3pm) but it turned out the kitchen at the hostel was closed due to a staff wedding so I had to make my excuses and find something to eat – it was critical by this point!
I headed back to the hostel / hotel and ended up chatting to a very eccentric 69 year old guy who gave me his entire life story….quite an incredible life he had had too. Notwithstanding the 10 children he had fathered, the two marriages and the new ‘lady friend’ he was trying to ‘court’ in Vietnam (I soon got the gist of what sort of guy he was – particularly a few years ago!) he was fun to listen to with a lot of stories of his time in Australia and more latterly in Cambodia. He definitely was one who was stuck in his ways – refusing to embrace any form of Technology as it is all ‘a fad’ and yet moaning about how he doesn’t see his granddaughter …. I pointed out that facetime / skype could help with that but he was having none of it! After a good hour talking with him I headed up to shower and get myself packed for moving on the next morning.
The evening was pretty uneventful – with the kitchen still closed I headed out to a little noodle bar I had been told about on the river before heading back to the hostel where one of the Canadian guys was sitting having a beer so I chatted with him for a while. Turns out he is divorced and the other man sadly widowed, they have been friends for years but their circumstances had brought them closer again in recent years and they have started a tradition of leaving the cold Canadian climate and exploring the world for three months a year together. I think it’s absolutely brilliant! He was saying how he doesn’t see a huge amount of his daughter (I didn’t dig into why) but his friend did and they both wished that they would travel like I am at the moment. His daughter is 28 with two young children so not really in the situation to.
After a lovely chat I headed upstairs to a much more successful sleep in preparation to move on the Koh Kong in the morning!