Today was our pre arranged day with Mr Bun. He tried so hard to get us to visit every tourist attraction here in Kampot, but not wanting to spend all day, every day with Mr Bun, we selected 3 of the most popular activities in the region. Kampot Pepper, Kampot Salt and a fishing village, were our narrowed down choices, not thinking at all that these three go together nicely on a BBQ!
So at our arranged time of 10am, Mr Bun was there outside our hotel, greeting us with a welcoming handshake and many 'Good morning Brother' and 'Good Morning Madame' greetings. We boarded our chariot and off we went. We asked to go to the train station first, in order to buy a train ticket for our return journey to Phnom Penh, but alas, despite every piece of info we had, telling us that we should be right to get a ticket today, no one could be found. Mr Bun found someone who said to come back on Friday, so without any further delays, we headed for the first destination, where salt was made.
Kampot Salt - this area is just outside of town and fresh seawater is piped in from the coast. The fields are flooded, raked, evaporated, raked, and raked again, over many weeks until nothing is left, but 100% pure salt. The salt is harvested into baskets and stored in timber buildings, where it is eventually mixed with a very small portion of Iodine and bagged. The result is almost pure sea salt, the best that can be bought and exported around the world. The whole process is painstaking and labour intensive, with man power being the only resource. We learnt all of this from a 15 minute video in the information building, which cost us $2 each and we got a free bag of salt, (which would normally cost $1). We enjoyed a brief chat with the lady in the information office, looked at some photos and with our salt in hand, we boarded Mr Bun's tuktuk. We took a final look at the salt fields and then off to the next destination.
The fishing village - The fishing village we visited was not quite what I expected, but then again, a day with Mr Bun, in a Tuk Tuk?? I wasn't expecting big things. We arrived at what I would describe as a bit of a creek running off the river, where the fishermen come in from their night of fishing. They off load their catch of fish, thus allowing the ladies of the village to take the fish to market. We climbed over the boats and had a general look around, content with what we had seen and getting a good understanding of how fishing life is, we once more head off.
Our tuk tuk does not go fast and Mr Bun is a good driver, this suits Mrs Wombat nicely. We watch the grey clouds roll in and wonder if we will get wet in our open machine, as we ponder this ,we pull into the service station, where driveway service is still the norm, Mr Bun puts about $2 of fuel into his machine and we pull out of the drive. At that very moment, down comes the rain, a quick 360 degree turn and we are parked back under the servo roof, awaiting the rain to abate. The rain eases off and we head off only to stop a few metres up the road at one of the many little roadside stops, where they sell everything. Mr Bun announced that it was coffee time, with no argument from us, we sit inside with all the locals having a coffee and waiting for the rain to stop. The price for 2 x iced coffees and one hot coffee was $1, the rain has now all but stopped and we head off again.
The Pepper Farm - We travel all the way to Kep, the coastal town near Kampot, at a steady 20 KMH, we then turn off onto a very bumpy road and we slow down further, we travel for what seems ages and then we spot the first of the Kampot Pepper plantations. We suddenly stop in the middle of the dirt road. A policeman, (looked like he was about 70), who had been sleeping in his hammock on the side of the road, comes out to the Tuk Tuk and talks with Mr Bun. The policeman then asks for a photo with us and where are we from? We tell him Australia, and I ask him, where he is from, he laughs and we are on our way. I can't help but think that this was some form of State ID check and whilst we don't know and were a little confused, something just seemed a little out of place.
We continue along the bumpy road, passing many elaborate pepper farms and eventually come to what Mrs Wombat called a 'Grass Roots' type of farm, pepper trees, a very old lady, a little child, a couple of dogs and an old building. Whilst no English was spoken, the lady was friendly and keen for us to taste the various peppers on offer. White, Black and red pepper were for sale. We look over the farm with Mr Bun, (not only is he our driver but our guide) and then back to the building to sample and buy some pepper. Mr Wombat, being the head chef of the Wombat burrow, was charged with doing the taste tests and we duly settled on a bag of the finest black pepper. Now time to head back.
Back along the bumpy dirt road, past the policeman still sleeping, and onto the main road. We think there are troubles with the motor bike and it is getting hot, so after we are back on the main road we pull over and Mr Bun says it is time for lunch. The establishment is one where locals would eat, the food I am sure was most tasty, we were not about to sample the local cuisine and end up with a bug, which can often happen from a chicken or fish soup, that has been sitting around for a few hours.
We politely decline but Mr Bun is insistent that he is hungry and that we stop, so we buy the safest thing we can, a beer and water for Mrs Wombat. Mr Bun hoes into a chicken soup with chicken pieces and some rice, like it was his only meal for the day, and it might very well have been. We watch the world go by and when Mr Bun announces he is full and happy, we go to the establishment next door to put some more air in the tyres and we head home.
We arrive at our hotel mid afternoon, feeling shaken but not stirred, dusty and ready for a swim and afternoon nap. We bid farewell and pay My Bun a little more than the agreed price, for an interesting day out. He asks us once again, where else we want to go and we graciously let him know that we are all good for tours and trips. He heads off with a good pay for the day, and definitely more money than he would have made around town, doing $1 and $2 fares. What sets Mr Bun apart, is his attention to detail and his willingness to help, he is also a true gentleman.