So we move digs with the aid of a Tuk-Tuk for the short trip across town. It’s called the Hour Keang, which has nothing to do with what a friend of ours thought – That you can rent the rooms for an hour 😉 ? It’s Chinese and pronounced Whore Keang which did nothing to deflect said friends thoughts :-). Thankfully it’s not a knocking shop, not that you’d associate Kampot with that sort of reputation. It’s a nice town and hopefully it will stay that way. Theft and drugs are practically non-existent, undesirables tend to get driven out, plus there’s plenty of room for all that at the coast in Sihanoukville. One area of the Kingdom which in my opinion, is now well and truly fucked, thanks to overdevelopment and a large influx of dodgy types, both local and foreign.
Our $12 room is on the third floor at the top, so plenty of steps to get the heart rate going with continued physio for the ankle. There’s a communal balcony with a great view, plus the family running the place are very friendly. We’re without aircon but we do have hot water, which is not always a given in Asia. We could have taken a $7 room but we’d be without a window, fuck staying in a cell to save $5. On the other hand tho’ if we were willing to pay $17 we could activate the air-conditioning, but a fan is usually ample anyway. Now I suppose most of you reading this are thinking an additional $5 for a bit of added luxury is nothing, that’d be true if we were in Europe or the States. However five dollars in Kampot equates to six beers with enough change for tipping. Every dollar counts in Asia and you must maximise it when you can. I’m not counting the majority of Thailand in that statement though. It certainly isn’t what it used to be that’s for sure! My advice unless your well informed as to your exact destination in the land of a thousand smiles is to avoid the place like the plague, it’s time has long passed.
It’s not only the beer that’s cheap, eating out is also and there’s an abundance of eateries in and about town. Some are very good, others excellent and some not so good. Apart from 3 or possibly 4 select places that over charge for their fare, the cost is roughly the same. For brekkie we tend to rotate around eight or ten venues depending on our mood. For the pair of us it’s rarely more than $7, sometimes it’s as little as $5!! If it’s ever over $10 it means we are somewhere fancy, or more likely that I’ve had a cider or two to cure the hangover, but that’s become a rarity as I’m a good boy now :-).
Over the next few weeks we partake in various activites of interest, making the most of our $3 a day wheels. Time is also spent trying to find an apartment but most places available need you to sign up for 3 or 6 months minimum. We could maybe push to three months for the right deal, but we don’t find anything suitable. With eating out being so reasonable with a wide choice, we’re happy enough for now so that idea goes on the back burner.
Our first little adventure is over the river to Fish Isle where the salt flats are located. We weren’t looking for them, just went out on the bike for a gander over the river. When we first set eyes on them I think they are paddy fields that have unfortunately been flooded, stopping the rice from growing – Doh! It was a stupid thought, but there were no piles of salt which you sometimes get to see to aid my evaluation. It’s soon clear tho’ that it’s a big arrangement of evaporation ponds stretching as far as the eye can see, known as the salt flats. As I’ve said our timing is out as they must have been recently harvested, but salt can be seen forming at the edges of the ponds.
We explore the rest of the area and it’s rural Cambodia, with typical Khmer dwellings, kids playing and cows roaming the land, as can seen in the cover shot. We’ve seen many scenes similar to the next shot, but have not yet started to take it for granted. I especially like seeing the colourful lines of washing put out to dry, they seem to be everywhere :-). It’s always good fun on the bike, as ever needing eyes in the back of your head, the drive varies in degrees of difficulty but is always challenging. It would be great to be cycling but unless you set out at six in the morning the heat would be punishing.
Next up is a trip known locally as ‘Up The Hill’ the hill in question being Bokor, it’s peak just shy of 1100m. It can be seen from the city but not the peak in the above photo, that’s a mountain bought by the Chinese. Sadly that one is slowly being eradicated for it’s rock, how much longer it will remain I’m not sure, three years maybe, possibly five? There’s big development going down and most of it’s on top of Bokor HIll and also a huge port currently under construction. The plan in the not so distant future is to attract cruise ships here and bus the tourists up the hill. So if your thinking of coming to Kampot, come soon people!
The entrance to the hill is 10 Klick out of town and then another 30 odd to the top. It’s over an hours drive and the local advice is to take a jumper as the weather can change dramatically due to the increase in meterage above sea level. It’s advice we can testify is good advice ;-), ignore it only if your brave, or just stupid!
There’s a host of attractions up there, but the ride itself is reason enough to ‘go up the hill’, we can highly recommended it. Unfortunately tho’ development is underway so parts of the landscape are already blighted by out of place buildings and thousands of piled foundations protruding out of the ground. The plans are huge and if your interested information can be found in the KSG here, the idea is to create a town with quite a sizeable population. There’s a 2000 riel entrance to be paid at the bottom so for the two of us that’s a dollar, shortly after the entrance there are stalls bizarrely selling bananas, not that fruit stalls are bizarre, but ones that are purely selling just bananas seem a tad strange? The road which snakes it’s way to the top is of excellent quality, making it potentially a great rally course as there must be more than 12 hairpin bends. Actually maybe rallying is not such a good idea though, as if you miss judged a bend you’d be a goner as the drop is fierce.
Following an impressive amount of vertical greenness as Cambodia has an impressive wide array of trees and fauna. Not to mention the various birds that populate the area, some of which you can see here in my photo blog, please take a look, it’s much appreciated so thanks is advance :-). The first sight that greets you indicating your almost there, is a big statue that could be mistaken for being a Budda. That’s not possible though as the statue has a big pair of boobs.
It’s a statue of Ya Mao who is the guardian of the coast, it’s believed she looks over the safety of travellers. As the story goes Ya Mao died at sea whilst travelling to see her husband. Due to that the locals assume she wanted a bit of nookie and therefore local to the statue there’s a shrine where people leave offerings of phallic symbols. This explains the banana stalls at the base of the hill! Now I know this sounds mental crazy bonkers, so just as proof I’ve added a photo just in case you doubt these words, which have blatantly been robbed from the KSG. In the unofficial official guide it also states that similar shrines are dotted along the coast of the Kingdom. We are yet to spot any others, but we’ll let you know about it once we do.
There’s a waterfall near the summit but it’s futile visiting at this time of year as it’ll just be a fall without water, balls to that! Ignoring the ongoing new development(s) one of which is a fancy hotel with a casino. There are many other attractions which include the Bokor Palace hotel built in the 1920’s, a christian church which I believe was built by the french and various other derelict buildings making it a very interesting location to explore. Unfortunately our trip got cut short due to a slow puncture to our rear tyre, so we depart and descend in search of air. The hill is not somewhere you’d want to be stranded, but I’m sure if it did happen there be plenty of locals who would try to help you out. So safe first and all that but disappointingly it meant that we missed the old hotel and the church, but we did get to see the Wat that’s perched at the cliff edge and it’s surrounding buildings & statues.
Whilst we are near the Wat there’s some interesting little worshipping figures surrounding a Budda and also a monkey in a cage, he looks none too happy, so the KP runs off to get some bamboo and kindly feeds him.
We manage to get back to the outskirts of the city where we find air enabling us to get back to our digs safely. We got off lightly as when we set out the next day we notice the tyre has ballooned like a tennis ball and on the verge of bursting. A blow out coming down the hill would not have been fun, especially if we were on one of the hairpins?! We get the tyre and inner tube replaced for $20 in preparation for more excursions that will follow shortly…….
When we hope you continue to tune in, for now thanks once again for visiting.