After a brief couple of days in Kep, a small town on the south coast of Cambodia; famous for its fresh crab and pepper, spent trekking in the national park, eating fresh crab and staying in the cutest fisherman style hut.
We met Étienne our French Canadian friend on the island of Koh Tonsi 'rabbit island'. There we mostly chilled out; I ate pancakes and Ben and Étienne drank $1 beer. From there it was off to Kampot, a larger town also famous for its pepper.
Little did we know on the 2 hr rushed journey that we would experience one of our most eventful days to date....
The first night in Kampot was a quiet one, I went to bed early and the boys drank in the bar of our hostel and updated their blogs. Up early the next morning our decision to get mopeds, visit the caves and try and find the secret lake was a good one!
It began with the usual exchange of passports for bikes, and off we went to find breakfast. After: fill up the bikes, head in the direction of the caves. All was going according to plan.
We rode the dusty red roads of Kampot through rustic Cambodian villages over run with chickens, pigs, dogs and smiling children everywhere! As we wound around the local roads we were greeted warmly by the locals. Echoes of 'hello, hello' constantly rang out around our helmeted ears. Potholed ridden dirt roads and the persistent possibility of mowing down one of the previously mentioned made for an intense ride! Chickens were the main obstacle, the dogs seemed to have learnt the green cross code! Riding through a Buddhist gate we finally reached our destination.
With the caves standing before us we were suddenly greeted by a young Cambodian lad who rode up out of nowhere on his rusty bicycle. 'Good morning, I show you caves. I am a good guide, you pay fee for caves over there!' So on we went to pay and followed our friendly guide Seya 'Seeeyaaaah' into the mouth of the cave. It turned out to be an interesting and more strenuous, if not short exploration of the cave. With Seya explaining about the broken temples due to Pol Pots orders and other pieces of history connected with the Khmer Rouge. We followed him up and down over rocks, threw rocks and under rocks. Squeezing between tight spaces and crawling on our knees at some points. 'Maybe we should have worn trainers' I pondered as we proceeded to tackle the rocks in our flip flops. At least I had made the correct decision to change out of my dress!
As we reached the daylight and the exit to the caves our guide didn't miss a beat.' What you do now' I take you to secret lake!' We were planning on going that way anyway so we thought why not. He hopped on to Etiennes bike and drove us to a big man made lake that Pol Pot had ordered to be made during the time he ruled over Cambodia! It turned out to be a nice lake but too muddy to swim. Instead we sat under the usual bamboo huts and ate some local food that was the cheapest and some of the most tastiest we've had so far during Cambodia. We spoke to our guide about his life in the local village and he proceeded to tell us about his girlfriend, his school and the fact that he taught the young children of his village English 3 times a week.
After paying for his dinner and 'asking' if we could accompany him to school, I say 'asking' as he kind of suggested and kind of hinted at the idea. It was decided we would go on to the pepper plantation (owned by some Australians who lived in an ostentatious house in the middle of the hills above the village), after we would head back to Seyah's house, he would change and on to our hostel for us to freshen up. As I looked as if I had been spray tanned and dyed my hair ginger due to the red earth on the roads turning me a bright orange colour all over!
So we arrived at his school first in the village and joined him in his evening class of English. Sat at the back we looked on in quiet interest until his teacher shoved the text book in our hands and asked us to read to the class. Now give me 1000 student under the age of 10 and I will happily sing and dance and perform at the front of the class but for some reason I froze. I couldn't read my own language out to a room of 30 16-22 yr old students! Thank goodness Ben and Etienne were there. They stood at the front of the class and proceeded to read passages out to the class to follow. After the teacher asked the students if they understood, 'too fast' they shouted and their teacher re-read it, interludes of Khmer explaining the passages were heard. Next we all sat in groups and exchanged conversation with the smiling Cambodians who some relished practising their English and others were a little more shy.
Onto Seyah's house it was... Now in the dark! Me and Ben had to tackle the potholed roads without a light as it had broken. I used the torch of his iPhone to guide the way, holding it over his shoulder. Thankfully the journey was short. Soon the young students of the village arrived for their evening class of English. Sat in the backyard of Seeyah's house, the 14 pupils ranging from 4-10 sat compliantly as the young teacher shouted out the alphabet, repeated, days of the weeks, repeated, and this weeks subject numbers 91-100! After the short half an hr lesson was complete we handed out the pens and sweets we had bought on the way back to the village. The children loved it and the women of the village were very appreciative too.
We ate at a local restaurant in the town centre, accompanied by Seeyah and his friend and then went back for drinks at the hostel, after 2 beers they said their good byes and our friendly guide asked for some money to help with his studies. We obliged by giving him a couple of dollars as we had already paid for his food and drinks.
We were later joined by some of Étienne's friends who he had met earlier in his travels. They've bought a tuk tuk to travel through South East Asia. Sounded pretty cool. The boys drank some more and we played pétanque. Then we called it a night... Or so I thought!
Ben and Étienne went to buy some water and I went to get ready for bed! 10 minutes later Ben came back... No water! 'We've found a bar thats still open and we came back for you'.So in true Asian style all three of us traveled to the bar on one bike! Etienne, the most wxperienxes driver guiding the way cautiously. The boys drank some more and I danced a little. We decided to leave as we had remembered there were some trampolines in the square around the corner!
After playing on the trampolines I left the boys and took my opportunity to try to ride a moped for the first time... The roads were empty, I hadn't been drinking like the boys. With a quick demonstration of the gas, the front and back brake I was off! As I took the first lap of the square with ease and precision I thought proudly to myself 'wow I'm not bad!' Whizzing past the corner I waved to the boys and smiled, it was pretty fun until...
As Étienne described it "I swan dived off the moped" chin first onto the road...