Cambodia, ravaged by civil war and constant shifts of power was our next destination.
From the moment we crossed the border it was evident that it is a different country, however neither me nor Amy could point out exactly why. The nature was a lot wilder, fields were greener and country side was a lot more mountainous. It just seemed a lot more South East Asian like in my humble opinion. It looks exactly the way you imagine in your head a South East Asia would look like if you are from western world. Green fields with dotted palm trees and sporadic cows here and there with workers on the fields.
First destination was Kep. Only 45 minutes away from the border, we arrived in the center of the Kep, got off the bus and looked around. Well… How I thought we can spend a week here when I originally planned this trip, is really a mystery. Kep basically only has one main road and that's about it. We decided to stay in Bris De Kep - which was like 50m from where the bus dropped us off - as they offered us a room with 3 double beds in it for $12. $4 each - bargain! After unpacking we decided to have a look around in the town. Since we arrived during the weekday, then this sea side resort was rather quiet. We ventured to the crab market that was approximately 1km away. Roads are quiet and they had a proper pavement! When you think about a market you imagine a big buzzing place where constant selling and buying takes place. The famous crab market in Kep is only a fraction of that, however it could be very well down to the fact that we arrived around 3 oclock in the afternoon.
After looking around a bit we decided to have something to eat. One thing we noticed was that food was a lot more expensive in Kep than in Vietnam. We thought since the place is for upper class Khmers (that's how Cambodians are called) then that could be the reason why prices are higher than usual. Nevertheless we went to Sunset Paradise restaurant and ordered Pork, Beef and I ordered Crab with noodles. My first try of the crab. 20 minutes later they placed big dishes with Tagliate like noodles in front of us. We all agreed that these were the best noodle dish we've had. The crab was actually ok, I wouldn't crave for it, but I would definitely eat it from time to time. Amy as usual didn't like it. Food is nice in Cambodia.
When we got back to our hotel, there wasn't much to do. We decided to drink some local beer and play cards till we went to bed.
We had no plans on what to do in Kep, nobody was interested in visiting the pepper/salt farms so we just lazed on the beach the next day. Fact is it was so hot that there was just no motivation to do anything. Cambodia is a lot hotter than Vietnam. Quick back note - for breakfast we had fired rice with vegetables and pork. That is the best fried rice me and Amy have had we think. It just taste sooo nice and filled us right up. We did go on the beach, but it didn't look the cleanest, when I entered the water, the bottom was mix of sand and mud or something and I didn't feel that comfortable in it. Nick also said it wasn't the most pleasant one. We were offered a trip to Rabbit Island, but since it is a shadow of Phu Quoc we decided against it. After some thinking me and Amy decided to leave Kep the next day and make our way to Kampot.
Next morning we said fair well to Nick, who said that he will be in Sydney during Christmas and New Year (he will be staying 10 min from our hostel), and hopefully we will see him again.
After 40 minute drive from Kep we arrived in Kampot. There is one street where they have all the budget guest houses and we decided to stay in place called Orchid. It is a family run place and they charged us $5 for a night. It had only fan and no hot water, but since Phu Quoc we kind of realized that cold shower is actually a rather good option, especially in Cambodia.
All guest houses provided free cycles so we got a pair and went to look around in Kampot. Kampot is not very big town, we managed to see all the important spots within 30 minutes, but it did have a super market and a proper Internet place. On our way back we decided to book a day tour to Bokor Mountain, which we got for $16 per person.
Amy had read up about a restaurant across the street 'Blissful' - which had rather groggy rooms, but apparently good food. It had an English chef and served HP sauce. Happy hour was from 4-8 so we decided to make our way there and order some JUGs of beer (aprox 4,5 mugs of beer). We spent the night playing cards and drinking and finally ordering our food, where I had Hunters Chicken in BBq sauce and Amy had vegetable curry since they ran out of Buritos. Food was very tasty and we were pleased.
We did notice that food is still quite expensive compared to Vietnam and they don't really have many street stalls that sell food like they do in Vietnam. But maybe this is because Kampot is such a small city. Also we noticed that Cambodians don't haggle! When we tried to buy a new 8gb memory stick and tried to haggle they were completely un-interested in it. When we tried the famous 'lets leave - and they will call us back move learnt and well practiced in Vietnam' they didn't even raise an eyelid…. Maybe haggling is different in Cambodia. For such a poor country they do charge a lot for everything J At least room rates are cheap!
Next morning 8 AM we were picked up for our day tour, our guide Ki asked if we brought any mosquito repellent, when we asked why, he said - leeches. Since part of our tour was 2h trekking in the mountain, in the proper jungle there are a lot of leeches. Ki reassured that using mosquito repellent will deter them off. I quickly ran back to get it and then me and Amy covered ourselves with it from top to toe. P.S. Mosquito repellent in Cambodia is better than in Vietnam with 20% deet, compared to lemon fragrant 13% one in Vietnam.
After around 20 minute ride we got to the mountain and got a van lift further upwards. The reason why we were trekking 2h in the jungle was because they claimed that the road is not 'finished' and cannot be passed by vehicle, thus we have to trek up on our own. The ranger who was assigned for us, was in flip flops and with no water bottled, he gave us one look, shrugged and set off. The climb was actually quite vertical and path was very narrow, in twined with wines and jungle. 10 minutes into the climb everyone was knackered and sweating heavily. Thank fully they provided free water before the trek. It took us approximately 2 hours to reach the top, with around 3 stops in between, so it was quite a work out for everyone. Even a couple who said they trekked in Thailand for 3-4 days, said that they did not expect this kind of hard work uphill. After all the trek was advertised as an easy walk in the jungle - as if! J
When we got up, what do we see - the same van that brought us up was there. We soon realized the road is most probably alright, the trekking is there to fill out our day. Amy was not particularly happy with this, especially as she caught 3 leeches on her way up. She was not happy bunny. From where we got out of the jungle to the Hill Station it was 10 minute van ride. The Hill station itself was is a complex of a village with hotel and gambling places left behind from French era in Cambodia. Apparently the road to station was built by 10,000 convicts out of which many did not survive. We had our lunch there and then made our way back. Everyone were hoping that we can get a ride back all the way down, unfortunately that was not the case, where it picked us up earlier it dropped us off again. 2 elderly French women actually protested but Ki said - we cant go on the van. Since there was no other way, we made our decent. It went a lot quicker, even though it was a lot harder. Amy pointed out that instead of enjoying the jungle, we had to constantly look where we stepped thus it wasn't really that much of an enjoyment really, which I to certain degree agree with. Amy didn't think the tour was worth what we paid for it. She was barely walking in the end as she got a massive blister on her heel, poor her L
After the trekking it was 2 hour boat ride with a sunset, to which we decided to go since it was already paid. When we got back to town a small boat waited for us, which was VERY wobbly, constantly swaying from one side to another. As we set off it balanced itself out.
We both were glad we decided to stick out to the end, as the boat ride was the high light of our day. The water was mirror calm and the nature was just amazing around us. We saw incoming armada of fishermen and traveled around on the river. It was actually amazing; the best pictures were taken from this part of the trip. On our way back we had a pleasure to see sunset and we managed to get some of the most stunning pictures of our stay in Kampot. In the end we both agreed, regardless of how the day went it was still worth it. The tour ended at 6 PM and we had to make our own way back to the guest house.
Since we had such a tiresome day we decided to call it an early night, had shower, ate at Blissful again and then went to sleep again. We also realized that Amy forgot to apply her sun cream, thus she was thoroughly burnt by the end of the day J
Next day we decided to visit the Tek Chhouu Falls that were in the Lonely Planet. Hehe what a disappointment, it did not have any falls, it just had a raffle and there were no swimming areas per say. We concluded our trip after 20 minute walkaround that this is something for locals. As we got back we decided to leave Kampot the next day and make our way to Sihanoukville. It had also become apparent that we badly needed new books to fill in the times of waiting, so we bought two new books.
So far we have been impressed with Cambodian food and nature, we both really like it here and we both agree that it is better than Vietnam, lets hope it will be like this till the end.