Arrived Kep on Friday around 6.30pm after what was definitely a memorable 4-hour journey. Having to get used to a left hand drive, automatic, and the crazy Phnom Penh traffic was certainly challenging but I made it out in one piece and then for the next 170km just had to avoid the idiots in 4x4s, kamikaze motorbikes, children, chickens, and cows. Nearly had a steak supper when one of the cows decided it wanted to suddenly cross the road in front of me, causing me to slam on the brakes. I soon learnt to adapt though and started driving like a true Cambodian (or at least one that has a driving licence, as very few people have!). I had to apply for a Cambodian driving licence myself before I could hire the car, and you can only hire one if you are here on a business visa.
I stayed at Kep Lodge, high up on the hillside bordering Kep National Park. Or should that be Wildlife Park? I spent most of Friday night wide-awake staring through my mosquito net at two tarantula-sized spiders (I am NOT exaggerating) which had decided to take solace from the monsoon on my thatched ceiling! They didn't move for hours, only to do so when I fell asleep for half an hour, which meant I then spent a further panicky hour trying to find them again. Gits! Anyway sleep finally got the better of me and when I woke at 6.30am they had completely disappeared. I didn't have a furry taste in my mouth so I assume they went out the same way they came in.
Saturday I made an early start and spent the morning touring all of Kep (which didn't take long) and Kampot (likewise). When I set out at 7.30am the weather was beautiful, with me sinking my toes into the sand on Kep Beach at 9am watching the fishermen bring in their daily supply of crabs, but by lunchtime the monsoon had started again. I spent the afternoon relaxing with a book and at 6pm was sitting in the bar of Kep Lodge gazing out to sea and watching the sunset over the Bokor Mountains. Sadly I wasn't able to get up to Bokor Hill Station as the road was closed in January of this year. It has recently been bought for redevelopment and they have subsequently stopped people going up. At the top stands an abandoned hotel, casino, church, and royal residence, all built in the 1920s and left derelict since the war, and often shrouded in fog or clouds making the whole place very eerie. Only one of the spiders came back tonight and he sat in the same place all night. I was so tired that I gave in to sleep. However I had taken some Khmer vegetable soup & French bread to my room and found the half baguette I had left on the other side of the room the following morning . . . half nibbled! I am so glad I slept through that! Also when I put my slip-on shoes on in the morning (which I had left outside the door) I felt something in the toe of my right shoe and immediately pulled my foot out, only to peer inside and find a frog having a nap! He obviously took offence to being prodded by my big toe, and jumped out and hopped off down the path. Despite my little visitors, Kep Lodge is lovely - and at the end of the day I was in the jungle so what more could I expect!
Sunday, I headed down to the crab market, watching the women trading (all business ie. shops, markets etc is run by women in Cambodia) and cooking the crabs in huge black pots on wood fires on the beach, before having lunch of two fresh boiled crabs and grilled squid in a little restaurant for only $7! I left Kep at 2pm and headed back along Route 3 to Phnom Penh, arriving just as the rain started. Driving a car here is bad enough, but try driving it in the rain and the dark - it's like some sort of off-road challenge. People in the UK pay a fortune to hire a 4x4 to go off-road . . . here you can do it for free! I crossed the capital onto Route 5 to Battambang, but after traveling another 100km I decided I was too tired to go any further and stayed overnight at the Asia Hotel in Kompong Chhnang.