From Ko Chang we got another ferry and minivan to the Cambodia border. This was our first land border crossing in Asia, what an experience. As if dodging the hoards of people trying to get you to buy a bus ticket from them wasn’t enough, then you have to avoid the ‘health check’ line. At least we knew to ignore & skip this, a lot of people were sucked in by the official looking uniform, the toy flashing light medical scan device and the quarantine sign.
We were glad we had arranged our transport beforehand, we found our driver quickly and started off on the 4 hour 250km trip to Kampot. All was going well until about 40 minutes into the trip when the car started overheating. Our driver (zero english) wasn’t much of a car man and didn’t really know what to do so started pouring water over the radiator. After some persuasion from Matt he actually put some water into the radiator too!
It seemed to come right after being filled up so off we went again. Unfortunately there was definitely a leak somewhere so we had to stop about every 20 minutes to cool the car down.
Eventually after literally 40 or 50 phone calls the driver called a friend to come and meet us so we stopped on the side of the road and waited. We were sitting in the car when we saw him collecting a couple of branches and taking an axe to them. We couldn’t figure out what he was up to, but then realised he was fashioning some sort of tow-bar so his friend could tow him home.
Because we were already so far behind on our drive we weren’t keen to spend another 3 hours slowly towing the car home so had to explain that we wanted to go in the good car and leave the other one. After some scratching of heads they agreed & we got on our way reaching Kampot just before dark.
Kampot is on the south coast of Cambodia, it’s a smaller town (40,000 but seems like 5000)so isn’t nearly as touristy as Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. The location on the coast and a river running through it means there’s plenty of fresh fish available.
Our guesthouse was at the edge of town so we hired a motorbike to get around. We went exploring on the outskirts of town down a few random dirt tracks.
Bokor National Park is a well known attraction in the area. It was about an hour 40km bike trip to the top of Bokor mountain where there is a brand new (about a year old) massive casino. Best motorbike ride we’ve done anywhere so far with great road, no traffic and top views.
The hill was first used as a getaway destination for French settlers who stayed in the now abandoned Palace Hotel and Casino.
Currently there is renovation work being done on the building to restore it, I’m not sure what purpose it will have when restored.
It was a great view over the National Park to the coast and Phu Quoc Island Vietnam (coming in the next post).
This old settlement also had a post office and shops but the only other remnant still standing is the church.
Back to the new casino. It was definitely built for many many more people than currently frequent it. It’s a pretty ridiculous set of structures on top of a 1000m hill basically in the middle of the jungle. We had a flutter on the pokie machines and were the only people in the massive room.
The same went for the restaurant where we had lunch, empty.
We wouldn’t recommend the trip for the casino and old buildings but the drive is fantastic, definitely the best road in Cambodia, and great views along the way.
The first day we managed to find an Australian run cafe with great coffee so went there for breakfast most days. Couldn’t fault their egg’s bene, delicious.
Our walk through the local market was pretty short lived, we struggled with the heat and fish/meat smell combo. It was quite funny though to see 4 or 5 live ducks tied by the feet and strung over the handle bars of this motorbike.
Free wifi? Good that he has a good sense of humour.
Sitting down by the river was a great spot to see some beautiful sunsets (every night they were stunning) and sample some yummy cocktails.
We also went on a river cruise on evening. It turns out the stray dogs of the town like sunset trips too, this one jumped aboard as we were pulling away from the shore.
We passed under the old bridge which is really a rickety, unsafe but in use combination of 3 different structures.
This seems like a good alternative way to get home from school.
We saw lots of fishing boats heading out to get their nights catch.
It seems that every night there is a beautiful sunset turning the sky brilliant orange and pink.
We had our first ever Christmas day away from home in Kampot. Although not celebrated by the locals there were plenty of places running a special Christmas day menu. We chose the restaurant offering NZ lamb for a taste of home. We realised we should have shared a plate as we got a massive serving of lamb, pork, crackling, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, broccoli, roast carrots, apple sauce and mint sauce. Yum.
While we were eating we were watching a group of 3 men who brought their own asian spirits and were doing rounds of shots. They then got out their tupperware container of kimchi and own chopsticks for a snack. For dinner they shared the Christmas roast meal, eating it on rice with their chopsticks and kimchi. Quite entertaining to watch.
On a walk one day we thought the local prison must be a housing area because there were so many children playing in the courtyard. Although obviously not high security, going by the exterior it’s not a place you’d want to find yourself.
After 5 days in Kampot it was time to head to Kep a 40 minute tuk-tuk away. We love tuk-tuk rides but we should have had proper face masks for dry and dusty roads.
While Kampot is known for its world class pepper, Kep is known for great fresh crab. Combine the two and you have a tasty dish.
It’s a very sleepy town with many abandoned french colonial houses from the time of Khmer Rouge. The desperate locals would strip the houses of valuables so they could trade with Vietnamese for rice and money.
The crab market was definitely the most popular place in town but it was also nice to motorbike through a forested area with views over the coast, even if Matt was embarrassed about our pink bike with leopard print foot scuffs.
Our accommodation was great apart from the geckos that we couldn’t get out of our room. They would hide behind the air conditioning unit and call to each other throughout the night. Also roaming around outside were chickens, roosters, dogs, and turkeys.
Again, being on the coast led to some beautiful views.
Our next stop was Vietnam so we had another (hopefully our last) land border crossing, not overly hi-tech.
Again we bypassed the ‘compulsory’ $1 health check and after about an hours wait finally got on our way.
Next, some more island time on Phu Quoc with friends Simon and Gieve.