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Published: December 31st 2008
Up for 8 'o' clock minibus. Actually it was at hotel by 7:50am. It was a ancient old battered minibus and we were the first passengers. There was of course no aircon and the standard air blowers didn't work. I was immediately regretting booking in haste last minute at the hotel reception rather than wandering up the street last night to the reputable company called G'Day Mate tours. This realisation increased when we spent the next 1 hour 10 minutes cruising around town picking up other passengers in the stifling heat. The most intriguing passenger was a local woman who sad beside the driver clad in jumper, hat, fac mask and wolly gloves. She didn't open the window either. We in the back were melting. Finally we left town at 9am. By this time we'd already got used to the driver tooting his horn incessant. This didn't stop when we hit the highway. We were at least relieved that with a full load the van was not capable of doing excessive speeds and he didn't do any crazy overtaking. Our luggage had been precariously held on a wooden platform jutting from the back of the truck which was
then wedged down by holding the back door shut with a bit of string. Miraculously it survived the journey. The scenery was the usual paddy fields and small wooded hills and every so often a dusty market town. We arrived a Kampot and the difference from Sihanoukville was immediately apparent. There is a pervasive sleepy feel in the faded old French colonial buildings. The riverside setting adds to the charm.We found rooms at the lovely gardened 'Blissful Guesthouse' for a very reasonable $6 for a fan-room. We were installed by noon and so had all the day remaining to explore. Fist stop was some lunch at the nice charity run cafe called 'Epic' where the waitresses are deaf so you fill in list with your requests. The food was good - I had a mezee of hummous and other dips - Jen had a tuna salad which included raisins marinated in something nice. We spent the evening at the guesthouse which gets several non-residents for eating and drinking because the gardens are so lovely. On the way back to the guesthouse we met a ypung lady called Melinda. She is a true European - English father French mother educated in
Germany and fluent in all three languages.She is an intrepid lone traveller.
Headed for the waterfront to check out on boat trips - stopping for a juice at the Little Garden cafe but the only option readily available was to hire an entire boat for a pricey $15 an hour which was too much for just us two.So instead after a light breakfast we strolled leisurely back to the Blissfull where behammocked we snoozed away the afternoon with cold drinks. We found a cosy riverfront Sri Lankan restaurant. The food was a little salty for my palate. There was a sudden heavy downpour which delayed our departure and then we had a single drink back at the Blissful accompanied by Melinda who had spent the day wring a few pages of a novel.
The overnight rain had been heavy and noisy which mad sleep difficult especially as the storm breaking didn't relieve the heat as normally happens back in the UK. Jen had a little conversation with the little daughter of the Khmer cleaning lady at the Blissful. She had been very bashful the previous day but today decided to sing the
one line she knew of Jingle Bells over and over. We tried a different riverside cafe for breakfast. The baguette portion was incredibly mean but the coffee was very good tasting Mocha style (although served lukewarm as is the usual case here). We queried a few tuk-tuk drivers about the cost of a return trip to Kep. It went from $20 to $18 dollars and then as we let the cafe a new tuk-tuk driver who must have overheard our conversation offered to do it for $14 so we agreed and immediately sped off stopping only at a roadside stall for him to buy a pepsi bottles worthof fuel. They followed a lovely 25km ride through lovely scenes of Cambodian rustic life.Stilt houses, water buffalo. pigs, hens, ducks, rice spread out to dry at the roadside. Swampy inlets from the sea full of colourful fishermen's boats. At many points hundreds of children were walking and cycling to and from school. The sea appeared on our right. Hills suddenly thrust up, clad in dense forest. There is no beach and there are ghostly abandoned French colonial houses which nature has reclaimed. Strangely in some places there are the ornate surrounding walls
Crab pot bait
I think these little bundled fish were used as bait in the crab pots
but the French villa has disappeared completely. The tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the Kep crab market. It was a scene of busy activity as the exclusively female crown moved crabs in and out of baskets thrusting some of them into boiling pans. Some of the crabs had very attractive bright blue pincers. There are many seafood restaurants out on stilts over the water - presumably busy evenings especially weekends - but quiet when we were there. As I photographed these a fisherman appeared and cast a purse net catching a reasonable number of small fish. We continued our stroll along the waterfront. We were incredibly lucky - a small fishing boat disgorged a member of crew just 20m out from where we were and proceeded to deploy its net in a big circle. One fully deployed they hauled it in with huge effort.They had a small catch of sprat like fish. It was a great timeless scene. We continued our walk along the litter strewn parade to the beach. The beach has seen better days - in French colonial times they used to refresh it with white sand - it certainly needs a refreshen now - what is
left looks more like a dirty concrete ramp than sand. The abandoned French villas give the who place a strange atmosphere. I'm sure it will flourish again. We had a refreshing lime juice at the 'Led Zep' cafe and then headed back with our tuk-tuk man for the pleasant 25km back to Kampot. Just before reaching there we encountered a police escorted huge funeral cortege of a brightly decorated truck with the photo of a young woman on the front followed by perhaps 200 mopeds. Then just before the drop off point a snake slivered across the road.Jen asked the tuk-tuk man if it was dangerous. He simply said - 'He bite - you die'. After this we spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the grounds of the Blissfull.
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