Simple enough, we left Otres Beach having booked a small mini bus to take us to Kampot, heading east for about three hours further along the Southern Coast of Cambodia. We already had a place in mind, so headed to that area with a short walk through the town. Kampot was reminding me instantly of Sumatra, in that the streets are really dusty, and lined with small shop fronts with corrugated rusty tin roofs. After about ten minutes later however, we seemed to have arrived at the epicentre of the old town, with many French style colonial buildings and although a bit tatty, they still held a certain amount of charm.
Kampot is split in two by the Kampot River, and the front is lined with expat and local bars and eateries. The Rusty Keyhole is like an old style English Pub that serves the most amazing, and countrywide famous BBQ ribs. Nothing like the stuff back home, we went for a portion, and nearly fell over when half a pig arrived. Not so much spare ribs, a hefty rack of ribs with a huge chunk of meat attached that was practically falling off the bone. We tucked in, and already stuffed, kept taking another cheeky mouthful every few minutes – yeh, we absolutely “pigged out”. I think we ate more meat that night than we have done for the whole trip. I know this is crude, but I think we will be constipated for at least a week 😦 We will obviously at some stage, block every drain in the town when nature takes it’s course – oh dear!
Captain Chim’s was a local Khymer cafe, with authentic local dishes, and cheap as chips. Sometimes all you need is a bowl of noodle soup most of the time however, but the “Bamboo Cafe” did authentic Sri Lankan currys – fresh and spicey, with the lightest of nan breads. But we also did the local stuff too, eating with the locals, and as usual, sitting on wee plastic chairs getting blinded and suntburnt from the 5000 watt flourescent lighting.
Sorry, this always feels like a bit of a pub crawl, but we were really struggling to find something new to do. It’s not all Indiana Jones all of the time when travelling, and to be honest, we were feeling a bit jaded. We need to get through the next few weeks, and had basically run out of idea’s. This is when you really start thinking about where you really want to go, and what you really want to see. We decided that in the meantime, we would just enjoy the time off, and make the most of these times.
Another favourite was RikiTikiTava, quite a plush little bar serving great food on a rustic looking second storey timber balcony with a thatched roofed, surrounded with exotic tropical foliage, with great views over the river across to the smokey blue mountains. The Sunset was particularly nice, and as the day faded, the sun would slowly dip behind the mountains, while the bar “Happy Hour” got into full swing with 2 for 1 cocktails.
Apart from the riverfront, another nice street was where we were staying. There is a succession of guesthouses and hotels in the street, and just across the road, these great little shack type bars with subdued lighting and all covered externally in simple ambient decorative lights.
My favourite bar to hangout was “Two Fat Poor Blokes”. The main reason for this was that Si, who was a part owner with a local Khymer, ran the bar and was extremely funny when drunk and extremely interesting when sober. Well actually, both really. An American from Minneapolis, Si had been in Cambodia for three years and was an Anthropologist who lectured at the local University by day, running his little bar at night. Si was a good story-teller and told some of the best dirty jokes I have heard in years, he would have us both in stitches each night. The music played in the bar was quite a revelation for me, with one bad called “Phantogram” that was especially really doing it for me – Si being a music fan, was just like me in terms of the search for the best in new music, but at the same time, we could sing obtuse lyrics or recite trivia from the musical past. If you need any help in a Music quiz, you need the both of us on yer team 🙂
We were casually sitting one night a wee bit worse for wear, when this woman pulled up on a motorbike with a fluffy dog perched in front of her, with both paws on the handlebars. It seriously looked like the dog was riding the bike and giving the woman a “backy”. When I asked her how long her dog had been riding motorbikes, we were all in stitches when she told us the dog had come all the way from Thailand on a bike, and made it in about 4 hours, as he likes to speed and mainly because he couldn’t reach the brakes with his short hind legs!
Linda from Germany was middle-aged, and spoke with a sort of Teutonic broken English – and was completely pissed. It’s a good job the dog was driving then? Linda was great fun, an old fashioned retired hippy type that really couldn’t give a feck, and her language was very erm, colourful? She obviously liked to smoke the old “Whacky Backy” and told us of the time she smuggled 10lbs of Maruajhana from Thailand in condoms. I don’t know why, but we had all assumed she had used the condoms to carry the stuff internally. I think we were all a bit stunned, as in the silence, you could almost hear the wheels moving in everyone’s head. I then thought about the weight of this stuff, and what that would mean in terms of volume. You know me, I had to ask how she could possibly get 10lbs of this stuff into one of her bodily orifice’s, I mean, that’s like a very very big baby?
Linda looked at me like I was crazy, shouting incredulously “Not in my vagina! What the F**k? … I put it the stuff in my F**king suitcase!!”. There was a slight pause, and we all burst out laughing, everyone was doubled over, we had all obviously been thinking the same thing.
One night Si seemed to be quite well on, and as we propped the bar in the wee small hours, and he kept deliberating over whether to have another drink. He resisted quite hard, then decided everyone at the bar was getting a free shot of jungle juice. There were only three of us at the bar, four if you include Si. Si returned from the kitchen with a large plastic jug of the stuff and three shot glasses, so it looked like he was staying off the booze and being sensible. He poured the three measures, and we noticed that Michelle’s glass was poured slightly shorter than the other two. Si immediately, and still swaying about, moved the jug toward’s Michelle’s glass. Michelle protested that she was fine, but before she could get the words out Si pulled the jug to his mouth, almost missing it, and proceeded to drink about a pint of this stuff in one go! I couldn’t drink my glass as I found this so funny and took a fit of the giggles. It would be Chinese New Year the next day and everyone seemed to be getting prepared to party. Si had been invited to friends house for a family dinner, but assured us he would be open as usual the next night. Michelle and I returned the next night to our hotel around 8pm, passing Si’s bar on our motorbike, which was in complete darkness. Without saying a word to each other, we both had a chuckle. Great Bloke and Great Fun 🙂
By day, we tended to rent a motorbike and crawl around the place taking in the sites. We took a trip to Kep, about 15km away, famous for seafood and especially crab. It’s a nice little seaside town, but not much going on, so a day trip was really enough. We also visited the ancient caves, and the local kids would enthusiastically guide you around for a dollar or two.
We went off the beaten track, and entered through these village gates, and rode up a red sandy track, watching outstanding scenery and getting lot’s of happy smiles, waves and shouts of “Hello’s!” from all the friendly locals. There are little irrigation canals all around to help grow rice and other vegetables, and on these hot barmy days, you frequently passed young kids giggling and laughing as they played in the murky looking water. All the kids were very cute and very friendly.
Bokor Hill was another attraction. It is a decrepit old colonial mansion hotel high up in the mountains. It took us at least an hour to get there as we snaked our way up the mountain on the bike. It was quite an eerie setting, and what was amazing, was that we were so high up, spooky mists would drift across the road. We were actually at cloud level, and you could put your hand in the clouds that were reaching high up from the valley and up to the back of the hotel perimeter walls.
We stayed about a week and half in Kampot, we had got into a wee routine, and really liked all the expats that were running bars. On our last night, we were in the “The Magic Sponge” and everyone was taking a turn changing the music on the computer with a single click of the mouse. This turned into a right old fashioned party where we were all singing our hearts out to Tina Turner’s cheesy anthem “Simply the Best!” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
We returned to our hotel, just along the road a bit. All the staff were propping the bar, and we got a friendly warm welcome with everyone asking where you have been etc. Time for a nightcap. The Blissful does the most amazing G&T’s, they are very strong but contain a really good measure of freshly squeezed lime juice. I think that’s why they call it “The Blissful”, we slept like baby’s that night. We were remarkably fresh next morning, and all we had to do, was walk across the street to “Two Fat Poor Boys” where our bus would pick us up to take us across the border.
It would be only be a week until Stacey and Mark would arrive in Saigon from Oz, and they were planning to travel with us for a month or three before heading back to home to Scotland for a wee holiday.
We had arranged our visa’s in Sihanoukville, but had heard all sort of rumours and horror stories about scams and overcharging at the border – but we were ready and prepared to avoid being fleeced.
We had decided to stay in the border town of Ha Tien, and slowly move our way up from the South of Vietnam to rendezvous with the Kids in Saigon.
“Good Mooorrrrninnng Vietnam!”