Kampot, Kep and Kompong Trach
Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
122Trip End Ongoing
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After noticing some other westerners waiting in a taxi, we asked if we could all go together as they needed two more people to fill their car (their family consisting of 4 kids and 2 adults was not enough according to Cambodian taxi practices)
We spent the evening walking around town. It was a nice change - a very quiet and small town, with French colonial heritage. We walked around without any motorbike riders chanting "moto, you want moto" (motorcycle taxi) - a nice relaxing place.
The next day we decided to hire a motorbike to see Kep (an old French beach side town), and some countryside as Kampot itself was quite small. After getting some hand-drawn maps from the hire place, we began the ride towards Phnom Chhnork, a small cave system with an ancient temple inside the cavern. The first obstacle however was that the bridge across the river had collapsed due to an overloaded truck (about 3 weeks before), so we had to cross on a floating bridge - built a number of wooden platforms tied together and floating with empty petrol drums
Continuing out towards the caves was amazing, passing picturesque houses surrounded by fields, smiling faces from the locals and a sea of kids running from their homes to say "hello" and wave as we putted past. It was really quite uplifting from the warm welcome we were receiving.
We eventually found the monastery where the caves were near with a little help from the locals (really fun trying to pronounce the name of the caves "Chhnork"!!!). We walked over to where three monks were sitting on a bamboo shade hut and tried to communicate. We had read in our guidebooks that the monks protect the caves and we tried to establish which direction we needed to go to get to the entrance. Two of the monks then proceeded to show us the way! (I later read in the guidebook that for guides - the local kids could show the way - oops!). So we wandered up to the caves, where one of them rested and the other took us to the ancient temple inside. The monk then proceeded to light some incense and motioned Christie to put it in the incense holders.
By this stage some other foreigners had ventured down (with the local kids!) and they were going to go further into the cave system
Making it back to the bike, our monk friend wanted us to stay a while and he showed us all around the monastery, happily posing for photos. He was really quite a character and was laughing all the time (at us???). Every time we would go to leave he would say "stop"! and want to show us something else. We finally bid him farewell, and then brushed off the cave dirt and headed to the old beach town of Kep, famous now for its seafood. We polished off a nice seafood lunch and then had a quick explore around the coastline of Kep. Although its main beach was not all that pretty, Kep was quite serene and had a very relaxed feel about it.
We continued the "back way" towards Kampong Trach, about 40 km away and getting close to the Vietnam border
Glenn stayed a while and the kids eventually got confidence and came closer. After getting a few photos, we returned to the bike. The kids, now confident, were at the pond edge calling out, so Glenn suddenly ran towards them, hands up, and they screamed and ran to the other side. A few more games followed, and the lady minding them was in hysterics from the kids reactions.
We continued on to Kampong Trach - not much to see in the town, and had a quick ride out towards the caves there. But getting late, we decided to head back for the long ride back to Kampot.
The following day, we decided to join a tour to Bokor, an old French hill station, long abandoned
Up the top, the buildings remaining are a bit of a ghost town, and the whole area was covered in fog to make it a little eerie. After our guide took us on a small walk through the forest and showed us the insect eating tube plants which he insisted the locals called "dick plants", because of, well, what they looked like, he then proceeded to keep us "entertained" on the way down by telling really poor jokes. Still, the trip up to Bokor was not too bad, and afterwards we went to Tek Chhouu where the locals enjoy swimming in some of the cleanest rivers around. We joined in and had a swim, before finishing the trip with a sunset cruise back to Kampot. Although the sun was behind the clouds :) We had fun, but are glad that we are doing our trip independently - we have now well and truely had our tour fix for a while.
After the bouncy ride in the pick up, and riding all day the previous day, we were a little sore, but we still decided to get a bike the following day and head back to Kep. We decided to do as the locals do, and rent out a bamboo shade hut, complete with hammocks overlooking the beach and eat our seafood lunch there after whiling the time away in the hammocks of the beach hut. A nice spot to let the afternoon pass.
We finished the day by going back on the road towards the caves, to see the amazing countryside once more. The people are just so amazingly friendly, we will never forget them or the sights we saw here. From the many hellos, to the lady came who up to us to show us her catch of fish for the day - she was so proud, and the tiny little kids riding adults bikes that were way to big for them but they managed just by standing on the pedals, a very cute sight. Kampot and its surrounds has really been a highlight in Cambodia!