We got up early and headed to the bus station to catch our 7:30 bus to Kampot. The road was quite bumpy—astonishingly so, in places—but we finally arrived in one piece at around 11:30. We were greeted by a surprisingly large group of touts at the bus station. After sipping on some Fantas in the adjoining restaurant, we agreed to let a tout give us a ride to a guesthouse right on the river.
Lunch was bread and cheese (a rare treat!) that we had brought with us from Phnom Penh. After eating, we wandered around town, rented a motorbike, and cruised for a bit. There wasn't a whole lot to see, and before long it started drizzling. We stopped at Blissful Guesthouse, a pretty happenin’ little place, and talked to some tour operators. They informed us that most of Bokor National Park (the reason most tourists come to Kampot at all), including its crumbling, old, abandoned French resort at the top of its most prominent mountain, were closed to visitors. Bummer.
Still, it was pleasant to be out of the big city of Phnom Penh and somewhere quiet, with much less traffic and much more greenery. In our explorations of the area we found a locally published Kampot guide, full of cynical and funny quips, as well as good suggestions for what to do in the area. It was obviously written by an ex-pat. After a day of leisurely exploring (interrupted at times by drizzling rain), we headed back to our GH, danced some tango (accompanied by music from Kevin’s computer—gotta keep practicing!), and went to bed.
The next day we went further afield on the motorbike. The most spectacular part of the day was the drive out to "Fish Island," a large island on which people grow rice and “farm” salt. The road started off paved, then turned to nice hard red dirt, then got more and more narrow and eventually was a sandy, bumpy, very narrow raised track with swampy rice paddies and salt fields all around it. We saw just a few people, and lots of cows and water buffalo. It was beautiful; one of those perfect, clear, golden light days and after being surrounded by high rises it was such a treat to see green fields and mountains and landscape! The “road” finally ended at an unspectacular spot on the coast (we had been hoping for a swimming spot).
On the way back we realized there was a HUGE storm brewing over the mountains and heading our way. As we got closer to town it got closer to us; we were just about to stop and get into lightning position, and probably should have, but we pushed through to shelter (a restaurant!) instead. Here we encountered a fairly common situation (for us) in Cambodia. Kevin and I have struggled to learn much more than “hello” and “thank you” in Khmer (the Cambodian language), which isn’t a big deal most of the time—many people know passable English, and we smile a lot. But when we stop at side-of-the-road-eateries (we call them “plastic chair restaurants” because they all have the same chairs) we often run into people who don’t speak a lick of English. Of course, in my mind that shouldn’t be too big of a deal in a restaurant, where we can act out eating and point to some food. But for some reason (we don’t know why), we sometimes get nothing but blank stares (or we’re ignored) when to try to inquire about food at these places. Maybe all they’re serving is “unusable bits” soup or cow brains and they just don’t think we would be interested, which is
true. When these awkward moments occur, I just say thank you, smile sheepishly to imply “sorry to intrude, we don’t really know what we are doing,” and move along. Anyway, we got that treatment at our first spot, but then found a restaurant where I had delicious shrimp in a saffron and citronella sauce on steamed rice—my best meal in a few days!
It was drizzly and rainy and grey again, but we did a little more exploring, and then headed to an internet café to research typhoons, volunteering, and Laos. We spent the rest of the evening curled up in our guesthouse reading books and then watching “Phoebe In Wonderland,” a good movie. The next day we returned to Phnom Penh.