Bikes and Caves

Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

We bought a bus ticket to Kampot, an old French town, which is meant to be a big producer of salt. And before you ask, yes I had been here before. Just a fleeting visit for food, and then back again the next day for petrol. We had been on an overnight trip to Bokor hill station, and as I had talked a fair bit about it, Lucy wanted to go there, hence the bus bit going to Kampot.

In fact, when we bought it, we were told that it would get there in three hours. Six hours later, we arrived !!!

We looked at a hotel called Bliss, where all the tourists who travel with a backpack stay, but there were no locks on the windows, and he couldn't believe it when I told him that his guesthouse was not safe !!! We had a look at another, took a room, went for a walk to another and found cheaper - Jewboy again - and better. As we picked up our bags, Shan arrived on a pushie. She came with us whilst we checked in, then we went for lunch.

It's amazing how much has changed. Yes, the town is still very sleepy, but instead of two guesthouses, there are now loads, and the place has internet cafes and motorbike rentals !!! Into the rental shop we went, and we did a deal where we could have a 100cc bike the first day, and an Honda XR250 the next, as a little one would have trouble getting up the hill station.

Shan grabbed a moto guide, and we were off to look at Phnom Sorsia Caves. They have built a Wat at the top where they are located as the monks believe that they are blessed. Inside the first is a stalactite that is meant to resemble the head of a white elephant. Obviously the tabs of acid that I had that day, were not kicking in properly as I could only just make it out. Imagine if it had worked correctly, I would have seen a whole herd !!! We walked into the next two and they had loads of bats. Shan wanted to get a closer look at the bats, and they were not happy with this, so they decided to dive bomb us instead. They are so unlike the placid Indian bats !!! Shan's guide wanted to go back, but we wanted to go onto Kep. So she batted her eyelids, which did not work, then through down an extra USD, and this did the trick !!! It was about another ten K's down the road, on a little bike, it seemed take forever. As we came into the town, we started to pass some old French villas. They had been left after the French had been kicked out in 1953 and for some reason, the locals had partially stripped them and then moved into what was left. It was amazing to walk around what was left over. These people are so unlike the Vietnamese, who restored theirs and now live in them. As Kep is a beach town, the water was not to inviting looking to go in, especially with the sewerage outlet next to it !!! Down the road, was our next site, the giant crab. Completely made of concrete. The guide couldn't tell us why it was there, so we figured that the people of Kep have crabs !!! Now the guide wanted to go back. He was getting agitated. He said that there was nothing else to see down the road, but we had seen some more villas, including one in the LP, and one that looked like it had seen a little battle action. The first one was quite big, huge gates outside, and a family living inside. The guy wouldn't let us in, so we could only look from afar, but it wasn't to hard to imagine what it used to be like. Down the road, the other one was a shell with bullet holes around the front. Maybe a local had come home late, pissed again, and his wife had locked him out, so he shot up the house. We will never know.

It was getting late and the sun was going down. The bugs were out and it was getting harder to see, especially with sunnies on. When I took them off, rain and bugs went into my eyes. And then I hit a huge pothole. Further down the road, I attempted to overtake a local, and the rear went on me. Lucy wanted to jump, but I made her stay on. We stopped the bike, on the edge of a little village and found I had a rear flat. We walked over and had it fixed for $2.00 USD. Away again. The headlight was as useful as a chocolate teapot !!! So we were worried about another puncture. 20 K's later, we rolled into town relieved.

The next morning, we grabbed our XR and went to Bokor hill station, but that is another story.

Once down, we said goodbye to Shan, as she was on an afternoon bus, and we rode around the town looking at the different things it had to offer. There were a few old buildings, but the another change was the main bridge. Last time we rode across it, there were planks every metre across it, whilst there were three planks for each car wheel. So, it was slightly dodgy you might say. But now, the bridge is now fully covered with metal sheets. We also found an old fishing village. The locals were friendly, as usual.

And that was all there was in Kampot. Still a sleepy laid back place, but with a few more luxuries of past years. I know things move ahead with the times, but I still prefer the old Kampot I visited years ago.

So, tomorrow, we head on back to Phnom Penh, and then we go North, and head up to Laos, where the journey continues.
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