How artisan foods can lead you into dark caves.

Trip Start Jul 24, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kampot Guesthouse

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, August 22, 2009

I took a minivan today from Sihanoukville to Kampot which took about 2 hours so no bother. Kampot is a small town with it's main attraction being the Bokor National Park and a few other bits and pieces.

After I arrived I went for a wander around and stumbled into a guesthouse/restaurant for lunch where I asked about going to visit the pepper plantation where they grow Kampot pepper (Google it but it is suppose to be the finest pepper in the world, got to get me some of that I thought, simple). The waiter there said he was also a tour guide and after lunch he'd take me. This is all going great guns I thought as I sipped an ice coffee. That was until I discovered his mode of transport was the Asia favourite, the beloved motorbike. It's ok though because he had a crash helmet on, none for the inexperienced panicky Brit on the back but a nice solid secure helmet for the guy whose been on bikes for years. Magic. As we sped off  I decided I just had to relax and go with it, years of horse riding paid off as we lent around corners and bounced over unpaved roads (sorry Dad but I've told you now I'm out the other side).

First we visited a cave which we got to by driving along dirt tracks and through a few villages. It was worth it just for the scenery which were fields of emerald green rice paddies and the Bokor mountains in the background. As we arrived 4 village kids with excellent English latched onto us, I was preparing for the hard sell of something but they appeared to just want to come with us and show us the cave. The cave has a very old shrine inside which some claim is the same age as the Angkor temples (the red brick reminiscent of 1920's houses made me skeptical!) and also rocks which, if you use your imagination, stand in the right light, squint and believe in magic vaguely look like some animals. The 4 children led us through the whole of the inside if the cave where there were bats and stunning rock formations. They were all bare footed and acted like sprightly mountain goats but I found it difficult climbing up and down steep steep rocks in flip flops!!! I was only planning on swanning round a pepper plantation not risking life, limb and my Haviananas in a cave. As you can see from the pictures, well worth it. Walked back to the bike thinking how great the kids had been then, there it was, "you have money?". Parted with cash and off we went to the pepper plantation.

The drive was worth the initial fear as the trip also included drives around the villages and beautiful countryside. A hilly gravel track brought us to the pepper plantation where I was the only visitor and got to walk around the fields where they grow it. It is not ready to be harvested yet and the pepper is currently a green colour. The reason why the pepper is so special is because they wait until it is ripe before they harvested and then let it dry naturally in the sun. By comparison, in Vietnam they pick it unripe and then dry it. I bought some with visions of impressing people at dinner when i get back but forgot I've got to actually get it back first! The lady also brewed rice wine which I of course tried. With the notion that it was a wine I did take a gulp only to find that it was more of a spirit with a taste similar to grappa. With water in my eyes and a hot feeling in my cheeks we set of to go to Kep for some dinner. Kep is a well presented seaside town which had a sort of European feel to it as there was a well maintained sea front and some nice places to stay, recommended. The town is famous for crab which I had with rice for my dinner. A good food day.

It was time to head back now and I got onto the bike for the last time and we took the main roads back. Now, if you ever saw the Top Gear Vietnam special you will know what I mean when I say that as it got dark and began to rain I looked like Jeremy Clarkson did. Trucks were whizzing by tooting and we were weaving in and out of Cambodian traffic. I do have to say I closed my eyes at this point and may have spoken to my maker. Once back I had a beer and remembered I did have a great day and saw a lot of the real Cambodia which has beautifully countryside and friendly people.

Kampot as a town has such great potential if not only for the buildings which are very Eureopean in style. Unfortunately people just can't afford to repair them which gives the town a run down feel. The people were so accommodating and I had an amazing breakfast of fruit,muesli and a cafetiere of coffee at the Epic arts cafe. I think I would come back here as I want to visit the national park.

Tomorrow I am heading up to Phnom Penh before going up to Siem Reap.
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