Monday, March 10, 2014

Kampot, Cambodia: Hidden treasure on the river

My South African friend, Richie, reached out to me and said his brother would be in Cambodia while I was here….so, we connected on Facebook and hung out in Kampot.  Kampot is a small town on the Teuk Chou River in the south of Cambodia. Its about 90-minutes west of Sihanookville by bus.

We. Had. A. Blast.

Graem and I had met briefly on the beach in Cape Town back in November, so it wasn’t completely a blind meeting.  
Meet Graeme.  This is his sexy pose.  Although, he didn't actually know I took this picture, so I guess you could say he's a natural :)
He had a French friend in tow named, Simon, who was the quintessential Frenchman, scarf and all!  God, I love French people.  He was a farmer and I was fascinated by his knowledge of vegetables and root systems.

I actually arrived a day earlier than Graeme and Simon.  I stayed my first night at Bodhi Villa on a mattress on the floor with a mosquito net protecting me from other guests and the elements. It was a little dirty, but definitely not the worst place I had stayed.  I met some pretty chill girls, Emma, Camilla and Tamara and just hung out all day reading and working on my book. 

Perfect work place right on the river


Meet Emma!

Meet Camilla!
After the girls left that afternoon, I ventured around the ghost town they call Kampot and found a manicure place where I got a mani-pedi for 80 cents. While I was there, some locals came up and one spoke English and chatted me up.  His wife was getting her hair washed and dried for $1, so I partook in that as well!  I hadn’t had a good head scrubbing in ages since I had been taking cold showers for 4 days.  It was magical….Ah! Clean hair.

Perpetuating my ghetto-fabulousness with an 80 cent manicure
Since the boys were coming and there were no bungalows available at Bodhi Villa, I went next door and secured us a bungalow on the river at a place called Naga House for $10. It was private and nice and the bathrooms were way cleaner than Bodhi Villa.  It was run by an earthy chap and had a very chill atmosphere.  He told me that his intent is to stay off the radar so that the people that find him are explorers, not necessarily Lonely Planet followers.  (They don't even have a website that I can link to.) 

Our bungalow!!!! Photo credit:

There was a tiny 10 week old puppy there that provided free entertainment as well!  He was adorable, but I forgot to take a photo.  There was all kinds of wildlife around.  This goose family took over the driveway and ran people off that got too close.

We could just hang out on the deck overlooking the river, in the hammock, or head next door to Bodhi Villa and listen to live music and jump in the river…it didn't matter…it was so damn chill.

This is how Graeme found me when he arrived.

Whereas the river looks dingy and disgusting from the city just 2km away, it looks crisp and refreshing from our uncongested jungle section.  We jumped in the river on a couple of occasions and just swam around and daydreamed of never leaving. (which totally ruined my fresh hair wash, doh!)

Emily Graeme and Simon just after a swim in the Teuk Chou River
We did leave, however.  That night, we ventured into the city to see what it was all about at night.  It was a tiny little town.  There was not much action, not even on the riverfront.  We wandered around for a bit and then saw that there was a fair going on, so we took a ride over there and went inside for some street food and to hang with the locals.  We took a ride on the ferris wheel which was not made for giant white people, let alone 4 of us crammed into one car!  The Cambodians must have thought it was hilarious to see us all jammed in there.

Graeme, Simon, Emily…all being French in our scarves

Four westerners jammed in a ferris wheel car meant for tiny Cambodians
 We finished off the night with a couple of drinks at an Irish Pub on the river and called it a night.

The next day, we hiked 1km down the road and explored the pepper farm where we observed how pepper is grown and sorted. 

Pepper sorters….too tedious for me

Sorted pepper.  The big, dark round one on the left is an "acceptable" peppercorn for sale amongst some duds
We also rented 2 motorbikes (I rode bitch with Simon). We determined to find the Secret Lake.  Its Secret because its hard as Hell to find with the crappy-ass maps distributed around town.  After turning around 3 times, dumping one bike in a pot hole, and narrowly escaping death by dust storm, we made it.  I would love to tell you it was triumphant and glorious, but it wasn’t.  It was meh.  It was beautiful, but the adventure of getting there was better than the lake itself.

We decided to drive around it and see if there was a swimming spot near the bungalows anchoring the left side of the bank.  There wasn’t….well, not really.  The bungalows were abandoned, but there was a “restaurant” there.  It was really just some random family’s house, I think.  They had a menu, but the prices were askew charging inflated amounts for some food and not enough for others.  So we ordered modestly and stayed for about 30 minutes.  I played tag with their son who had clearly been rolling around in the dirt and had remained unbathed for the duration of his life – yeah, there was clearly no swimming hole on their property.

I taught him how to “cheers” our Fanta’s and he became obsessed.  He would raise his glass “cheers” and take a long swig…then exclaim “ahhhhhhhh” every 30 seconds.  At some point, he nuzzled in under my arm and blew raspberries inside my bicep.  He was super cute, I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo of that sweet little dirtball.

The return home was faster than the ride out since we didn’t get lost.  We managed to catch the sunset and it was beautiful…

We did have to take a detour to pick up a new headlamp to replace the one that had been damaged in the fall.  Hopefully, we wouldn’t be charged for the giant scrape down the side.

We took one more dip in the river then showered up and headed over to Buddha Villa for dinner and live music.  I party pooped out at 10am since I had a 7:30am bus, but the boys stayed out dancing and drinking til 4am.  Needless to say, neither of them made it up for breakfast to say goodbye…LOL.

It's okay, I'll see Graeme again when I'm in Hong Kong and I'm sure I'll meet up with Simon in France somewhere, someday.

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