Getting to Kampot
To get to the riverside paradise once again we had to suffer the local buses. First the manager of our guest house had forgot that we will be taking a night bus to Kampot. The bus company was supposed to pick us up. It was pretty much last minute that the manager arranged two bikes and drove us to the bus departure point (most of the buses depart from little offices spread all over the city). As we were about to get on the bus we met a French girl, who had been on the bus since the border of Thailand. “I am so happy you are also on the bus. I was the only foreigner and they don not speak any English. I never know what is happening.” We got different seats than our tickets stated and it was not possible to recline one of them. Great!
After we had sat down they started to load the bus full with all kinds of bags, chairs, a corpus of a hammock, and on top of it – a bicycle! All that had to be fit in the aisle, between the passenger seats. The bus drivers had no clue, how to organise the pile of packages they were to bring to Phnom Penh. Stijn gave them a helping hand (and made sure I do not get hurt by the bicycle that was falling from one side to another).
Once we were on the road the driver never stopped playing Cambodian comedy shows and local pop-music videos full volume. I used my scarf to wrap around my eyes and ears, to reduce the noise. After the first few hours we had a stop at a road side café. That was supposed to be 30 minutes break. But it lasted for more than 2,5 hours! Why, why, why? The ride was horrible enough, but why we had to stop in the middle of the night for such a long time? There was an argument taking place between the drivers and some passengers. But we could not find out the reason, as no one spoke English…
We were supposed to change a bus in Phnom Penh and then continue our way to Kampot. We were told that we will reach Phnom Penh the latest at 7:30. Right! As we approached the capital we got stuck in a traffic jam. There had been an accident on the road. After a while the driver decided to take another road, trying to avoid the main roads. But he got lost… He had to call to the main office to find his way back. We were dropped out at the office of the bus company much later than the worst predictions. Our bus to Kampot had already left.
The office managers came up with a very creative solution. Without explaining anything to us, they got a tuk-tuk that took us to the main bus station. There one of the managers bought us tickets to the next bus that was leaving to Kampot (we had already paid the full price from Battambang to Kampot) and just left us there. Ok. As long as we have a bus. The bus we embarked was in even worst conditions than the previous, but not all of the seats were taken. I could finally have some sleep. It was still a 4 hour drive.
Samon village and the area
As we arrived in Kampot, we were just randomly dropped out somewhere (they like this concept a lot in Cambodia). We arranged a tuk-tuk to take us to Samon village, that will be our home for the next couple of days. The place was recommended to us and seemed like a perfect change after all the guest houses and lower class hotels. This time we had our own bungalow with a toilet and a [cold] shower. Cheaper bungalows are available, but you have to use common toilet and shower then. The reception and restaurant of Samon village is located on a partly roofed terrace on top of the river. A very, very, very charming setting for breakfast, book reading, sun bathing, swimming, yoga or anything else.
Our bungalow reminded us of the Goa times, only the construction of our hut seemed a little bit more stabile. We also had few pets – frogs in our bathroom. Luckily no rats this time. Usually the frogs appeared one at the time, but they changed and luckily did not try to steal our kisses. So fine for us. The terrace of the restaurant was ruled by local cats. If they desired, they might just come and sit in our laps, searching for the most comfortable position. We could not oppose.
We spent our first days recovering from the bus drive – getting some decent sleep, enjoying the food and fresh juices of the Samon restaurant and going for a massage in the town. It was very much needed. We chose the Jolie Jolie salon and were very happy. We had 90 minutes massage and we could have it in the same room, that was nice couple-ish thing to do.
We rented a motorbike to have an easy access to the city and to explore the local area. Looking for a dam that is built further to the North on the river, we were forced to pay an entrance fee for a riverside nature attraction that is popular among locals. We could not get to the dam, as we were not allowed to continue the road that would take us to it. So we decided to at least take a look to the river side that was full with small terraces for locals to have their picnics. We observed the selfie fascination of locals and saw a few nice rocky turns of the river, but we did not stay longer, as we had other activities in our minds.
There was on thing that I for sure wanted to do during our trip – stand up paddling. Kampot seemed the perfect location for it and there were few options to choose from. We opted for the one with the best reviews and were not disappointed.
In order to see a little bit more of Kampot and get some additional information about the sup tour, we drove to the place a day before, but you can easily book your tour or class online or via phone (www.supasia.org).
You can say that we had a private tour, as we were the only clients that afternoon. As the day was very windy, we were considering to cancel it. But as I called Anne, the owner, assured that the weather was perfect and we should not worry about the wind too much. She was right. The side branches of the river were calm. Our guide was Edward – a workawayer, a traveler, a journalist, a surfer and everything else. We first had a little recap, as we had done sup only once and on the channel of Mechelen. Even though his first sup experience was rather frustrating, Stijn picked up the skills very fast. It took me a lot of sweating to catch up with the guys, especially when the wind was blowing against me. But I managed to keep a satisfying speed (or guys were kind enough t wait for me). We were paddling on side branches of the Preaek Tuek Chhu river. The water was flat and we were floating between palm-trees. The songs of birds and palm cracking sounds made by cows hiding in the bushes followed us. On the water we met few boat taxis and some kayaks. A peaceful and fascinating trip through jungle. Stijn made a little video, that might give an impression of our tour.
We ended it at the sun set. We could still enjoy the fading light in a background of a mountain, that looked like a volcano. We had a beer with the family running the place, our guide and another traveler who was visiting. I saw my first (and so far only) fire-fly. We learned about the difficulties of the local setting, about dolphins and crocodiles of Battambang.
The tourist city centre of Kampot is full with Western visitors and Western expats running small cafes, bistros, restaurants, bakeries and other enterprises. The smaller ones are run by the expats them selves, the bigger ones hire local stuff.
Ellie’s was one of the first places we paid a visit to. Big glasses of juices and nice selection of fusion wraps, sandwiches and salads. We tried to go back few times, but unfortunately, we always showed up on the moment it was closed.
Nearby is a tapas bar Baraca. We stopped by there, as we were desperately hungry. It turned out to be run by Belgians. For once we cold order in Flemish. The tapas were good, but my favourite was their special gin-tonic-rosmarine-pepper cocktail.
Rikitikitavi another decent restaurant we had to try out. Not too fancy, nor too common. Good food, nice cocktails and great ice-cream (we had ice-cream in Cambodia few times and we were never disappointed. They know what a good ice cream is!).
One of the nights we stopped by Veronica’s kitchen, where I had a very good fish with ginger and soya beens. One of the best fishes I’ve had so far on our trip. The setting was less cozy, but at all times it was busy and full with tourists.
We also paid a visit to Bakery located close to the old market. It was full with pastries, croissants, different breads and many, many other things. For a moment we were confused, not being able to choose. Most of the times bakeries in small Asian towns have few things on the list and you have to try to guess, which one of those could be the less disappointing. But in this place everything looked good. And they knew it very well, as the prices were sometimes double of what we would pay in Belgium.
On our last evening in Kampot we finally found the Italian food stall Ciao that was recommended to us. What a pity that we discovered it only then. It were probably the best raviolis that I’ve ever had. Really! They are freshly made on the spot. We were early enough to get a seat (the open from 6 pm), but there were couple of orders before us. We first enjoyed a glass of vino rosso, it took a while to get our meal, but it was well worth waiting. Everything is made from scratch. It means home made pasta with fresh ingredients, prepared and served with Italian love. An Italian lady and her son are running the place. OMG, what a pleasure the meal was… It definitely inspires me to try making past at home.
Apart from eating, in the centre of Kampot we tried out a book exchange store. We had a book purchased in Goa traveling with us. They beginning was interesting, but some where on the way we both lost interest about it. It was time to get rid of it. The storekeeper offered us 1,5 USD discount for the book. Fine by us. We had already found our next victim, a book that Stijn started to read in Myanmar – “The Holy Cow” by Sarah Macdonald. An easy reading and entertaining book, that recalled a lot of our Indian adventures. A good travel literature, if you are planning to pay a visit to India.
Erased from Elize’s memory
Note by Stijn: Completely forgotten by Elize was the first day we did drive around on our rented scooter to go and find the many salt plains around Kampot. Driving towards a peninsula South of Kampot we did however come pass by a road accident. Motorbike in the middle of the road, young guy laying motionless on the side of the road, not wearing a helmet. We hope he did make it. It made us drive very careful the next days.
As it was already the end of the day, most of the salt plains were already empty. Luckily we still did find a few people collecting the last few pieces of salt crystals.