A Skip and a Hop to Kampot

After a week of days melting away on the beach in Sihanoukville the Aussies and I decided it was time to stretch our feet again and get out and do something. So, we scheduled a little excursion to the quaint and charming rivertown of Kampot. We left early in the am so we could arrive before noon. It’s just a two-hour taxi drive away. The taxi cost the three of us about $7 each. When we got to Kampot, we picked a guesthouse, threw our bags in our room… and set out to explore. We hired a tuk-tuk that was supposed to take us to a couple caves, pepper plantations, the nearby beach getaway of Kep and some river rapids. We made it to the first cave and that was really cool. The tuk-tuk driver just dropped us off at this trail. And out of nowhere a band of kids came out, ready to lead us to the cave. These kids didn’t start in on the high-pressure sales pitches, luckily. The tiniest girl just struck up a conversation with me and slid her hand in mine as we all hiked toward the cave. They speak English so well. It’s rather baffling. The kids gave us the most official tour we could hope for… pointing out “bigfoot’s footprint” and the “fossilized elephant head.” There were several impressive stalactites and an ancient, brick Hindu temple inside the cave. The little girl was so cute. As we were clambering through the cave, I had one hand tied up with my camera, and the littlest girl took care of me. She climbed ahead, pointing to where I should step and took my camera from me to free both my hands up. Normally, I would get all haughty from such dainty treatment. But she was this innocent little darling who was just too cute!

After the caves, the tuk-tuk driver took us to Kep, a small, oceanside town. Kep is quaint and a bit sleepy. Nice nonetheless. Unfortunately, our tuk-tuk driver disappeared for more than an hour and we were stuck waiting around. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I mean, we are paying the guy. The wait botched the rest of the little excursion. There wasn’t enough time left to tackle the other sites, so we just headed back. I immediately proceeded to crash out, while the boys went out for dinner. I wound up sleeping straight through until the morning.

The next day we woke up early again ready for the Bokor National Park excursion. But, just about 20 minutes before we were leaving, Jack realized that he and Colin were supposed to be in Phnom Penh for their flight back to Australia the next day. Oops! He had his dates wrong and thought they had a couple more days in Cambodia. So… the boys had to bail on the Bokor National Park trip and book it to Phnom Penh. I stayed around for the trip and piled onto the back of a pick up with 10 other travelers and our guide. It was a long haul up, dodging leaves and branches on the way. But the air was so fresh! That’s one thing about Cambodia. There are weird smells… everywhere. I had started to believe you couldn’t get away from it. Even if you are outside the cities, you still get pungent weird smells. They aren’t good smells. They’re not unbearable either though. They’re just always there.

But yeah, fresh air finally! After half a day of winding up and around mountains canvassed in wild, Cambodian jungle we crested the top… to discover the very hotel used in The Shining. You know, the movie where Jack Nicholson goes all crazy and scary. Oh wait. That doesn’t help. He’s always crazy and scary. It’s the one where he takes his family to this secluded hotel up in the mountains to maintain it during the off-season. The solitude of the hotel and it’s haunted history eventually end up driving Jacky boy off the deep end and he starts trying to murder his family. I crept through the hotel in broad daylight and there were other travelers wandering around somewhere… but, the place was still kinda creepy. It was really windy up on top of the mountain and the wind would gush through, making eerie noises. I wouldn’t want to be up their at night. The hotel has a tremendous view of the valley of the mountains, which lead straight to the beach. You can make out islands in the horizon. There’s talk of a Japanese company refurbishing the hotel. Yet, another instance of foreign countries swooping in and capitalizing on Cambodia’s treasures and leaving none of the profit for the locals.

The trip wasn’t over after getting back down the mountain. We got to hike a little bit and then we got to take a boat back down the river to Kampot during sunset. Too bad it was really a less than spectacular sunset. Too many hazy clouds. I can’t say I would have noticed too much though. There were too other English guys, Rob and Adam, on the whole trip and I started really chatting with them on the boat ride. They turned out to be rather hilariously clever. Their slick one-liners had me laughing quite a bit. When the boat ride was over, I hadn’t had enough of their witty teasing, so I joined them for dinner at a restaurant on the river. Food was okay. Dinner was fantastically funny. We rounded out the night with some drinks at a local bar. I really enjoyed these guys. Too bad they are just on a brief holiday. It would have been really fun to travel with them. I spent that night in Kampot again and early the next morning I took a taxi back to Sihanoukville. That was an experience. I paid $2.75 to share a taxi with 8 other locals. Yeah, that’s right 9 of us were crammed into a your average, medium-sized sedan. Good thing the trip was only 2 hours.

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