The highlight of this part of our trip was a motorbike tour in Kampot. Kampot is a small town next to the river in the south of Cambodia. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but we met up with two of our kiwi friends, Joy and Blair, who we had met in Vancouver and they were going there, so we tagged along for a bit of fun. After a four hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, that was supposed to be only two hours, and a bumpy never-ending tuk-tuk ride we arrived at the Greenhouse Guesthouse. We were in for a treat.
Our aptly named Big Bungalow was massive. It had four double beds and a spacious patio, lounge and bathroom. The receptionist eyed us suspiciously, “is it just the two of you?” Given all the other rooms were booked out, by who we later found out to be was the entire German tourism TV production crew, we were left with a choice of the Big Bungalow or sleeping at the Lion King Resort just down the road (I wonder if they play the Lion King theme song all day?) We obviously spread ourselves out over all four beds.
By mid-afternoon the river was calling our names. Not literally, as that would have been creepy. The water was a milky brown colour, as a result of recent rainfall. Despite this, we all jumped in and relaxed in the cooling waters. Finally we had found water that wasn’t bath temperature. We floated for hours on the inner tubes surrounded by the rolling grassy hills. It was lovely.
Kampot is known for its world-class pepper. Apparently a decade ago no self-respecting chef would cook with any other type of pepper. I could see why. I’m already a bit of a pepper fan, if it is possible to actually be a pepper fan, but this stuff was delicious. For the evening we were all too tired from a strenuous day of floating on the water and opted to stay at the lodge for dinner. The lodge had an amazing chef who created all sorts of mouth-watering dishes highlighting the pepper flavor.
The next day the four of us went on a motorbike tour to Kep Province with Butterfly Tours. Our guide was fantastic, with excellent English and a witty personality. I sat on the back of the bike behind Ben, on a bike that was comically small for Ben’s long legs. I wonder if Ben should have his own blog titled the Trials of a Long Legged Man Using Transport in Asia, as this seems to be a recurring theme. This is obviously going to lead to the spin-off Trials of Finding Size 13 Shoes in an Asian Market, followed by the prequel, Trials of a 6-foot Man in Tiny South American Houses.
We managed to figure out that as long as we didn’t need to turn sharply then we would be fine. It took an hour to get to our first stop, a Buddhist cave. We walked through a narrow cave passage to emerge in a large open space with tall cliffs all around it. We were surrounded by Cambodian children who ran around the cave as our “guide” in order to earn a few dollars. They knew enough English to point out rocks shaped like animals, but little else. With the exception of one particularly unique girl who would not stop talking, singing or yelling throughout our tour. She took a particular liking to Ben, singing songs just for him and following him around. The girl was noticeably heart-broken when she asked him if he had a girlfriend and he said yes. She gave new meaning to the phrase “keep your enemies close” as she now followed me around, insisting on holding my hand and hugging me. This would have been adorable if it weren’t for her loud off-key singing when we were trying to marvel at the wonders of the cave.
Jumping back on our bikes, we went along a narrow single-track forest pathway to reach the Moon Cave. The climb to the cave was a scramble up a steep and jagged limestone cliff face and involved climbing over large looming holes. The guide then took us on the “short-cut” to the Sun Cave, which involved more scrambling and deadly drops. At the bottom was another cave filled with water that we were able to swim in. We stopped for lunch at a house of a local Cambodian down the road. It wasn’t a restaurant, but she cooked us traditional food and we munched on frog legs (they were surprisingly good). We then headed to Kep Beach for a swim in some hot water. It was a local holiday, the King’s Birthday, so the beach was packed with people enjoying their day off. Before long the day was done and we were motoring back to Kampot.
When we returned to the Greenhouse, we saw a significant filming operation in progress. There was lighting equipment, cameras, drones and a young whippersnapper with a wake board. They were from a German tourism TV show and were doing a special on Kampot and Kampot pepper. I’m not really sure how the wake boarding fit in, and short of learning German I don’t think I’ll ever find out. We watched them drive their boat up and down the river as the sun set spectacularly behind them. I imagine the footage was incredible and they seemed fairly happy with themselves as they drank the night away in celebration. If we’re lucky and someone ever comes across this footage, you might just see four goofy people pulling faces sitting on the patio sipping on their G&Ts. The next day we parted ways with Joy and Blair. It was a quick, but fun few days.
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