Thursday, 20 March 2014

Kampot - home to the king of condiments

This is our 100th post, WooHoo! We are almost at 10,000 views & have just celebrated being together for 10 years so we are hitting milestones all over the place.  

We dragged ourselves away from paradise to Kampot as our visa's were coming to an end & we needed to sort out our Vietnam visa & wasn't sure how long that would take.
Kampot is a smallish town in the south of Cambodia and is close to the border to Vietnam so that was our next stop.

The journey was horrendous! It started with us being put in a mini bus (we hate mini buses) at the bus station, we drove for about 10 minutes then stopped while 2 motorbikes were put in the boot. Well, half in the boot, half hanging out. Then, a whole hour later we ended up back at the bloody bus station. Can anyone make any sense out of this? Anyway, it got worse. This mini bus had 9 seats - at 1 point there were 20 of us stacked in there. The lady asked a girl to sit on my lap! Thankfully the girls response was the one you would expect "No Way!" The guy with the most comfortable seat we reckon was a man aged at least 75 who was in the boot with the bikes!!

Russell got a bit narky after a few hours (imagine that!) and had a massive go at the driver through the window of the bus. He shouted, "get that cigarette out of your mouth & drive us to Kampot. It's been over 2 hours". We all kow Russell gets angry often & he thought this was highly necessary, I was quite embarrassed. I can't say he was wrong but this is Asia, this stuff happens, you have to get used to it. If you don't like it go back to Leeds.

We got to Kampot & got dropped off in a horrible old market place so soon got in a tuk tuk & asked to be taken to stay on the river. It took a while but we eventually found a nice place to stay right on the river. Kampot is such a chilled out town set on the Kampot river. We would spend hours in our hotel riverside bar reading, chatting, eating & doing the blog. Some people went swimming  & every day a man came past in a boat to collect the crabs he had caught. Every trap had a crab in it. Put me off swimming.

Our lovely riverside bar
The architecture is really cool, French colonial but in a rough & ready way. The other great thing here - the food. They grow the gorgeous Kampot pepper here & you can taste it in each dish. We hired a tuk tuk driver called Dara to take us to the salt fields & pepper plantations. Both were really cool. At the salt fields you could help yourself to all the fresh, hand harvested sea salt you can eat - that stuff is pretty expensive at home so we got a lot. Dara was telling Russell to get more but he thought the amount he had was sufficient. We later realised this bag may look dodgy going through customs!

Cool architecture
Next we go to to the king of condiments - the pepper plantation. We walked amongst the pepper plants and picked pepper at will, Dara showing us white, black & red pepper. The plantations also had durian trees (yuk). We also purchased some of the special pepper to take home.

The tuk tuk ride was interesting. Very bumpy & dusty, lots of children waving & shouting hello. Dara stopped for us to look at the "secret lake" which was nice. A lot of the tuk tuk drivers wear face masks, Dara just used his t shirt. It was also very beautiful, lots of greenery, fields, palm trees & old salt fields that had dried up.

A really nice Canadian lady who spends a lot of time in Kampot told us a pretty interesting story. Near our hotel there was a guy who owned a large patch of land & he was turning it into a hotel. His (obviously savvy) son persuaded him to turn it into 5 a side football pitches. Turns out it was a great idea - as long as school was out the fields were full, it will have been cheaper to build, plus, there is no off season with football. When there's no tourists due to rainy season the fields will still be full. There were also large advertising billboards everywhere, Pepsi must have sponsored it. I'm sure the son just wanted a football pitch really & didn't care about money but his dad will be rubbing his hands together now.

The food in Kampot is amazing, we had the best Khmer food ever there. From beef loklak to huge ribs (obvs not Khmer) to this weird tofu thing Russell liked. They even had a supermarket with seats outside so you could buy supermarket priced beer & sit outside & drink it. Complete with toilet & wifi. I'm surprised it's not busier, in the UK we'd be fighting for seats on that 1 week the sun is out each year.

We also had another cinema night. This time it was £2.50 per film & we saw 2 films. A Cambodian film called Small Voices which will break your heart. More of a documentary really. It's about poor kids & families who live on the street & garbage dumps in Cambodia & then in complete contrast the next film was Wolf of Wall Street about millionaire stock brokers.

It's quite sad that next door to the cinema showing a film about people starving to death in Cambodia a restaurant has a 1.5kg rib challenge!! The ribs were exquisite though - they rivalled Texas ribs.

On our last night we went on a sunset firefly cruise which was really nice. It was $5 & you got a cold beer included. We had never seen fireflies before, only heard of them in movies but they were pretty cool. We went to an area and the trees were flashing like Christmas trees.

We spent 5 nights in Kampot in total, it is a really cool riverside, chilled out town that we both enjoyed. 

We have visited 14 countries up to now & I reckon Cambodia is my favourite. Everywhere I have visited has been excellent and always surprised me. There's been some bad stuff said online recently about violence and muggings but we saw none of that or heard anything about it. They have had a really bad time quite recently & on the bus to Vietnam a Cambodian lady told me the Pol Pot regime were actually still terrorising residents until 1991, not 1979 like everyone thinks. This lady saw people killed daily and her house was ransacked regularly. This lovely lady was scared of everything due to this - a tree hit the window & she shit herself. But even though they've been through all this they are the sweetest people, the kids are the best - & this is me talking. I don't even like kids but I've seen a fair few I'd like to put in my rucksack. This really is a wonderful country & the people need tourism so I hope the negative things said about Cambodia doesn't put people off.

 Time for Nam baby!

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