Meg and I have moved on to the coast of Cambodia. Getting here was a little more complicated than we’d thought, but it all worked out eventually. We’d planned on taking the train from PP to the town of Kampot, but when we showed up at the train station, we were told “no train today”. This was despite the fact that the same guy yesterday told us that there would be a train for sure. There was enough of a language barrier that we couldn’t be sure exactly why there wasn’t a train, so we just chalked it up to one of those traveling things. We headed down to the public taxi terminal and caught a share taxi that was headed in that direction.
Kampot was a really beautiful town with a great river for swimming. At the river there were fruit stands selling the typical tropical fruit you see everywhere around here, plus one selling durian which I’d heard about but never tried. Durian is fairly expensive, but all over SE Asia it’s considered a delicacy. The fruit is a huge spiky looking melon with a rich creamy texture and a flavor similar to custard. However, the smell is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced! The odor is similar to rotten meat, and is so pungent that the fruit is banned from most public transport systems around SE Asia. The best analogy I’ve heard about the durian is that it’s like eating raspberries in an outhouse.
Meg and I hired two guys to drive us around on motorcycles to see the sights, and on our way back from the river they indicated that there was a wedding going on, and would we like to go see it. We felt a little strange at just crashing in, but the entire wedding party thought it was the greatest thing in the world. We weren’t allowed to leave until we’d met all the relatives, and posed for pictures with the bride and groom. Definitely one of the highlights of the day!
The following day we rented a dirt bike and decided to make the drive up to the abandoned hill station in Bokor national park. This used to be a popular vacation destination for the French colonials back in the 1920s but with war and independence it was abandoned and left to the elements. It’s usually very foggy and we’d heard that visiting it was a delightfully spooky experience. There aren’t any hotels or guest houses, but we’d been told that for a few dollars it was possible to sleep in the ranger station, provided you brought all of your own food. We made a stop at the local market, and headed up the trail. It’s about a 34km road that is in absolutely horrible shape. There have been no repairs since the entire area was abandoned, and it was just one pothole and sandpit after another. Meg was a great trooper, and did a great job of holding on and not screaming when we fell several times. I ended up with my first motorcycle burn from the exhaust pipe. Eventually we made it to the top, and made arrangements to stay the night. We walked all around, exploring the old church, hotel and casino. It was everything we’d expected it to be and more. Unfortunately that night someone siphoned gasoline out of our bike, and we ended up running out about halfway down the mountain. Luckily it was steep enough that we were able to coast down to the bottom of the hill where Meg found a family willing to take her into town for some help. She came back an hour or so later with the guy we’d rented the bikes from, and he towed us back into town.
After that adventure we caught public transport to the beach town of Sihanoukville. Meg and I managed to find a room with two beds right on the beach for the amazing price of $7.00 per night. This isn’t the best beach I’ve seen, but the atmosphere can’t be beat. The vegetation is different than other beaches…it’s less tropical plants, and more woody trees. It’s a very laid back area full of locals, and hardly any foreigners. We’re spending our days roaming around the island, lazing on the beach soaking up sun, reading trashy books, and eating tons of fresh fruit that we buy from the local kids. There are nightly rainstorms followed by mini-raves at a different bar each night where they really seem to enjoy hanging out with Meg and I. Dinner is always right on the beach, sitting at a candlelit table, and watching the waves roll in. Both of us agree that with the right person, this would be an amazingly romantic spot!