Kampot is a small town located just down the coast from Kep. It is a place to relax, enjoy good food and drink, and a base to explore the surrounding Bokor National Park.
Paul and I rented a scooter from Kep, and drove through the Cambodian countryside to reach Kampot on Monday afternoon.
The drive was a smooth one, the roads around here are in good condition, however I suspect that this is because there is a large expat community on the coast of Cambodia.
We also passed a wedding marquee all set up and ready for the big day – you see these quite often erected on a part of the road, so the traffic has to divert and use the opposite side of the road.
The marquees are always lavishly decorated, and when the music starts you can hear it for miles!
You may be able to see from the photo (I did take this from the back of the scooter so let me off this time for poor photo quality) that at the entrance to the marquee you can see a formal portrait of the couple.
Kampot was a very picturesque little town, with the Kampong Bay River running alongside it. The sunsets in the evening were particularly beautiful.
We visited the market, which as usual was full of the hustle and bustle of daily life. All the usual stalls of fruit/veg, live produce and clothing
Two additions were the jewellery stalls which also had wads of cash displayed alongside the gold jewellery, and the people actually making the jewellery – smelting down materials etc.
We drove up to Bokor National Park early one morning to try and beat the heat of the day (it did not work, it turned out to be a scorcher of about 35c). The ride up Bokor Hill was impressive.
Although you have to question how detrimental building this road right through the park must have been!
On reaching the top it became all rather strange. A Chinese business man has bought the land ontop of the hill, so instead of dense forest surrounding you, we have a garish hotel, casino, apartments blocks, and lots of scaffolding. It has been completely ruined.
The main attraction at the top of Bokor Hill is the old French Hill station, which was thriving in the 1900’s. It was abandoned in the 1970’s when Khmer Rouge forces infiltrated the area. Now the once impressive buildings have become eerie and derelict, but are fascinating to explore.
These include a derelict hotel/casino and Catholic church.
There is also a very ancient looking Buddhist temple located on Bokor Hill. A very beautiful place, but again ruined a little with the scaffolding of the new buildings just behind it. We wondered how the Monks were feeling about all the change happening atop of Bokor Hill.
We also got accosted by some (very polite) Vietnamese tourists for pictures – we are just so used to this now we took it in our stride!
One evening we tried out the local movie house. It was a great set up – for the equivalent of about £3.50 each we rented out own room and chose which movie to watch. We also ordered Chinese food they cook on site which got delivered to the room on a lap tray! You have a large bed or sofa to sprawl out on and enjoy the film. It was like watching a film back home in your lounge! We watched The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio – highly recommended!
One of our last stops on the scooter before returning to Kep to meet up with some more volunteers (we are heading to Phnom Penh together as we have all finished volunteering at the same time), was to a locally run, organic pepper farm.
The region is famous for it’s pepper.
It was very interesting learning about where we get pepper from – such a small little thing, but such a sensitive plant to cultivate. We tasted three different kinds – black, red, and white pepper.
The black and the red pepper corns have a different drying time to each other, hence the colour difference. White peppercorns are more harder to cultivate, as these are in fact removed from the faeces of birds who eat the green peppercorn straight from the plant, and are then washed and then dried in the sun.
We had a tour through the farm, seeing the pepper plants at various stages of their growth, learning about all the man power it takes to remove all the peppercorns from the plants, then to sort them according to their colour – a very time consuming process.
As the farm doesn’t use any pesticides, they use natural remedies on the plants to try and prevent catapillars and other insects damaging the peppercorns and leaves. This is made up of lemongrass, and quinine (a natural mosquito repellant). Both plants are grown on site.
So, we feel much more educated on peppercorns now!
We have also spotted a couple of really cool lizards recently, one we think is a Water Dragon which we saw at the farm and also another outside our room in the hostel, another was an enormous Leopard Gecko which was inside our room one morning.
Also, this little guy must have got a bit lost one night – we ended up going for a wee in the bush outside as we didn’t have the heart to move him!
Our next journey is to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. We are stopping off at Wat Kiri Sela en-route – a Buddhist temple built within a cave system. As previously mentioned, we are meeting some more of our volunteer friends when they leave Koh Seh and travelling together to the capital.