Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kampot - Sihanoukville -Kampot

So I finally got out of Phnom Penh. Jake and I decided to head for Kampot, a small French town on an Estuary.

When We arrived we chose a random Guesthouse and got pretty lucky cos the rooms were cheap and good, and the food was VERY cheap and very good also.
Walking around the town we soon discovered that a western person in this town is still something to be gawped at. Every child and many adults to would say hello to us. There were no motodops but people who were working with strange psuedo-cyclo bicycle-trailer contraption smiled and waved.

In the market we soon found that people we much less chatty than in Phnom Penh. Normally we'd have a little play with the people on the stalls,, chat in Khmer and/or English. But the people were not able to speak English and apparently a little too intimidated to speak Khmer. Nevertheless everyone was friendly enough and the one time we wanted something we couldn't find a woman spoke to a man who spoke to another man, who came over to us with his very meagre English skills which were far outweighed by his eagerness to help and eventually, we managed to find some Chess pieces for $2. (since then I have cut some ripped jeans in to shorts and used a marker pen to make a roll-up chess board- or chess table cloth i suppose)

Kampot is quite a pretty town, many of the buildings are run down after years of neglect (The KR held out in this area for some time and even abducted tourists as late as 1994 but it still rather picturesque.
Jake and I both fell in love with an art-deco cinema and were desperate to find out more about it. a quest of 2 or 3 days essentially led to us discovering that the place has only recently been leased to a company in Phnom Penh for TWENTY YEARS. The dream of The Groove Palais is no more.

There are 3 bridges crossing the river all quite close together, The New Bridge, The Old Bridge, and The Railway Bridge. We've been back and forth across the river a few times, either cycling around just for the hell of it or to visit a place called Bhodi Villa, which is a Guesthouse/bar just up the river. It's nice and relaxed with good views and friendly people.
Crossing the railway bridge was pretty intense. I'm not the biggest fan of heights, so when we got to the edge of the bridge and i saw that it was quite literally made of railway tracks and bugger all else there was no way I wanted to cross. Jake said he would've had he not had his bike with him. I reckon that makes him crazy.
It wasn't long before we realised there was a separate walk way going along one side of the bridge and crossed there. The water was a LONG way down. I noticed cow shit on the walk way.

Our reconnaissance missions to the train station offered nothing by way of train times or prices. So a our prefered method of transport to the coast was no go. We had resigned ourselves to a shared taxi but a Motodop hustled us for a coach. i turned out there was a new coach service provided by Sorya Bus Co. (Phnom Penh) and it would be cheaper than the taxi, guaranteed seats WITH aircon. The icing on the cake was that as it was a new service we got tickets numbers 000001 and 000002.


Aggressive motodops,

typical 'crazy' partying tourists,

dirty old men with women unfortunate enough to be in such a precarious financial situation impacted by a generally less than salubrious social standing that they have to suffer the fat sweaty balding deluded perverts slobbering over them

everyone seemed on the take.

on my first day I saw a needle on the beach (and more since)

I had 2 pairs of flip-flops stolen. It's not that they were taken that bothered me, it's being left with no shoes and having to walk in to town with no shoes on just to buy another pair. only to have that pair taken again. with the staff denying any knowledge of their disappearance even though one of them was WEARING them.

I didn't see much of the town, it's spread out and difficult to navigate. and on the occasions i did go anywhere I was harassed by motodops, shouted at when i politely refused to use their service, harassed further by pimps, and seemed virtually unable to purchase anything without someone trying to bleed me dry.

The bets event in Sihanoukville was probably getting lost after we'd been to the market. Assuming the road we were on would eventually lead us to the street we wanted. walking for miles, turning down a dirt road, jumping in the back of a work truck simply to get wherever the hell it was that we were going a little more quickly. arriving at some village, following the general direction to the sea, passing an abandoned go-kart track, crossing a river by the airport, fording a paddy field, and eventually winding up on the beach approximately 500m the other side of our guesthouse than we had anticipated arriving from.

I was trying not to each in Sihanoukville, partly because the food all looked so unappetizing, and partly because the prices were extortionate. Far more than I've become used to paying, and with very little variation in peoples menus. Eventually I decided it was stupid and decided to go for some vegetable fried rice, reasoning that it was relatively cheap, nutritious, and tasty. I got a small plate or rice with perhaps 1/4 of a carrot, and maybe 2 long beans finely sliced. Not what one would normally receive in this part of the world when ordering a rice and vegetable dish. Since this morning (ie the morning after) I've felt pretty ill, have provided physical evidence that SOMETHING not right has entered my system, and spent most of today in bed.

This morning we got a taxi back to Kampot cos it's just a much more enjoyable place. Again the guy from the guesthouse in Sihanoukville who offered to arrange the taxi service for us took us for utter morons. Told us bare-faced lies, but with little option other than waiting another day we took his "brother's" (he was Khmer, his brother was Chinese) and have each sworn to not reveal how much we paid. it's an embarrassment.

I hope all this doesn't sound to negative, on the whole I've been enjoying Cambodia hugely and think every day how privileged I am to have the chance to be here as an outsider. Having a red passport is incredibly useful.

Only two more weeks then there will be no more tales of SE Asia. oh dear..


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