Travelling without moving

Kampot Travel Blog

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The hotel on the riverfront in Phnom Penh turned out to be run by Sam from Cheers, which explained the low-level prostitution. We got to Kampot from Phnom Penh by way of a dodgy minibus and then a dodgy real bus. None of the buses have air con when you need it and they all start really really early in the morning.

Kampot isn't really on the usual tourist route, although it's still in the Lonely Planet. Still, it's basically in the middle of nowhere. We arrived just after midday which was a blessing because it meant we could eat lunch, something we haven't managed for about two weeks. I had expected to be ill from the moment I arrived in Asia, but I've been shovelling down amazing Khmer food at an alarming rate between the hours of eight and ten at night.

We were in Kampot because we'd decided to come out of Cambodia at the western border, rather than slog back upcountry to Poi Pet. There is only one thing to do in Kampot: Bokor Mountain.

I don't know if it comes across in this journal, but literally everything we do is incredibly dangerous, and I mean in a genuinely lifethreatening way. Bokor Mountain is only really accessible by 4x4s so we joined an organised tour. At the top of the mountain is an abandoned French outpost which was taken over by the Vietmanese and Khmer Rouge in the 70s (those people got everywhere). To say that the journey up there was 'bumpy' is like saying that the sea is quite big. The path is like hard emmenthal cheese; the ride is similar to that which could be experienced on an antique condemned wooden fairground ghost train built by your dad in the back garden. There were no seatbelts, we were in the open back of the pickup truck held in by a tied-on metal bar. At one point I was looking at said bar thinking, god, if I hit my head on that during the bumpiness it would really hurt. Then I realised that probably, if I'd hit my head on it, it would have killed me. But I didn't, so it's ok.

Bokor was amazing. I loved it. The hill station is creepy and abandoned and the mountain is indescribably beautiful. At the highest point of the hill station, it's very much like standing on the edge of forever. After lunch, we trekked through the jungle to a waterfall and swam. Later, after dinner, we looked up and realised that every single star known to man was visible.

We left Kampot the next day. Yet another minibus, this time to the border - Koh Krong.

There were 25 people in our nine seater minibus, not to mention piles and piles of food and the man on the roof. We were the only Westerners, and the only English-speakers. We crossed four ferries and got stuck in metres and metres of mud. At one point, stuck in literally the middle of nowhere, a town with no name, in a monsoon, with no method of communicating and no way of getting out, I was worried for the first time. But the Cambodians found us intensely amusing and are very, very good at coping with near disaster, and in between laughing at us (they find it so hilarious that white people have to slather on suncream!) they looked after us.

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photo by: asturjimmy