a crowded mini bus to the sleepy riverside town of Kampot

When we arrived at Rose’s Place this morning for breakfast, she made us both laugh by producing two of her deliciously strong Vietnamese iced coffees for us moments after we sat down, no longer needing to ask which beverage we wished to order. It was an endearing touch and one that made us feel valued as customers. For anyone who is planning a visit to Sihanoukville, Rose serves the best iced coffees in the city and also the best (with the possible exception of You Hong Guesthouse in Kratie) in Cambodia.
As it was my final day down on the beach in Sihanoukville, we bought a large $2 bag of fruit (la hong, swai and allah) from Linda, as well as some shacko (which we have since discovered may possibly be rock lobster) and barbequed squid with garlic and chilli, the remains of which we fed to a hungry little kitten who was sat beside us on the sand. Feeling guilty that i’d still not given the beautiful Gali any business, I agreed to let her demonstrate her nail art skills and paint some beautiful purple and gold flowers on to my finger nails. The result looks quite effective but i do feel a bit like i should be wearing a daisy chain around my neck and spreading peace and love throughout the land!
In the evening we returned to Mama Cambodia and shared some fresh spring rolls, shrimps and oyster mushrooms, and a seafood barbeque served with their delicious homemade lemon and pepper sauce. For the second time whilst dining here we watched a Cambodian man at the local market (which is actually more like a store selling fresh produce but without the presence of a ceiling or any walls or doors that one normally associates with the word ‘store’) saw his way through a huge block of ice. This is how Cambodian restauranteurs purchase ice : in a solid block the size of a coffee table which they saw into smaller chunks before attacking it with a hammer. So when you order an iced coffee, it’s not simply a straight-forward task of getting a few ice cubes out the freezer; you’ll actually hear the staff violently attacking the enormous hunk of ice, in an attempt to break it into pieces small enough to fit in your glass!
When we arrived back at the guesthouse, one of the guests had just put a film on : a horror movie with Robert De Niro called Hide And Seek. There’s nothing like a good horror film before bed and this one certainly had a twist which was a little different from the norm.
The next morning i caught the ‘shared taxi’ (which is actually more like a minibus) to Kampot ($3, 2hrs). The road was not quite as bad as i’d been led to believe but i did get crammed into the front of the van with nine of the locals, two children and the luggage belonging to the other westerners, who were comfortably sat 3 to a seat in the two back rows. This is not unusual practice in Laos or Cambodia : loclas will never refuse one (or two or three or four!) of their own people a ride, no matter how little space remains within the vehicle. They’ll just keep on packing the people in, to the extent that they are sitting on luggage and their heads are touching the roof of the bus. Even in Thailand, they would sit three to a seat in the local buses, in seats only designed for two.
I arrived in Kampot and hitched a free ride to The Blissful Guesthouse from a strange looking moto driver whose eyes were too far apart. Blissful Guesthouse has a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. It’s set amongst lush gardens and the rooms, in an old wooden house, are all tastefully decorated with nice homely touches. There’s a fantastic restaurant/chill out area/bookshop (which also offers a rental service and sells a few postcards and items of clothing) downstairs.
In the afternoon I wandered around Kampots streets. It reminded me a little of Savannaket in Laos : lots of crumbling buildings, muddy streets and curious children, and a peaceful riverside location. Kampot is also well known for producing some of the best pepper in the region. As is often the case after a heavy storm (like the one which hit Sihanoukville at 1am this morning), the sun was burning down with all its strength, draining the sweat from my pores and giving me a seemingly unquenchable thirst.
I stopped to cool down and rehydrate at the Epic Arts Cafe. Epic Arts is a charity arts organisation which was formed in 2001, and 50% of all profits made in the cafe go directly into funding workshops and performances. I haven’t had a chance to look at the website yet but if you’re interested to learn about the kind of work they do, the address is www.teangtnaut.org
After the incident in Sihanoukville, I didn’t think it was particularly wise to wander Kampot’s streets after dark, so I ate at the guesthouse, with the resident cat curled up beside me on the comfortable wicker chair.
Photo is of the tourist information office and a monument outside it, Kampot.
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