After a very cramped and stuffy two hour minivan journey we arrived at Kampot. Before we headed to our guesthouse we got some tasty streetfood for 50p a plate, it looked a bit like worms but at that price who’s complaining! From pre-booking at Ganesha Guesthouse we knew the place was a bit out of the way of the main town so we got a tuk tuk to take us there. The tuk tuk went off the tarmac road onto an orange dirt road that led towards the hills and the farms. From here the tuk tuk drove down another smaller orange dirt road… then across a few farms… round the back of a few locals houses….down a one way winding path before telling us he could drive no further and that our guesthouse was just through the trees. Where on earth where we?! Luckily we found Ganesha Guesthouse to be a lovely place to stay, with friendly staff, a pool table and lots of hammocks. Oh and our own pet mouse in the room! Also a family of large lizards come out in the common area after dark. This is how we knew we were in the middle of nowhere, so many critters!
Our first day in Kampot was spent exploring the Bokor National Park, which we agreed was the most peculiar place we have ever been. All seemed fine at first, we drove under the huge archway that welcomed us to the park and started on the road that leads up to the top of the hill. The road was brilliant, newly laid and with hardly anybody on it. Winding its way up through the clouds, rocky cliffs and walls of trees. Chris loved driving the motorbike round here. The first stop was a huge Buddha statue sitting on top of the hill. It seemed a bit out of place. Whilst here I saw another hornbill fly over (Chris missed this as he got told off for bad parking and had to move the bike.) Next up was the waterfall. Or a huge pile of rocks. It seemed like it wasn’t actually ever a waterfall and investors had tried to make one to create a tourist attraction. This is were we decided to eat lunch but we spent the entire time running around with our sandwiches as we were being chased by very keen wasps. We didn’t really know what to make of the park so far but our next stop confirmed it to us, that this place was plain weird.
We went to the casino resort that has been constructed by Chinese developers. Bear in mind, we’re in a National Park, on top of a huge hill. There aren’t many people about, yet there is a gigantic casino resort. As we approached the entrance there was music playing in the carpark, which gave a feel of being a part of the Trueman show. There was a massive restaurant serving cakes you’d expect to find in Harrods, a bar and a huge casino. The place was like a ghost town, there was literally nobody in the casino! Just a lot of very bored looking members of staff. We had a stroll through the hotel part finding ourselves in a part of the resort that isn’t quite finished yet. There were hotel suites with the doors left open and with nobody in sight we had a look around. Little did we know we’d stumbled across the most expensive suites in the place. There was a living room, a cinema room, a walk in wardrobe, the bathroom had a hot tub and TV in it. The furniture wouldn’t have looked out of place in Buckingham Palace. It was insane. Yet it felt so abandoned. We couldn’t get our heads around where we were or why this place had been built. But we left before Chris made himself a coffee with the coffee machine making himself at home. After walking across the carpark that sings to you we found the spa building. Complete with swimming pool, two hot tubs, a sauna, a hairdressers and a massage parlour. Again, not a single customer is sight. This place was too strange.
Before this massive resort was built there was a place that was once the “old casino” which we visited. This place was an awful concrete building without windows and completely abandoned. It wasn’t much to look at and it just added to the strange feeling about this national park. Although the view out of the hills and trees from the back of the old casino was lovely and a reminder of what the whole place would have once been like before this mish-mash of construction took place. We reflected on our odd day over some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had at an Italian streetfood vendor back in Kampot town.
Our plan for the next day was to go to the “secret lake” which in fact is so secret that we couldn’t even find it! We drove that far that we ended up in the next town of Kep so decided to spend our day here. Kep is known for its crabs and the thing we came across first was the crab market. There were lots of fisherman with huge baskets catching all the crabs and then taking them straight to the market to be sold or to the nearby restaurants to be eaten. Not tempted by the crab but we did find some tasty waffles instead. We had a quick drive by Kep Beach which was average compared to the beaches we have just left at Koh Rong Samloem. We then headed to Kep National Park (hoping it wouldn’t be like the one we spent the day previous in!) Thankfully Kep National Park was a lot nicer. We had a drive up to the summit of the park and from here had a wander through the trails that are laid out which led up to a viewpoint of the offshore islands. It was a very hot walk so we headed back and explored the rest of the park by bike before trying for a second time to find the secret lake. It took a few attempts down some wrong turns but we found it! We admired the view across the lake from a pepper farm.
It was our last day in Kampot and we decided we’d have a morning stroll up nearby Phnom Sor (or pointy hill as we knew it better as.) We’d been told that at the top of the hill there was an old lady who lived up there by herself and read peoples fortunes.. but speaks no English. Anyway, we started our walk up the hill, which soon turned into rock climbing up the hill and we reached the old ladies house. This woman must like a lie-in as she was nowhere to be seen. None-the-less the views over Kampot were spectacular. After lunch we headed to the salt fields which was surprisingly interesting. There were lots of pools of water which were raked to gather the salt and then shoveled into baskets to be carried into the store rooms. It probably doesn’t sound very exciting but it was a nice place to be and interesting to see how the people work. Plus the salt crusted on top of the water like skin on custard and it was really pretty.
We relaxed for the rest of the day and got packed up ready for our next venture to the capital city!
See photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/127744759@N08/zG3f95