Kampot was great.
My first day was really just a half day, and I spent it wandering the city. I confirmed that if you own a Lexus in Cambodia you are legally required to get really large “Lexus” decals along both sides of your vehicle.* And I discovered that you really, really do not want to find yourself in a Cambodian prison (see picture below). I was also told that if I bought a few cartons of cigarettes I could get the guard to let me in to distribute them to inmates. I declined.
The tour the next day took us up Bokor Mountain to the abandoned buildings, a monastery with pet monkeys (bitten again!), to a waterfall and then on a sunset boat cruise.
I had been super excited for Bokor Mountain and exploring the ruins. Unfortunately, a renewal project has begun on the mountain within the last year and the main building is now completely covered in scaffolding and the only buildings you can get into are part of a small resort the king used to have. The drive up was nice, however (I kept thinking how ‘fun’ it would be to climb the road on a bike) and the waterfall was really cool.
The boat cruise was nothing special, but I spent the majority of it chatting with a Frenchman named Romaine who was traveling with his Spanish girlfriend Maria for ~6months. I mentioned I would probably sign up for another tour to see the salt fields, pepper plantations, caves, and the town of Kep the next day and Romaine suggested I join them to do it on motorbikes instead.
I’m glad I took him up on it because, even though we missed the salt fields, I had a really good time running around the countryside. At the cave we picked up two locals ‘guides’, “David”, 15, and his friend we called Rockstar, 12. (Rockstar’s real name translates as “star”, but none of us could properly pronounce or remember it so Rockstar stuck.)
They showed us a hidden passage through the cave – while wearing flip flops and with a cellphone as a flashlight. From the cave we attempted to find “Secret Lake” but, true to its name, after about 10k of fruitless searching we gave up and it remained unfound.
From the caves we drove into Kep and got lunch on the waterfront. The seafood there is so fresh the crabs are kept in crab cages in the ocean just outside the restaurants until they’re ordered. The place we ate at clearly specialized in seafood though because the vegetable fried rice I had was pretty bad.
After lunch we went further into the country where we came upon Chez Christophe, a small pepper plantation owned by a Frenchman but managed by a local family. We were given a tour of the plantation and they explained the difference between black, red and white pepper. (Who knew there was a difference? Or that anyone really ared what it was?) While there we chatted with an older Australian man who explained that he took the money he saved from not printing his clothing line this year – it’s based out of LA but not doing so well because of the economy – and bought a dirtbike and is riding around southeast Asia until his funds run dry.
I spent that evening relaxing back in Kampot and the next day caught a bus to Phnom Penh.
*Ok, so this may not technically be a law. But if it were a law, not a single current owner of a Lexus would be in violation of it.