I hate durian. The smell, the taste, the way it looks, the way it’s cooked… every damn thing about the glorified ugly ‘fruit’. So to be greeted by a giant durian roundabout in the centre of Kampot was not the best welcome into town.
We went from one Captain Chim’s to the next, recommended by one of Jake’s friends in Kampot (also in Lonely Planet’s book) and damn did we get lucky. “So sorry, but we only have one room left right at the top, is this okay?” Yeah sure, just give me a cheap bed plz. Up we went seven flights of narrow stairs with our twenty kilo (and growing) backpacks to the biggest room we had stayed in yet.
I kid you not we had a $10 penthouse with a balcony that wrapped around the whole side of the building (beautiful morning sunrise by the way) and hot water! Thank you Captain Chim.
So the next day we rented a 150cc Honda moped for $5 and ventured up Bokor mountain. Hoards of chinese tourist coaches and Khmer motorbike squads ascended up the mountain, the drive was sketchy at the best of times, but a hell of an experience. Abandoned casinos, houses, statues, monasteries and so much more awaits you above the clouds; including the last stand of the Khmer Rouge.
We ended up staying a few more days in Kampot than we originally planned for, that’s the beauty of backpacking really. Up and go whenever you please, work then play. Spontaneity and adapting to change have been a major learning curve for me on this trip so far. In London, everything has to be structured, there are rules, expectations, time restrictions and there’s a universal anxiety looming over everyone.
*Major tangent alert*
Before I left London, I was constantly writing to-do lists, writing down thoughts and feels as often as I could. At the time I called this journalling, you know, self-help and all that. But really, I was hiding the fact that I was losing control of what was going on around me, it was too much to take in and enough was never enough.
The wellness industry in the UK is growing exponentially. Self-care and health consciousness is becoming borderline obsessive and the market is whey-ing in on it. Heh. British people want to be tanned, they want to look healthy, strong and many asian people strive for the reciprical: Pale skin, big bellies. It’s crazy! Can you be truly happy? I believe you can, but it takes having nothing in order to understand true happiness.
*Back to Kampot*
La Plantation in Kampot built a pepper plantation that supports local Khmer children to have a full day of education, gives local people work and also has a bicycle scheme to provide transportation for Khmers. This is similar to many of the large companies in Cambodia. Kampot pepper is famous around the world as is Cambodian silk.
The country is very giving, people who have next to nothing invite you into their homes to eat and to teach you their customs. So take time to learn some of their language, take your shoes off before entering homes, cover your shoulders and wear trousers or skirts below the knee as a sign of respect for their culture. 🙂
Eat: Happy pizza! Perfect for evenings when torrential downpours occur. Averaging $8-12 depending on how ‘happy’ you want to be, there are plenty of places in and around the old market area that will put a smile on your face.
Drink: The ultimate breakfast smoothie at Simple Things where they also offer daily yoga classes and free meditation classes. Whilst you’re in the area, check out Epic Arts Cafe , a registered Cambodian and UK NGO charity that provides not only employment for Khmer people with disabilities, but also supports Epic Art’s programmes.
Do: Visit Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia for a full caving experience. Bring a head torch, good walking boots and a brave face! We decided not to go with an official tour guide, but found our way there and then started talking to a few local guys who ended up joining us, fed us snails (!) and then showed us round. They do not charge a fee, but do give a donation.
Stay: We only stayed at Captain Chim’s – there was no way we were giving up that room in a hurry! Try and ask to stay at the top, but be prepared for the stairs!