Today was our last morning in Phnom Penh and it was time to head to Kep.
We discovered it’s so much easier dodging traffic on a motorbike. Unfortunately as we had returned ours we had to walk down to Sorvanna for breakfast at Tous Le Jour. It was a pretty standard breakfast of croissants and pastries. We walked back to the hotel via the shortcut through the shanty town which backs onto the Hotel. It was interesting seeing going about their daily business. Girls cross stitching the same cloth from different ends and kids playing. The back of the shantytown backs onto a small stream and its banks are strewn with all sorts of plastic bags. It is disgraceful but it seems the whole country has a huge problem with disposing of plastic and everywhere we’ve travelled theres piles of plastic. People just drop their rubbish and nobody seems to care. It’s as if the national flower of Cambodia is a plastic bag.
We headed into the riverfront near lunchtime and sat at The Royal Khmer for a while enjoying a few hands of Skipbo, while sipping on mixed fruit shakes. We ordered a BLT and a Crouque Monsieur, which are pretty simple meals but after almost 20 minutes the waitress came to inform us there was no ham and would bacon be suitable. By this stage we were in a hurry so agreed to the bacon. Our meals arrived 20 minutes later and they were awful. We’ve eaten here a few times and it seems the meals were pretty hit and miss. When we return to Phnom Penh we will certainly be missing this place.
We arrived early at the travel agent expecting the bus that was picking us up to be on time. However the bus wasn’t picking us up from the riverfront as arranged, they were sending a Tuk Tuk. The Tuk Tuk took us to the bus depot which was out past the Olympic Stadium and we were scratching our heads as to why the travel agent didn’t organise us to just go to the depot as it was closer to our hotel.
The Vibol VIP bus was not what I expected, but the scaled down version, which included the seats. I needed a shoehorn to fit my butt into the seat and it was so uncomfortable and really annoying with the armrest digging into my waist between my ribs and pelvis. The trip to Kep seemed to take forever maybe because of the uncomfortable seats or the roadworks or the stops. We had two toilet and food stops, another to check a tyre and an unscheduled toilet stop, as well as the usual pick up and set down.
We arrived across the road from the Kep Markets about five PM and I spotted the sign and was about to disembark but when I asked the bus driver if this was Kep he said no and pointed up the road. Michele was having no joy with google maps so we returned to our seats. We stopped about five minutes up the road in the main part of Kep only to discover where the bus had stopped across the road from the markets was where we should’ve disembarked.
We caught a Tuk Tuk back to the Kep Guesthouse and were greeted at the door by a lovely smiling lady. She showed us the third floor balcony room which overlooks a local market with views of the sea and the islands not far away. The guesthouse was quaint, the room was quite nice and quite reasonably priced at only AUD$13 per night.
She gave us the name of a good Crab Restaurant and we caught our Tuk Tuk to the crab markets. We wandered along looking at the seafood and chicken frying over the hot coals. A happy man invited us in offering us the specialty of the area Kampot Pepper Crab. The plate came out with crabs of various sizes, covered in a sauce of onions, sprigs of fresh green pepper, fish sauce and I’ve always loved Singapore’s Chilli Crab but this may be my new favourite. Michele said she could’ve “licked the plate”. We both enjoyed a mixed fruit shake each with lovely mango flavours and all up the meal was only AUD$12.50 After eating we caught the Tuk Tuk back to the guesthouse along the seafront where many locals were enjoying a night out in the many thatched huts which line the beaches.
After a breakfast of coffee and omelettes we headed off on Fabian, a Haojue HJ125-7a, to Kampot. Fabien wasn’t the quickest bike on the road but we cruised along at a respectable 70 clicks, which is pretty fast for most bike over here. Cruising through Kep was really nice first thing in the morning with the wide three lane streets deserted. Kep really is a beautiful seaside community and the Kep Guesthouse is ideally located in amongst the local community far away from the bigger hotels. The ride along the beach is nice with the thatched huts, palm trees, white sandy beaches, islands in the distance.
The road to Kampot was fairly good until close to town where roadworks were being conducted, so it was a little slippery in the loose gravel. We cruised around Kampot, looking at the various monuments the statue to the salt workers, the Giant Durian, the Vietnam friendship monument.
As we wandered along we spotted a sign for haircuts, not able to resist the ‘broken English spoken perfectly’ and in need of a trim. Michele lined up for her first haircut since leaving home. The daughter of the hairdresser came and asked what style she wanted, who translated to her mum. Mum then set to work on the trim…saying the whole time ‘same same’ in between stops for photos for the daughter to take photos for faceboook 🙂 , we paid our $3 US and were on our way in less than 20 minutes..
We stopped for coffee and Tapas at the Art , a self-sustaining local venture employing people with disabilities. The meals were well presented and of excellent quality, which may explain the large amount of westerners tucking into coffee and food there. After coffee we went for a stroll firstly, finding a local wedding taking place with some traditions similar to the ones we saw in Malaysia.
We decided to take a ride and crossed over the old bridge. The old bridge is quite fascinating as its a mismatch of styles. The original bridge had been partly destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and been repaired with a steel bridge. So concrete arches leading to a flat steel bridge, which looks ex-army surplus. Obviously the bridge can’t support too much weight anymore as there is a height beam stretching across each entrance, which caused us to duck as we entered the bridge. Some of the steel platform has been eaten away with rust so we were quite mindful of where to ride.
We headed out of Kampot for a while before Michele spotted a sign and said turn right. This lead us up to with gates at the bottom of the hill and an entry fee of $1. The road was excellent, one of the best we’ve seen so far in Cambodia, nice and windy all the way up. Fabian wasn’t too keen on going up the hill, his little 125 cubic centimetre engine making strange noises as he dragged us up the hill, (I think he may have an exhaust manifold leak, and he definitely needs a tune up). As we climbed higher and higher the fog closed in and the veiw disappeared.
Halfway up we stopped at an enormous Buddha to have a look and rest our butts. We also grabbed some deep fried potato in a rice flour and sesame seed batter, seasoned with Kampot Pepper and local salt, from a local stall. They were delicious and only 2,000 Riel, we were tempted to go back and grab some more.
A large group of sports motorcycles started pulling into the car park outside the restaurant. There were Yamaha’s, Suzuki’s, Honda’s, Kawasaki’s, Ducati’s, some really nice big sports bikes. We wandered over and started talking to Charlie and Pauly, two local blokes who grew up in the US. The riders were all mates from Phnom Penh, not part of any clubs just blokes and girls who loved riding. Whenever they could they’d take a run down from Phnom Penh as most of the roads down were ok then they’d take a run up Mount Bokor through the twisty windy roads to the Ghost Hotel or waterfall and back down again. These guys were all serious about riding as they were all wearing the proper protective gear and I wished we were riding a real bike to join these guys for a run up and back, because there were some real serious corners. We continued up the road to Mount Bokor as Charlie, Pauly and the rest of their friends headed in for lunch, passing some more of the group farther up the road taking photos and video of each other in action on the windy roads.lol.
It was an interesting ride up with wispy fog coming and going then brilliant sunshine, then fog again. Close to the end of the road is a huge resort close to the cliffs called Bori Bokor and further up the road an old abandoned Catholic Church. The church is built close to the cliffs and being derelict is quite spooky with wisps of fog blowing about it. The church had been occupied by the Khmer Rouge whilst fighting the Vietnamese and was now no longer in use, however there was a set of rosary beads and red tea light candles in the shape of the cross on a fairly new altar. Beside the altar was a statue of Joseph with baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The windows were all gone, there were no doors, and the walls had all been graffitied by locals and Europeans.
Around the area were other derelict buildings including the abandoned casino featured in the film “City of Ghosts” with Leonardo DiCaprio. It really is an imposing structure, being stark and grey, with no windows, very menacing. The place was packed with locals picnicking, buses and minivans full of people checking out the place. The front lawn of the building was setup with tables so locals could picnic there. We had a walk through the building and it was just a concrete shell with only small amounts of the tiled floor remaining. It had a great view being situated right on the cliff and between the wisps of fog we could see the coast below.
The return down the hill was pretty slow, just dieseling most of the way using the gears to slow Fabian down, as his brakes are not the best. We stopped at the halfway point for a lunch of Chicken Curry and Ginger Chicken which were really nice and only $8 before heading back to Kampot.
We stopped at Art for afternoon tea of coffee, Pineapple Shake, Lime Cake and a Coconut cake which cost about$6, and was money well spent as we hadn’t found cake before on the menu in Cambodia, and each cake serving was big enough for two people.
When we arrived back in Kep we couldn’t wait to give our butts a rest. The rough roads are a killer.
We headed out for seafood again Michele having a Sefood Fried Rice and I Kampot Pepper Squid. The local pepper is quite mild when it’s roasted and it’s got a lovely flavour unlike some of the peppers I’ve had before which blow your head off when you bite into them. The meals were cooked elsewhere and it was funny seeing them delivered on the back of a motorbike. The meals were quite expensive at $8.75 each but there were mountains of foods and each plate could’ve served two people.
It was interesting cruising home with nobody on the road after being in Phnom Penh and its craziness. As we sat on the balcony a bright red moon was rising over the sea it was really serene, full bellies, beautiful moon, gentle breeze, the melodic humming of a diesel fishing boat off in the distance, a local singing in Khmer. A Vita Bella, life is good……