Monday, 19 July 2010
fear=loafing in Kampot
We left our darling Mother Home Guesthouse in Siem Reap on Sat am about 6.30am and took the bus to Kampot. What a great long journey. The first 6 hours to Pnom Pehn was interesting but uneventful on a VIP bus which showed horrendous Khmer pop videos- dreadful (laughably so at first but after the first few hours it really began to grate on the cramped nerves)
At Pnom Pehn we waited half an hour befor getting on the next bus for another long journey. The second leg was really great- red dust roads, beeping people driving their great white hump necked cattle along the road. Incredible medieval life happening all around- huge families bent double in rice paddies, folks outside their stilt shacks cooking, dragging a dog out in one hand with a machete in the other, tending pigs, goats, kids playing, working, sleeping, bathing under water pumps. Really really magical! At one point our bus broke down and we were all unloaded to stand around this little village whilst the driver sewed some piece of bus together!
Finally we reached Kampot about 7.30pm and hopped a tuk tuk to Blissful Guesthouse where we were turned away to the tune of "No Room at the Inn". We wandered next door to an amazing ex-villa/ex-bank which called itself "The Magic Sponge Guesthouse" No probs we could each have a bed in a dorm with another guy for the night with a room to ourselves next day.
The place is really really chilled and funky. Run by a fab chap named Dad (from Eire) and helped by his laid back fun son Gary (talk about a craic these guys are so welcoming and funny) First night we grabbed some great grub and a few large G&Ts at the bar and were immediately dragged into the bar talk of several folks who loved it so much they stayed here. Tony - American advertising guru who regaled us with tales of his bush baby which he bought off poachers for $20 to save it from being eaten and also of his work selling bed bug terror to the good people of NYC. Roy - previous manager of the guesthouse who warned us of the perils of the packs of dogs late at night and chatted charities, NGOs and Cambodia's state of play right now. We went to bed early a slow steamed until about 6.30am when we arose for iced coffee and chilled out until about 9ish when we went to explore the town.
I have to admit I am possibly the greatest coward in living history and walked gingerly around scanning every pavement for canine terror baring it's teeth in my direction. We then crossed "the old bridge" jeez- I was almost crawling I was in such unfounded terror once over the and on the other side of the river we were in dogville proper. They were everywhere. At last one fella decided to come tearing out of his place of abode barking at us. I jumped sky high and basically descended into a blubbering wreck, which needed escorting back over said rickety bridge and to the nearest bar for restorative beers. Si went for a wander whilst I calmed down and then we headed back to safety of the hostel. Si took a bike out and toured far and wide getting some interesting pix.
The dog story basically is that the Khmer have dogs to protect their property and after dark (fairly late in the evening) they release the hounds and lock their gates.. You then get a situation of huge gangs of canines packing together around town- howling their coded attack messages to each other all night. They are notorious and the local rag describes how you should pretend to pick up a stone and fake hurling it the dogs. Walking down the middle of the roads exuding confidence is also recommended. Unfortunately this just exacerbates my terror as I know there's no way I can be confident.
That said we did venture out after dark to the river front where we ate some food before hopping a tuk tuk the 2 min journey back to the hostel. A crazy night then ensued with Gary (the dreadlocked son of Dan) and three girls form Uk and US who are out volunteering in an orphanage in Takeo and were enjoying a weekend break in Kampot. American Tony joined us and the evening descended in to an hilarious boozy night-finally drawing to a close at 6.30am.
Si is feeling terrible and has just gone back to bed. (it's 3.25pm)(Actually, I went back in because it was about 100 degrees out - Pants) I'm slowly improving. I think tomorrow we may take a tuk tuk tour of the area or Si will bike out and I'll hide with my book. We have our 10 hour bus journey to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) booked for 9am Weds and have a guesthouse pre booked there.
Cambodia is fantastic and we keep thinking everyone would enjoy Siem Reap for a few weeks. The people are wonderful, though many are poorer than anyone I've ever known. There's quite a lot of begging (from children) in Siem Reap and a considerable number of land mine victims about selling photocopied books to earn some sort of living. It is incredibly interesting country and here in Kampot you get the sense of what they've been through over the last 50 years with war and dictatorship of Pol Pot and khmer Rouge. They really are only starting to stand upright again and it's a slow process.
Kampot is hard for me to describe.. it is very laid back on a beautiful river and everywhere are old French Colonial buildings just descending into shells as they have been abandoned and stand empty. It seems that the Chinese have bought up a lot of land and property and have plans for developing the town - which will no doubt mean large casinos and hotels- a real shame I think.
The other thing which is new to us is the amount of charity and NGO workers around (non government organisations) There is so much help required from schools, medicine, building and infrastructure, orphanages, land mine clearances. Fascinating place it really is. Incredibly beautiful countryside and people - we both feel we would like to come back and if we do we will pack heaps and heaps of toys and books for the kids. Anyway we hope you're all okay. Probably going to chill out for the rest of the day and maybe won't get a chance to update again until Vietnam on Wed or Thurs.