What's So Great About Kampot? - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2017

What's So Great About Kampot?

Kep to Kampot

What’s so great about Kampot?

Dear little friends,

We loved our room in Kep, with its screened windows that let in amazing bird calls, and flowering shrubs shading and brightening the grounds. Vietnam is wonderful but we did not see one window screen in the entire country which meant every night was spent with windows closed and the A/C running. And landscaping was far down their list of priorities so even though they have the same climate as their neighbors, it was rare to see flowers or attractive plantings.

Nonetheless, we had exhausted the food possibilities in Kep and were painfully aware of how much more it cost after the inexpensive deliciousness of Vietnam. So it was on to the next town to see what was so great about Kampot.

This is a first in any Asian country for us. A teacher and his class out picking up trash along the road. Of course 90% of them were too cool to pick anything up. But awareness has started and that's great.
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This boy was the most dedicated litter collector in his class.
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The road north out of Kep is being widened and there was a strip of asphalt surrounded by a sea of gravelly dirt on both sides. The asphalt had seen better days so this was one of those rare instances where it was easier to ride on the dirt, and we knew it was only as far as the main highway, where we turned at an oversized traffic circle with a heroic running horse statue. Where it was running, why it was running, and the fact that we had never seen a horse in Cambodia, all made for some fleeting intrigue but when you’re riding a bike along the main road intrigue is soon snuffed out by situational awareness.

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A couple of monks out chanting and collecting alms.
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Traffic wasn’t terrible, just persistent, and we were glad to get the short distance to Kampot and wend our way to a newish looking hotel built above a pharmacy. Yes, they had a room, no we didn’t need air conditioning, yes, we would wait for people to check out and for the room to get cleaned.

Across the street was a nice-looking restaurant with some wonderful music playing. We are huge Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea fans, two musicians killed by the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s. It turns out the restaurant owner is too, and it was all day, all Sisamouth at his place. We heard a lot of songs new to us, he was incredibly prolific and must have recorded and written hundreds of songs in his too-brief life. The food was good too. The bathroom was clean and had soap at the sink. And there was a baby being handed around by the family so all bases were covered.

Parking at the Sinn Sisamouth Soundtrack Cafe.
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Rapidly disappearing from SE Asia, the mainstay of karaoke, music "VCD"s. Most people just stream Youtube videos now.
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Kids in the hotel lobby.
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Sadly our room was on the 3rd floor and there was no elevator so we heaved all and sundry up and surrendered the bikes to a motorcycle parking cage. We went out exploring Kampot and found that Kampot is chockablock full of foreigners which meant that somewhere there might possibly be a “farang store” where one could buy peanut butter or tortillas or nutella or what we were looking for: muesli. Why yes, there was a farang store quite nearby but the checkout girl wouldn’t sell us the muesli because it was full of tiny ants. “No good”, she said, and put it back on the shelf.

On we went past some more heroically statue-ed roundabouts and found another farang store with ant-less muesli and a spectacular array of potato chips that Bruce lingered over. There are some pretty outlandish potato chip flavors out in the world and it’s good to document them for the folks at home.

A roundabout sculpture about making salt.
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Seen on the streets of Kampot, some ugly, heavy, hardwood furniture.
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Kampot has a nice market but nothing to buy. I mean, if I needed bamboo poles or a machete or some Crocs or a Chinese blanket with inane English sayings on it I was in the right place. We were looking for some Kampot pepper that was cheaper than the 5-star-hotel-priced pepper at Sothy’s and maybe some nice Cambodian silk. But no. We are very glad we bought the silk textiles we did in years past because now the markets in SE Asia are flooded with polyester fakes. It’s quite sad.

Kampot is known for delicious durian, an oxymoron in my book.
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Where's the pepper?
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Kampot central market.
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Kampot central market.
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Kampot central market.
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There is a nice riverfront in Kampot and we had a fruit shake at a nice lady’s dump of a cafe. As we were leaving some sketchy foreign guys showed up and marched straight into the back of her cafe. My sense in Cambodia always is that there are dark edges to everything, and all kinds of characters seem to wash up there. Best to pay for the fruit shake and do the fast walk out of there.

It's amazing how they keep things running.
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Laundry service companies compete using odd advertising.
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Along the riverfront seemed to be where all the tourists stayed or ate, but we were kind of mystified by what they actually DID in Kampot besides sleep, eat, or drink. There were lots of minivans ferrying them to Kep or pepper farms or god knows what, but mostly they seemed to be hanging out trying to impress each other with their travel stories and tattoos. The elephant pants index was off the charts.

What happened to Joe?
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Back in our room, it turned out that being on the third floor was good for catching breezes but was still unscreened to mosquitoes and our diabolical plan to sleep with fresh air for once was a stupid one. We were eaten alive! Because they had turned off the air conditioning the power to the water heater was also off. The fruit shake was rumbling around in my stomach, too. Cambodia, man. It never fails to live down to my expectations.

Sometimes a cleverly folded towel can make up for a lot.
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Today's ride: 14 miles (23 km)
Total: 1,359 miles (2,187 km)

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