We’ve spent the last week or so relaxing in the southern area of Cambodia. First we went to Kampot, a quiet town along the Kampot River. There were several fun hostels and restaurants, but hardly anyone was around. It was the weirdest thing, the place seemed like a ghost town. Finally we asked one of the bar owners what was up and she told us that it was the very end of high season. Most of the action there is in December and January. So I guess we missed the crowds, but also some of the fun.
Originally we were going to see nearby Bokor Mountain, but a tour guide actually talked us out of it. (A huge hotel and casino have just been built up there and kind of ruin the charm.) Kampot is also world famous for its pepper, but, as we’re not especially interested in pepper, we declined a visit to the pepper plantations. Instead, we rented bikes and rode through the countryside to see the cave temples. Outside of the cave, a teenage boy asked if we wanted a guide, so we hired him for $5 (a pretty generous amount, really). We hiked and crawled through the cave, with bats flying around and the boy pointing out various rock formations to us. Then all of the sudden, he said, “OK, this is the end of the tour. We must leave,” and he ushered us out. We were a little confused, because the cave seemed to go on further, but we left at his insistence. Outside of the cave, he suddenly wanted $8, but we were firm and insisted on what we had agreed on. Then he asked if he could have our flashlights! I couldn’t believe this kid. Reneging on a deal here is considered just as rude as it is back home and nobody had ever asked us for our belongings before.
We rode out to see a second cave temple, but that one was guarded by a whole gang of boys. Already a little put off by our first guide, I definitely got a bad feeling from this group, especially when they wanted money to “watch our bikes.” The implication seemed to be that if we didn’t pay them to watch our bikes, something bad was going to happen to them. I didn’t appreciate the intimidation, so we left without even visiting the second cave.
The next day we went to Kep, a tiny seaside town. It doesn’t have much of a beach, but there is a crab market and restaurants along the ocean. Unfortunately I got sick and spent the whole first night there shitting and throwing up. Once I got better, we spent our time reading in hammocks by the ocean and eating seafood dinners at sunset. It was a very pleasant place to relax for a few days. There are hiking trails through a national park in the area, but we never got around to doing them.
Then we spent a day and a night out on Rabbit Island. There were quite a few tourists there, but no roads and not much development, only basic bungalows and small eateries strung along the beach. The ocean was clear, shallow, and calm, perfect for swimming or just hanging out in. Most of the tourists were day trippers, so when their boats left in the evening, the island seemed quite empty. There’s only electricity for a few hours at night. After it went out out, the only noises were the waves, the boat traffic, the bugs, and people laughing.
Now we’re back in Phnom Penh, the polar opposite of Kep and Rabbit Island, getting ready for our next stop: Vietnam. Some backpackers love Vietnam and some really hate it, so I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself and forming my own opinion. We’ve got a busy schedule coming up, but we’ll try to keep the blog updated.