After Sihinoukville we spent three days in Kampot.
Kampot is a small town also in the south-east of the country.
First off, was a trip to the ‘famous’ Bokor Hill Station.
Cambodia was a French Colony during the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1920’s, they constructed a Hill Station at the top of Bokor Mountain. In recent years, it has become a tourist attraction owing to its scenic location and ‘architectural beauty’.
It’s basically a derelict building and there’s not much left to it. The views and people were however, nice.
It’s a ‘protected’ national park, yet the government is building a monstrous $1 billion dollar mega-resort at the summit. I’m not sure how that works.
The next day we took off to Kep. En-route we visited a local cave and explored the Cambodian countryside.
In glorious sunshine, the colours and scenery were stunning. It was interesting to travel off the main road and see a bit more of rural Cambodia. The majority of people here live a simple, (some might say difficult) life on the rice paddies.
The area was a giant minefield until 2009. Unimaginable, given the amount of children we saw in the area.
Our Tuk-Tuk was chased by numerous children waving, laughing and shouting excitedly “Hello” to us.
Other highlights of Kampot include befriending some other backpackers staying at our motel. They were nice, but one of them liked his ‘ganja’. Co-incidentally he had met an American guy who also liked his quote – ‘ganja’ and insisted on taking us to a local Cambodian restaurant. We agreed as it’d be cool to be sociable and try out the food. What ensued was one of the most painful hours or so of my life.
I genuinely believe I have found the answer to prevent people from experimenting with drugs, introduce them to Simon. He was the ultimate advertisement for why you should never do drugs.
He was delusional, socially retarded and made for a very sad sight. He was high as a kite. We soon made our excuses and left.
We decided to make our way up north. Along the way we stopped overnight in Phnom Penh. After an afternoon spent cramped on another bus I chose to burn off some energy and go for a work-out along the river front.
I had a small crowd of people gather round me in ‘admiration’ as I did my pull-ups and press-ups. It was quite an ego-trip.
After I’d finished, (with my ego going through the roof) I forgot the exact name of our hotel. I’d also forgotten the way back. After fifteen minutes of walking down identical side-streets I decided to ask a policeman for help. He duly obliged and I was returned to Amelia on the back of a police motorcycle five minutes later.
I didn’t have much luck whilst exercising in Cambodia. Only two days prior to getting lost I had been chased by a pack of street / guard dogs as I jogged back to our hotel in Kampot. It was mildly terrifying and for a second or two I thought I was in big trouble. To my great relief, an elderly Cambodian woman (possibly the owner) screamed at them and they stopped.
My heart was racing and I was furious with myself for not having my rabies shot.
Note to other travellers – if you are jogging past dogs in Asia, stop and walk. It’s much safer.
We saw the Mekong River Dolphins in Kratie. The scale of the river, (especially during rainy season) is nothing short of spectacular. The river dolphins themselves were also pretty cool.
We then had our awful few days in Banlung. The less said about that, the better.
Eventually, we found our way to Siem Reap and Angkor Watt. Angkor is one of the ‘modern’ wonders of the world and a must-see for most travellers.
We cycled around the temples for three days, gazing in wonder and awe at their splendour. It was our favourite three days of the holiday and a real high to finish on.
Siem Reap was a nice place. That said, it’s built purely for tourists and entirely unrepresentative of the rest of Cambodia.
When you see an official looking sign outside a building in Siem Reap, you see an official looking building behind it. For example, a school or town hall.
For the rest of Cambodia, if you see an official looking sign outside a building, that building will probably be a shack.
Likewise with the roads, in Siem Reap – great. The rest of the country – atrocious (although they are ‘improving’).
Oh and political signs. The signs and logos for the various different political parties are there for all to see.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia is a shining beacon of democracy.
Outside of Siem Reap, it’s pretty much Cambodian ‘Peoples’ Party and pictures of the Prime Minister every kilometre or two. It’s similar to how I imagined Baghdad under Saddam, or Libya six months ago.
I’ve never known a ‘democratic’ country where one political party enjoys so much support.
Funny how the one place that attracts international tourists has it all, whilst the rest of the country has nothing.
Although Siem Reap was busy, (and this was low season) I would recommend it to anyone. From western backpackers, to ex-pat families to Korean and Chinese tour groups, there’s something for everyone. It’s undoubtedly booming.
As for the rest of Cambodia?
Sadly it’s blighted by poverty and corruption and there’s not a great deal else to see except for Angkor.
I’ve met countless people who have raved about Cambodia and described it as a wonderful, good country. They’ve only been to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Having seen a large chunk of the rest of it, I’d say it’s pretty grim.
I’ve read it’s developing rapidly, largely as a result of the recent growth in the tourism sector. Sadly, (as with most places in the world) the rich are getting substantially richer, and the poor (majority) are seeing little to no benefits.
I don’t see much hope for the country unless its widespread corruption issues are brought under control, which seems unlikely at this time.
We’re glad we went and had the experience. With the exception of our bus journey from hell, we enjoyed it.