(I’m currently in China, and finding it increasingly difficult to get the blog back up to date here. WordPress and Facebook are both banned, and while I can get past that with a VPN shield it does slow down the internet speeds somewhat so I need to rely on having good WiFi in a country where I can’t entirely rely on having WiFi at all. So bear with me. Yes, that’s aimed at you mother)
Kampot, in the south east of Cambodia, is apparently a town where the durian is more important enough to get its own roundabout. Nutjobs.
It’s also awesome and I could have happily stayed here for longer than the three days I allowed myself (quite a luxury given the distance I have to cover by next month). There’s not much going on here in terms of sightseeing, but that makes it relaxed and friendly, which turn has attracted a large group of expats to the area. This is the sort of place where you can be listening to a live band in your hostel before you’ve even taken your backpack off. Or the sort of place where you go out alone to eat dinner, then a charming old gent asks to share your table and you have a long conversation on the merits of classic folk tales and then he asks if you’d like to come and meet his friends at a bar and then you meet someone else who takes you to another bar and there you meet someone else who persuades you to do tequila shots with her because it’s her birthday. Spent most of that night dancing to Khmer rock, which sounds bizarrely Celtic for some reason.
There are a few tour companies around offering trips to the sights between Kampot and Kep, so after a day of chilling out doing nothing much at all I headed out with a group of very young girls from the hostel (18 year old volunteers. I feel old again)
Salt flats, which I feel may have been more spectacular if there hadn’t been a night of very heavy rain which completely flooded them. Our guide told us the farmers around here spend half their year growing rice and half the year gathering salt. I can’t help but wonder if they could just combine the two and start growing pre salted rice.
A Muslim fishing village. Um. Pretty, but not a whole lot going on since we arrived in the middle of the day.
Another cave! There seem to be a lot of these popping up. Guides here seem to think that if you’re stood waiting for the person in front of you to go through a narrow space, it’s a good idea for them to push you from behind to make you move faster. Aside from that, a small but interesting cave, with strange rock formations that looked like rice terraces. It was brighter in here than other caves I’ve visited, so I thought I might have better luck with the photos, but nope.
Kampot pepper! Apparently the best in the world. Someone more in the know will have to tell me if that’s true or if it’s just the Kampotians who think that.
Sorting pepper – the ladies here are picking through the corns with tweezers to remove any that are too small. They’re sorting through bog standard black pepper here, but the farms also produce white and red pepper, which are made from the same plant, but with more mature berries. They also pick green pepper, but as this is used fresh and therefore can’t be kept long it’s only sold to restaurants and not in the shops. They had each of the peppers available for us to test and despite some scepticism I could actually smell and taste a huge difference between the three colours.
A cheffy young relative of mine may have some red pepper coming his way to play with.
We finished off our tour day with a trip to neighbouring Kep, and it’s nearby beach on Rabbit Island. Kep is famous for its pepper crab, so I thought I might as well give it a try for lunch.
Not bad, but I think I’ll pick something easier to eat next time! (My crab was decidedly bigger than these ones but I started eating before I took a photo.)
Given that I only came here by accident – I missed the bus somewhere else so changed plans last minute – I’m really glad I came through Kampot. If I had the chance to do Cambodia again I’d definitely focus on the south, as it’s here that I’ve come to understand why so many people pick this as a favourite country.