Kampot and Kep

In the south of Cambodia, two hours from Sihanoukville is a sleepy little town called Kampot. It was initially a bad choice as I needed some excitement but once we found it, Kampot became a great place to be.

I needed excitement

After a relaxing in Sihanoukville, going somewhere even more relaxed was a mistake for me. I’d had a bad stomach for a little while and was now feeling better so antsy – I needed to do something rather than just sitting around. I needed some exhilaration.

The hostel we stayed at offered free paddle boards so we got changed and went for a paddle around and it was lovely to sit there with a paddle in hand cruising up the river remembering all the paddling techniques that I learnt as a teenager. Still, though, I’m restless. I’m bored. I want to do something. Anything. Just gimme something to challenge me…

Kampot was quickly reaching one of those destinations that I’d leave quickly – the people were all just too relaxed and, dare I say it, “old”. Whilst I’m not a fan of the youngsters who party all the time, I’m similarly not someone who can sit back and read a book all day, every day. This is what you have in Kampot – a sleepy little place where doing nothing is an active pursuit.

I started to fidget and the urge to do something led to hiring a scooter.

The renting of scooters and Bokor Hill Station

I’ve shied away from renting scooters here in S.E. Asia as you see so many people with injuries. It was worst in Vietnam where so many travellers would arrive with no experience on bikes, buy a motorbike and then proceed to ride the length of the country. Still, here for $5 we picked up a couple of scooters and headed up the new road to the top of Bokor Hill.

>Bokor Hll Station was originally a refuge from the heat of the valley bottom for the French with it’s casino, hotel and shops. It was abandoned in the 1940’s but in 1970’s the Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves in the church and fought viciously with the Vietnamese. It has pretty much been a Ghost town for many years until recently when a conglomerate decided to restore the buildings, create a huge resort and a perfectly smooth, 30km road. It can’t be considered a ghost town any more.

I got my excitement though – I’m now a fan of the scooter – sitting on the little machine with the engine buzzing below you, learning to lean and swoop through the corners, feeling the wind rush into your face and tug at your clothes, twisting the throttle and feeling the little bit of power… It’s amazing. It’s like mountain biking but at the same time is completely different. I was taking it very easy since I really appreciated the level of danger, but even so, it was an intoxicating experience!

Is this the way to Kep?

The next day we kept hold of the scooters and took the busy and pot-holed road to Kep, 30minutes further down the road. The excitement and exhilaration of yesterday’s ride was replaced with nerves of the handling the Suzki in the traffic – did that truck really need to come that close?!? Still, we made it to Kep without incident and started to explore a town lots of people rave about.

We started at the Crab market, eating 1/2kg of fresh crab, squid and pineapple cakes. We sat watching the goings on, taking pictures of the little market and wondering if this is it. Is this what people rave about? We continued on to the horrid little beach and started to take the back roads searching for a way into the National Park – we eventually found the route in, paid our monies and accelerated the bikes up the dirt track.

This again was a genius idea as we tootled up the fairly un-interesting path, stopping at the mediocre viewpoints, but riding the bikes along the dirt tracks was brilliant fun. We were crawling along most of the time, avoiding all the big ditches and pot-holes, adjusting our weight to stop the bike from kicking and squirming underneath us and ducking to avoid the low hanging branches. If road riding was intoxicating, this was something else, this was sheer, slow-speed enjoyment. Having said that, I’m not entirely sure our enjoyment was appreciated by the walkers we passed. They looked a little agitated at our presence.

We left the park and hit the dirt tracks again and I went ahead to find if it was the right direction – Kasper and Edo came along shortly afterwards with huge grins, messing about on the bikes made us all feel like teenagers again. As I say, riding the scooters is an intoxicating experience.

The road less travelled

On the way back from Kep Kasper and I decided to take the dirt trails to the caves and explore a bit more. Whilst we didn’t find the caves, we found something better – the locals.

Riding along, feeling on top of the world. Cruising along past scenery that just seemed unreal with it’s flat land, singular trees and buildings on stilts. Children would run from their houses to scream hello at us. People we’d pass stopped, stared and then waved as we rode past. Tractors drivers would yell and then wave frantically. We’d stop to take a picture of a scene and quickly be the focus of attention. It was all just natural interest and was an amazing experience.

I found my excitement. I left Kampot a happy man.

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