The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Kep & Kampot

Written by Frank on October 7th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

The wonderful time in Tani with our friend Wolfgang and his project came to an end and the furthest point of our journey from Kuala Lumpur was reached, when we went to the Vietnamese border. We had absolutely no desire to pay several monthly salaries to the highly corrupt border folks in bribes and did not continue any further. The Cambodian provinces of Kep and Kampot were well worth our visit. The Vietnamese national game (ripping off the tourists) was not our cup of tea anyhow.

The ocean was a bit muddy, due to sediments in the water from the last rainstorms. The islands in the background are in part Cambodian and in part Vietnamese territory. Some time ago, the entire Mekong Delta of Vietnam and Saigon belonged to Cambodia, but the French colonialists shoved the cards new and made the area known as Kampuchea Krom (Southern Cambodia) a part of Vietnam. I’m sure the Vietnamese didn’t mind to annex 89.000 km² of prime and fertile farmland and oppress the native Cambodians here. Geographically it is Vietnam now, but the Khmer spirit lives on!

Kep is a sleepy coastal town with a sorry excuse of a beach. A monument rests on the shore, showing a nude woman looking in a westerly direction.

She must be here for a while and has probably been photographed by each and every traveler, who came this far. Regular public transport to this neck of the woods are unscheduled shared taxis from Phnom Phen. Back in the years of motorbike rentals, some made it from Sihanoukville on the east coast over here. Sihanoukville has experienced a lock down on private rentals for tourists recently, so we heard. The moto taxis there probably enforced this somehow, because every tourist with a bit of sense rather rented a bike than use their exaggerated services.

To get back to the monument, the nude, white lady peeks into the west. I have seen uglier monuments, especially when those show communist dictators or freaky leaders elsewhere. The white chick surely sports the biggest Cambodian butt, but she fits Kep somehow and is probably one of the most photographed ladies in the country.

Hotels are few along the coast here, but then again their beaches are sorry excuses for such oceanfront.

Barely 10 meters wide and not maintained at all. A lot of dirt litters the sandy part below the concrete wall. Endless rows of food stalls under tents can be found on the upper part of the beach. Most were vacated when we drove by.

A lot of concrete ruins also litter the beach road. They have been stripped of any metal, wood or roofing materials. An eerie sight to see and there were countless of them, all sharing the same feat. Once the may have housed the high society of Phnom Penh for their weekend getaways. After all, the distance can be covered in 2 hours by car.

Projects and such were often featured on roadside billboards, we decided not to stop for another night and head to Sihanoukville right away. Kep did not really tickle our fancy and neither did Kampot.

Funny loads on dirty side roads with the smell of burning plastics everywhere. We did not travel so far for this and most hotels were either overpriced (25 $ and up!) for rather basic rooms with A/C or about half of that for a fan room, thanks – we knew Cambodian prices and had our own transport with us.

As soon as one ventured off the beaten track, the sights were the same everywhere. Dirt roads full of trash and half naked kids roaming the back streets.

My old bike mechanic in Kampot once saved my day, he repaired my dirt bike once, that caused problems after a Bokor Hill climb.

Bokor Hill has drawn my attention on previous trips, when I came here with different traveling companions and different transport options. A full-blown dirt bike was needed in less than perfect weather conditions and a regular motorcycle could cover the distance to the mountaintop in dry season. It was cold up there, much colder than down here at sea-level and we saw the cloud covered Bokor Hill from a close distance. 1.000+ meters high, the abandoned resort and casino offered one of the best views in Cambodia. 900 lives were wasted during the first 9 month of construction here during the French rule. A bad road was leading to the top over 30 km from this gate:

Bokor Hill’s top was enshrouded in clouds, promising rain and a miserable view. We did waste neither time nor money, when we learned that SOKIMEX had leased the park and was ripping visitors big time now. 50 $ to climb up with my own car for a few ruins of a casino?

Sorry, SOKIMEX but my money does not grow on trees for you to harvest. Play your games without us!

The final run to Sihanoukville was on nice roads with ever new sights of funny cargo on mopeds or trucks. Check out this load:

A final episode, handling Sihanoukville and the return trip to the Thai border, will follow soon.

 

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