Friday, March 22, 2013

Chilling in Kep and Kampot

While I didn't get the chance to make it to the Cambodian beach and backpackers paradise that is Sihanoukville, I did decide to make a stopover in the nearby charming smaller towns of Kep and Kampot on my route to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Such a great decision! Kampot was the perfect place to just chill and Kep's un-crowded beach 35km away was just delightful (even if I got to visit it only very briefly and didn't get to try any of the local crab). I just wish I could have stayed longer!

A morning view of the Chhou River at the base of the Elephant Mountains in Kampot , Southeastern Cambodia

It should be noted that the roads down to Kep, Kampot and Sihanouville are pockmarked dirt things that are thoroughly enjoyable if, like me, you love bumpy rides but, which can make a journey in a large bus take rather longer than it does in the (small, un-airconditioned and frequently rather packed) local share-taxis which also ply the route.

The Ruined French Colonial Church on Bokor Hill

While I loved the rural-ness of Kampot (being the only foreigner in the local market was super fun), it was not my primary reason for going. In addition to sporting lovely beaches and a swimable/kayakable/tubable river, the Kep-Kampot area was used as a countryside retreat by the French during the colonial era. Abandoned after the civil war, the region is now dotted with numerous crumbling and over-grown colonial structures. Hoping to see some of these, I managed to convince some of the staff and other travellers staying at Naga House (located on the river, awesome staff, perfect for those loving a chill party and backpacker culture and only $2 US/night) that we should rent motorbikes and ride them (or, in my case, that someone should take me on the back of theirs - Thank you Chanda!) up to the National Park on Bokor Hill to see some of them (it's also possible to take $10 day tours to see them). Although somewhat marred by the heavy real estate development now going on up top, the adventure still turned out to be well worth our while.

Watching the mist come up over the side of the mountain from the ruined terrace of one of the old colonial hotels. This particular ruin was undergoing some restoration but was still fun to explore - especially in areas where some of the original flooring was still visible.

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