Starting last Wednesday i had my first days off in Cambodia and the chance to travel through the country for a bit.
Together with six other german volunteers I visited the small town kampot, which is located in the south of Cambodia, for three days. I was so happy to leave the crowded and chaotic Phnom Penh for a while and enjoy the lush green ricefields, fresh air and beautiful landscape in the countryside.
Our adventure started with the bus drive to Kampot. The whole time, which was about 4 to 5 hours, I looked out of the window and watched motos, small huts and some mountains pass by. I was simply amazed by all the things I saw next to the street or even the street itself. Because the road was rather a dirt road than an official highway, whole villages next to it were completely covered in red dust and there was no other colour to be seen for miles. Other times you saw nothing else but water, some small boats and palm trees due to the floodings of the rainy season.
Being in Phnom Penh you sometimes forget that there is so much more out there in Cambodia and that there actually is a wonderful countryside. (Don’t get me wrong, I like living in Phnom Penh and having the hustle and bustle of the big town around me, but it lets you forget about the rest of this beautiful country quite easily.)
When we bought the bus tickets we had hoped to arrive in Kampot quite early so we would have some time to explore the city. However upon arriving in Kampot it was quite late already, so we only checked into a guesthouse, had some dinner and went to bed pretty early.
The next day, we decided to rent some motos and explore the surroundings of Kampot. Originally we wanted to find some caves called Phnom Dschnuk, but when we found out that we missed the road by ca. 5 miles we decided to visit some caves that were closer to us. We ended up at the Phnom Sorsir, which consists of a small pagoda on top of a hill, a cave that contains a huge rock that looks like an elephant (it’s called the White Elephant Cave) and a bat cave. We had a guide that showed us everything and led us into the caves, which was pretty risky at some points, considering we were all wearing flip flops and didn’t carry any flash lights with us.
From the top of Phnom Sorsir we had a wonderful view towards the coast, the Elephant Mountains and the town of Kep. The sun was shining and you saw rice fields, the sea and on the horizon the Vietnamese island Phu Quoc.
Since it was Leons Birthday we decided to all go out for dinner. Nearly every one of us ordered way too expensive pizza and was disappointed afterwards; however the night was saved with the birthday cake we got for Leon and later on a wonderful night out on a bungalow right next to the river in Kampot.
On Saturday we wanted to go up to Bokor Mountain, from which apparently you have the best view over Cambodia and can see all the way to Thailand. We knew that the way was really long so we decided to rent a car. Just renting the car was an interesting experience itself. No need to show a license or anything, just leave a passport and sign a receipt.
Driving a car in Cambodia was new to all of us but we managed to get to Bokor Mountain quite well. Unfortunately it was really foggy and only ten minutes up the mountain all we could see was fog and the fading lights of the car in front of us. Due to the fact, that we had paid so much for the car, we didn’t want to turn back around so we went continued driving up the mountain and passing what felt like a 100 serpentines.
After a while we came across a huge waterfall. There was a parking spot and an enormous visitors center but there were nearly no visitors beside us at all, which was due to the heavy rain that fell down on us, once we got out of the car. Ignoring the rain and the fog, we went to see the waterfall. It was a wonderful to listen to the loud water crashing down and seeing the steam coming up from the valley. We were completely soaked in water, when we came back to the car and decided not to go to the top of the mountain, and instead to go back to the guesthouse, change our clothes and have some dinner.
The next morning we left Kampot early and took a cab to Kep. Kep is a small town directly at the coast. It is really widespread and doesn’t really have a city center. During high season Kep is probably crowded with tourists, however while we were there it reminded us more of a ghost town. The cab driver brought us to Kep Market, because we thought that the market would be the place in town with the most going on. When we got out of the cab, we found out that the market was the most deserted place in town with absolutely no one being around. We still managed to get some food and decided to leave Kep without staying there for a night and going directly to Koh Tonsay, a small island just off the coast of Kep.
30 minutes later, backpacks and ourselves drenched in water and completely shaken by the rough sea, we arrived on Koh Tonsay. And again we were alone. Besides us, there were only a few people that live on Koh Tonsay on the island, however not a single tourist to be seen. It was wonderful. We rented two bungalows right next to the beach and went for a short hike across the island. Sunday and Monday we didn’t really do anything else besides sleeping in hammocks on the beach, watching sunsets, swimming and eating pancakes with fruits.
Koh Tonsay is probably not the perfect paradise island, however you have some simple bungalows with a bed, candles and a small bathroom, some food shacks that offer everything you need, a nice long beach, palm trees and hammocks lining the beach. For us it was perfectly fine. Plus we had a really nice time getting to know some of the people living on the island.
On Tuesday, the weather finally got better but we left Koh Tonsay to take the bus back to Phnom Penh. Again the bus ride took about 6 hours and we arrived back at the center really late. Tomorrow school will start again and everything around here will be back to normal.
Pictures and posts on Pchum Ben and my daily life at SCAO will follow soon.