Sunday, 27 April 2014

Kep, Cambodia

made the 25km journey from Kampot to Kep on a motorbike, although you can also catch a minivan to the main beach if biking isn't for you. 

The roads are alright, although there's a bit of loose gravel and lots of construction along the Kep circuit with only a strip of pavement bordered by sand. Makes things interesting when a huge truck passes by ;)

There are supposedly two caves that you can go to between Kampot and Kep, although I wasn't able to find either. 

Le fail. 

My little moto group and I hung out in hammock by the ocean after our long drive in the heat. I know, hard life ;) 

Lesson learned: the hammocks are $1 each, so don't feel obliged to buy a drink like we did. 

Kep is known for it's amazing crab, so our next stop was the crab market. 

There are a bunch of stalls set up by the ocean with lots of seafood, but the real crab selling happens on the pier. 

Ladies were selling their wares and locals would painstakingly choose what they thought to be the best crabs of the bunch. 

We went to Kimly restaurant on the water near the market, which was recommended to us. I got the fried crab with Kampot green pepper. Slightly saucy, but delicious. I would recommend the grilled crab if you want something less rich.  

All in all, a great day excursion. You can also stay in a guesthouse or bungalow in Kep, although there's really not much else to do other than lie on the beach and eat delicious crab meat. 

Wait, what am I saying, that's amazing! Definitely worth the drive there, even if the roads are currently under construction. 

Kampot, Cambodia

think Kampot might be my favourite place in Cambodia. 

I'm not entirely sure what it is about this place, but I like it. A lot. 

I stayed at the Magic Sponge Guesthouse, which is close to downtown. The staff is really nice and you can rent motorbikes there for $5 a day. The Alaskan co-owner also draws very helpful maps ;) 

Bonus: there's a pool table AND miniputt.  BOOYAH. 

Bokor Mountain National Park 

I rented a scooter and biked to Bokor mountain with a few people. It was a super gorgeous drive - the road winds up the side of the mountain, which gives you great viewpoints of Kampot, the nearby village of Kep and the ocean. It also gave me some time to practice my turning on a bike ;)   

There is a huge Buddha statue. Slightly random, but an interesting modern take on a Buddha statue. 

Most people make the trek to see the old ruins of the French colonial hotel at the top of the mountain. 

It has recently been covered in plaster so that people can still walk around it, but it is seriously eerie to walk around with the clouds swirling about. 

There are more ruins...if you can call them that - maybe just old buildings? It feels almost wrong calling buildings from the 1900s 'ruins' in a country with some of the most epic ruins in the world *ahem* Angkor Wat. 

Anywho, there are more mysterious buildings down the road, as well as an old church. 

All of these buildings were built on the precipice of a huge drop down the sea level, where you can supposedly see all the way to Vietnam on a clear day. 

It wasn't clear when we were there ;)

We checked out the waterfall as well, but it was all dried up (and quite smelly). We also missed lunch at the nearby restaurant, so we made due with some instant noodles at some stalls near the tourist information centre. 

There are big plans to develop the top of the mountain, and there is already a monstrously huge hotel and casino. It seems strange to build not one but TWO golf courses in a national park, but maybe that's just me...

Kampot Cuisine

I think another contributing factor to my love for Kampot is the amazing food here. 

Kampot is known for it's world-class pepper, with many pepper farms around the area. People have actually told me to come here solely to buy the pepper. For serious. 

We went to the Rusty Keyhole 1 (as opposed to the Rusty Keyhole 2) for ribs on our first night here. 

This is where you might think to yourself 'Anna, I thought you were a vegetarian in Canada?' Ya, I am. I've decided to embrace meat while travelling, however, since I find that the cuisine is such a huge part of any cultural experience and it's usually very difficult to translate 'I don't eat meat' or find healthy vegetarian options here. Fried rice with barely a handful of veggies three times a day? Def not the healthiest way to go. I digress.  

These ribs have been called the best ribs in Asia, and I think I have to agree. It was fall-off-the-bone deliciousness, with the craziest sauce of all time. 

The good at our hotel was also fabulous, with ridiculously large portions. We caught on fast and split meals - I don't know how it is humanly possible to finish a meal to yourself. 

I have been a bit frivolous with my spending on meals recently, so I went to the night market for dinner one night. 

It was constructed only recently, but there are fair rides in the middle of it. 

So cool. 

I had a delicious noodle soup while the power flickered on and off. It had been a while since I had enjoyed a good bowl of soup, makes me excited for my upcoming travels in Vietnam(!). 

One night, while we were sitting by the water drinking a cheap bottle of wine an watching the sunset, a tuktuk driver came up and started chatting with us. He invited us to go have 'palm juice' with him and his friends. He brought us to this little house in the middle of nowhere, where there were local people hanging out on reed mats on the ground drinking and eating. Turns out it was palm wine but it's strangely delicious in a fermented kind of way. 

Overall, Kampot is a great place to enjoy some good food by the river side, rent a motorbike and explore the nearby sights, and just relax into the vibe of the town. 

Check out the book store if you're in the area, amazing selection AND they do book exchanges, bonus!

Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

It's official, I'm addicted to island living. 

However, when I first arrived to Koh Rong, I felt a bit overwhelmed: there were tons of guest houses, bungalows and bars along the beach with a heck of a lot more people milling about compared to Koh Ta Kiev island. 

After a bit of an adjustment, I came to like Koh Rong quite a bit. 

I ended up staying at a bit of a sketchy guest house down a strange little alleyway, with boarded walls that had cracks in the middle since the boards weren't quite straight. Made for some loud mornings when the whole fam would wake up ridiculously early and start banging around pots and pan whilst yelling at each other right near my room. At least it got me out of bed bright'n'early ;)

Lesson learned: take the early morning speed boat to the island from Sihanoukville and not the afternoon slow boat like myself - all of the guesthouses were full by the time I arrived, hence the strange accommodations. 

Although the slow boat has some comfy seating ;)

Koh Rong is super chilled out and so flipping hot during the day that people don't do much more than hangout on the white sand beach, swim in the crystal blue waters (for hours, seriously). I'm pretty sure almost everyone on the island gets sunburnt almost every day with the 45C sun beating down. Good times. 

I made the trek through the jungle path to Long Beach on the other side of the island. 

There were much less people on this side, although snorkelling tours generally end here to watch the sunset. There are a few bungalows that you can stay in ($15) or a dorm ($6) or you can rent a tent ($5) and pitch it on the beach. 

I didn't end up camping on Long Beach since it started to POUR down rain the day that I made the trek over there. It was cool to swim in the warm water with the cool(ish) rain pelting down after a long game of beach volleyball. I decided it wasn't the best conditions to camp in...I know, such a lame-o. 

I ended up renting a tent with a travel buddy and we decided to branch out a bit and stay on 4km Beach (continue down the beach from Koh Rong to the left if you're looking at the water, past rocky beach and then you will see a long crescent of white sand beach, so beautiful!). 

It was amazing: we got fried noodles, Oreos and beers in Koh Rong and set up camp at dusk. There was only one other couple camping on the beach, which was cool later on since they knew how to start a fire. I know, I'm super outdoorsy ;) 

We went swimming with the luminescent plankton under the stars - the most amazing thing of all time!! I've never seen so much before, it was seriously like swimming through fairy dust. 

Not going to lie, my sleep wasn't the best (we had no mattress and we somehow ended up having as much sand as the Sahara desert in our tent) but the sunrise (at around 5:30) made up for it. 

So beautiful. 

It's crazy, though - as soon as the sun rises, it is instantly HAWT. It's potent fo sho. 

There were really cool BBQ restaurants in Koh Rong, although slightly pricier than the regular fried rice and noodle stalls down the beach.

There are no roads on the island, it's the best feeling to never have to wear shoes! Although the sand does heat up during the day and you can see everyone running from one shady patch to the next. 

Overall, although it's a bit busier and has more of a party vibe, I really enjoyed my time on Koh Rong island. 

I mean, how could you not love frolicking for hours in this water, amiright?!