It was amusing to listen to a little Cambodian girl singing this English nursery rhyme as we took the bus from Sihanoukville to Kampot. There were certainly enough animals in our little van to inspire her, everything from chickens to frogs, so I could understand why she had picked this particular ditty.
As we left Kampot, a fellow traveller asked if she could sit in one of the single seater seats rather than be crammed in, but the driver replied 'No'. Angrily she asked him 'Why? No-one is sitting there..' only to hear 'This is Cambodian style'. From that point on, we knew this was going to be a ride to remember. We stopped multiple times to pick up more and more local people, barrels, animals and who knows what else. This was at a point when we wondering if it would be humanly possible for even a contortion artist to board this sweaty tin can.
I think Louise and I were actually relatively lucky, but the guy on the backseat had a barrel constantly hitting his head whilst sharing a single seat with a local, and the girl who had dared ask for the single seater seat at the beginning ended up getting vomited on by the burgeoning chanteuse with the penchant for English Nursery rhymes. Oh dear.
We eventually got to Kampot wondering how a simple 2 hr bus ride could be so traumatic!!?
Kampot is mostly known for Pepper and Durian production, and the latter is celebrated in the form of a big Durian roundabout, which was nearby to our hotel, and served somewhat as a fixed point for easy navigation around the small town.
Kampot has a sleepy laid back feel, with bars and restaurants running along the river, and a couple of old bridges nicely set against the backdrop of the Bokor hills. After our epic journey, we wanted a real pint (as in a full 568ml, hurrah) at the British run Rusty Keyhole. This place also famously serves 'Dinoribs', usually for four people, but with a prize of a free dessert or pint for those brave enough to scoff them alone. The reputation of the ribs is warranted, they were spectacular, so much so that we went back the day later for another portion. On the first attempt, we tried sharing the full-rack, but having loved them so much (I've never had ribs so meaty and succulent), the next day we decided to share the infamous Dinorobs. They were gigantic, and even the two of us together struggled to finish a single portion, so I marveled at the pictures of the victors on the wall in a mixture of awe and confusion (how could that petite looking girl finish these alone!?)
We also went to the fabulous 'Kampot Pie and Ice Cream parlour' for some savoury pork pies. With the rainy season just beginning and with the pints and the pies, we almost felt like we were back in good ol' Blighty (Britain for the uninitiated).
It seems like we pretty much just ate in this town. We also sampled food at RikiTikiTavi, which has seating that overlooks the river and in which I tried the acclaimed Saraman curry, whilst Louise sampled the Lok Lak with pepper sauce. Both were very nice, if a little pricey. On another night we decided to relive our days living in Lyon, France by going for a pastis followed by raclette at the restaurant Auberge du Soleil; I think I could eat just about anything covered in that melted cheese...
Before we left Kampot, we of course had to go see the pepper plantations. We booked with a travel agent in the centre of town (KKS Travel I believe) and arranged an English speaking tuk-tuk driver to take us the following day at $10 each. We were picked up at 10am, and first driven to the nearby salt fields.
At this time of year, it's the rainy season, and the fields were covered in about a foot of rainwater, so we couldn't really see that much. The tuk-tuk driver-cum-guide was determined nonetheless and talked to us about the implements normally used, which were scattered by the side of the fields, so it was good to see at any rate. He was quite a good guide actually, better than we had expected.
After the salt fields, we were back in the tuk-tuk for another 30-45mins, on the bumpiest road in the world, until we got to a cave. There we paid $1 for entrance, and were escorted by another guide around the caves. I was a little skeptical about this part of the trip, but actually the caves were interesting to see. There are fruit bats living in there that fly around and even a Hindu temple. It was quite a scramble on the route we took out however, and the guide gleefully told us about an overweight gentlemen who got stuck there for a while! (too many Dinoribs perhaps?). We got back to the light eventually and tipped the cave guide $2 for his troubles (it was one of those "pay what you think I deserve" scenarios).
Back in the tuk-tuk we went, only to get stuck in the mud ten minutes later. We had to get out and help the driver get the tuk-tuk free. I thought this kind of thing only happened in bad comedy movies, and was expecting the ubiquitous muddy splashing all over me, but thankfully it never came and we got the tuk-tuk free.
Next up was the secret lake. I'm afraid I don't remember the exact story of how it got its name (something to do with treasure there that neither the french nor the Khmer rouge could find?).
Finally we got to the pepper plantation. It's the first time I have seen pepper being grown and it was interesting to see the stuff before it gets dried and ground up into the familiar table-top product.