Day 25: Kampot to Koh Kong: A Good Decision

Kampot to Koh Kong

Cambodian FOD: before it became a member of the world trade organisation, copyright protection was almost non existent in Cambodian. This lead to a host of copycat fast food chains such as Khmer Fried Chicken, Pizza Hot and Burger Queen.

Everyday Randomness: having ice cream made from a type of sweet potato!

We had no yearning desire to go to Sihanoukville as it sounded like a more sleazy, less interesting version of the Thai islands we would be on very shortly. I’m not sure why but Cambodia seems to be a lot quieter in the low season when compared to Vietnam or Thailand. Therefore Sihanoukville could really lack any kind of atmosphere.

So instead we had decided to cycle Bokor Mountain yesterday and get the bus to Koh Kong. This turned out to be an excellent decision for a number of reasons: the nice 55km of the road was under construction and so would have been a nightmare on the bike, the views from the “nice” part of the cycle were no where near as good as those that we had seen from the cruise/mountain and there was a literal thunderstorm at about 11 in the mountains which to be honest would have been pretty scary and definitely uncomfortable! 

The bikes fitted into the mini van like a glove, once the front wheels were removed which brought considerable entertainment to the locals! The journey was a good bit shorter than anticipated and for a door to door service was an absolute bargain at $11 including a bike! The bus company was vibol transport which has an office near the bus and taxi station in Kampot.i had some time on the bus to do some running repairs on my Ireland flag patches after the sad realisation that I had lost my mini Irish flag! By far the worst thing to happen on the trip so far!

We’re staying at Ritthy’s Retreat Guesthouse which is a scandalous €6 euro a night for a private double!! We went to the wildlife cafe for lunch and I had what I assume will be the first of many Pad Thai, the squid was easily the highlight of the meal! Although the ice cream dessert was both very good value and tasty. The lime packed a punch but was perfect when combined with the strawberry! The taro (sweet potato type) was surprisingly good and admittedly did not taste at all like a vegetable!

After a few games of pool, we went to get an actual bag of cans. Not for the alcohol per se but because a lot of the bars don’t serve much variety in terms of beers so we wanted to taste the stout. We got a 6% and a 8% stout so maybe the trip was for the alcohol!!

We needed some street food in our lives and the local place at the roundabout was doing a roaring trade! Seemed like we were definitely bottom of the rung in terms of priority because it took an age for the food to get to us! It was ok though because a friendly neighbour was teaching us all the Khmer words for chopsticks and anything he could see really, all of which were instantaneously forgotten! After, we tried to see if there was any craic to be had but it turns out that our own place was one of the busiest places in town so we headed back there!

To Thailand tomorrow!

Day 23: Kep to Kampot: Pepper Plantation

Kep to Kampot: Pepper Plantation

Distance: 36.5km

Total: 1204.8km

Cambodian FOD: Kampot Pepper is famous all over the world and kilo of it in France can cost €200! There are four types of pepper. Green pepper is harvested unripe, red is harvested just ripe, black is dried on the stalk, and white pepper comes from rubbing off the outmost layer of the red pepper corn.

Everyday Randomness: going into the pepper drying room and coming out and feeling cool in 28 degrees!! 

I should have known with the French influence that we would get crepes today as opposed to pancakes. They were light and limey; a suitably light breakfast!

It was then time to say goodbye to our lovely bungalow retreat and head to the pepper plantation on the way to Kampot. Not before we got our Dragon fruit cut for us, which I was very happy about because it actually weighs quite a lot!

Down a dirt track, which is a road compared to the sand of yesterday, resided the organic pepper plantation; sothy’s pepper farm. It’s run by a German and Cambodian which explains the impressive solar cooker. It was a peaceful spot when we arrived and our tour was given by a French guy who was volunteering there for a week. I’ll describe it in detail in the next section but as a summary: a very educational experience which describes the whole process and the farm had a very communal atmosphere.

I had no idea there were four types of pepper. In my mind it’s black, and I have used white pepper the odd time but that’s the extent of it. We tasted all types, the green was my favourite as it is softer due to the fact that it is fermented. It means you can eat the whole peppercorn in a dish without wincing.

The others pack a punch and would definitely bring any meal to the next level, flavour wise. The red is a bit sweeter as it’s skin is kept on and that’s where all the nutrients are. The pepper vines are about 2 metres tall, pepper is picked when 20% has turned red (that’s why the red pepper is so expensive as 80% of the stalk goes to green/black pepper). The black pepper is dried at 58 degrees which I can say from experience is quite, quite hot! 

We got to taste lemongrass which was literally like eating the flavour of lemon zest in a grass form; unexpectedly tasty! They had just made mango jam on the farm the day before so we sampled that as well and it had a perfectly natural sweet taste. Mangos themselves are so sweet that only 5% of sugar was needed! As mentioned, the pepper is really expensive as every part of the process is done by hand, while being substantially cheaper here ($60/kg) we still didn’t have that kind of money so we’ll be going for the lower quality stuff in Kampot itself!

The 26km to Kampot flew by as we passed throngs of school children leaving school. Our guesthouse is pretty central, seems to have free laundry (!!!), and is only €7 for a room! Really friendly owners as well!

We ate lunch at Captain Chim’s for a return to Khmer food and conviently it was were we were booking our sunset cruise! It was a tasty return to coconut milk-based curries, something that Vietnam doesn’t have at all.

After we stopped off for a coffee in the Epic Arts Cafe which hires and supports people who are disabled. It’s a cosy, happy spot with every smiling staff!! We finished with a vanilla cheesecake which was creamy and deliciously flavoured.

Sunset cruise with the opportunity to see fireflies and all while having a beer for $5? Definition of good value. Photo opportunity of me with a “bag of cans” which is a uniquely Irish thing and quite topical in Ireland  at the moment! There was a really chatting couple from London who were good craic and much better company than the other travellers on the list boat. Whatever the people, the views themselves would have been sufficient. Breathtaking and they changed with each corner we rounded.

As the sun set and it suddenly became dark our boat started backing quite forcefully into a tree. Alas, this was not due to the driver struggled with navigation but a method of “activating” as such the fireflies. They were tiny sparks in the trees which after some time glowed at the same frequency; eminating Christmas tree lights but all the more subtle and with an endearing tinkling. It was a mesmerising scene.

A relaxing float back to the town and a trip to the night market (well a street food stall) for a delicious beef and egg stir-fry for $1.50 was the next thing on our agenda. We walked along the riverfront taking it all in but there wasn’t one particular spot that took our fancy so we headed back to a bar with a pool table and a quick beer and a not so quick game of pool!