Well here I am. Home from home sweet home. At the moment, I'm staying in a thatched hut in Kampon, in Cambodia. It's midnight and something seems to scrambling around on the roof, making a strange squeaking sound.... There it is again. Hang on a sec.
Can't see where the critter is, but don't fancy putting my hand through the thatch, in case it's something more than a gecko.
Anyway, where was I?
It took me the best part of a month here in Asia to really get the hang of it. I spent too much money and went to a couple of places which were not great destinations. Siem Reap and Angkor Wat put an end to all that.
Got the bus from Siem Reap on Thursday. Got up at 5 once again, found somewhere open for coffee, and got the bus headed to Sihanookville, a 13 hour trip, but cheap. (There's that noise again). Cambodia doesn't have a very developed road system. What does exist was very bumpy. Took the back seat, as you can sometimes stretch out and have a nap. A young woman obviously had the same idea and took the opposite window seat. It was impossible to sleep, as every time you dozed off, which was rarely, the bus hit another enormous bump, or hole and you were lifted out of the seat. We stopped every so often for a break, where I bought sliced mango, which tasted rather strange and came with a sachet of salt and spices and finally arrived at Phnom Pen, where we were told for the first time that we had to wait for three hours for another bus.
Phnom Pen traffic.
The lady on the bus started talking on her phone in French and gave a very good description of the trip so far. She saw me grinning and we got chatting. A great idea, as it turned out that she's an experienced traveller and better at haggling than me. I've now got the hang of it too.
We finally arrived at about 11 in the evening, having met up with a young Turkish guy, who picked up the bus in Phnom Pen. We found a place called Led Zephyr, with constant music from the seventies and a poster of R. Crumb's classic: 'Stoned again,' on the wall.
The Turkish guy had friends there who run a restaurant. He arrived and told us of a party that night a Tuk-tuk drive away. It's called 'Kerfuffle.' I said I wanted to sleep, but after a shower and a snack, felt fine. The place was amazing, except that they played awful, tuneless techno. Luckily, there was a power cut for about half an hour, which was great.
To get to the place, you had to take a raft across a river. There was a rope strung from bank to bank with which you pulled yourself across. The site was quite small, but had a small Ferris wheel, 50 years old at least, about 8 metres high and the most beautiful bamboo walkway around the area. Obviously, I was the oldest person there, by at least 20 years.
We got back at 5.30 in the morning.
Sihanookville is a very young touristy place. There are bars and restaurants all along the beach, with lots of loud music and people quite openly smoking marijuana. I don't know if it's illegal here, but would doubt it, as even the police, who from time to time patrolled the area, didn't seem to be interested. A pizza restaurant openly advertises it's wares as having a 'herb topping.'
I've just been told that in fact it is highly illegal in principal, but no-one seems to care.
Night on the beach.
Koh Rong island.
Took a day trip to Koh Rong island, which is two hours each way by boat. I sloshed sun cream all over me, but like everyone else got pretty burned. I'm also one of many people here who have quite bad burns on the leg. It come from taking rides with people on scooters with no protection over the exhaust.
Koh Rong was great; a real desert island type place with crystal, but hot water and disappointingly no exotic fish. On the way the boat stopped at a smaller island for snorkeling, but it was just different types of coral.
Next day, took a bus to Kampon, about two hours away, which is where I am now. There's a bar which is by the side of a large river, run by the friendly Mr Ti (don't know how you spell his name), and his family. It's very like a Coffee Shop in Amsterdam, with lots of people getting very stoned. I have no objection to that, except that there a few people here who are obsessed with drugs of all descriptions. Most are very young Anglophones, who talk about nothing else. I've managed to keep a distance, by only speaking French with Magali, who speaks perfectly good English, when we picked up on the situation.
These people get really out of their brains. You can buy Ketamine* over the counter here and I dread to think what else. Having now seen what it does to you, I can't imagine why you would want to take it.
The river flowing past is straight of 'Apocalypse Now,' with that thick reedy, grassy stuff along the banks. In the evening, the light is spectacular.
Went on a jolly jaunt to Bagkor National Park yesterday. We decided to hire scooters and have a ride around. I've never driven one in my life. I ended up as the passenger. It was really good fun and very refreshing in the heat. We suddenly noticed that the tank was nearly empty, so we stopped at a service centre: a rack full of coke bottles filled with petrol.
It has to be said that the park was a bit disappointing. Firstly, it was a more tropical version of where I live, with large hills, rather than mountains and even the same sort of scrubby vegetation that you see on the 'Garrigue,' near us.
The famous waterfall wasn't falling as we're approaching the end of the dry season.
The jungle walk was only slightly better, with a few colouful birds, geckos and very large crickets. A few jungle noises and cicadas and that was about it, so we went back to the centre of town for late lunch.
Coming down the mountain, we passed this. A natural Easter Island type head, which must have impressed for centuries, as it has become a Buddhist shrine.
I like the food here, but after a week without western food, I fancied something else. Found an English run café serving generous helpings for next to nothing. It was the first place I've seen which had the prices in Riel. At the back of the menu, they had some house rules: no shirt, no serve and other such things which presumably are to deter the Brit sex and drug tourists. One rule said: 'Our waitresses are Cambodian. They work very hard and are not prostitutes. Please don't insult them by propositioning them.'
The pork ribs were sensational and copious, I couldn't finish them, and for two people with beers, the bill came to12$.
By this time, my legs and the back of my arms were pretty burnt, so we headed back to our bungalows, then to the bar where I met a young guy. I asked hIm where he was from, meaning in England.
I'm fascinated by bilingual people, who are wired differently from the rest of us. (His father is English and he went to school there), but even so.. We chatted a bit and he told me that it was his boat moored up on the jetty. He suggested an evening boat trip the next day, which I jumped at. People swim in the river off the jetty. Thomas told me that he'd heard that there are still a few crocodiles around, but admitted that the last one was seen about ten years ago, so I don't think the swimmers are in much danger.
Spent today doing absolutely nothing, just watching the river flow. Magali left for Vietnam this morning and I think I'll stay here another few days, as the centre of Kampot is quite interesting with it's French Colonial architecture, and only 2$ to get there by Tuk-tuk.
*For those of you who have never heard of it, Ketamine is an animal tranquiliser which is sometimes used on humans in intensive care. It is a psychedelic which if used recreationally, turns you into a stumbling zombie. It's also very bad for your bladder for some reason, a fact that they seem to find amusing.