Went out with Thomas on his boat last night. It was his maiden voyage since buying it. 'I'm not much of a skipper, but we probably won't drown' was his morale-sapping comment as we set out in the moonlight. It was wonderful. At ten at night, there isn't much river traffic, so we had it more or less to ourselves. We drove up to the next bend in the river; (why do we always need to know what's around the next bend?), and then turned off the engine and drifted about for a while. For an old boat, it ships a bit of water, but otherwise, performed well.
We came back, moored up and decided to go to the bar next door. There was an English guy sitting at the bar and we started chatting. The usual 'where are you from?' ensued. 'I'm from a town just north of London.'
'Oh yeah, where exactly.'
'Stevenage.' (I passed my teenage years there.) his name is Graham and he's a boat fan too, so we're planning an afternoon trip today.
This morning, thought it was about time that I went into Kampot Town and had a look around. Thomas gave me a lift in on his scooter. It was very, very hot. I particularly wanted to see the sleazy tourist types I'd heard so much about, but it was too early.
Before leaving, I asked Mr. T how much I owed him so far. The hut is 7$ a night. It was the beer tab that I was worried about. Normally, in Summer, I drink about three beers a day. Here I'm going through gallons of the stuff. Haven't had a hangover since I got here and more interestingly, don't seem to need a pee every 20 minutes. I guess it's because you sweat it out almost immediately.
Thought you needed to know that.
Went into a Western Union and asked for 200$ on my card. It must be a legacy from colonial times, but the Khmer mentality seems to have appropriated the méfiance, bordering on paranoia, which still characterises my adoptive country's way of doing things. Firstly, the two women asked for my passport, which they inspected page by page. I then had to fill in a form with home address, nationality etc and a signature. My signature, over the years, has become a scribble which would make most medics proud. In their opinion, it didn't match the one square centimetre scribble in my passport.
They wouldn't give me the cash, although I did manage to gulp down two cups of iced water from their machine. I walked about 20 metres and got 100$ from an ATM.
New York: The Big Apple, Paris: City of Light, The Eternal City, The Big Easy, I could go on. The point being that great cities always seem to have a soubriquet or nickname. Kampot is the Big Durian. There's a large roundabout in town with French Colonial lamp-posts and in the middle a huge statue of the odiferous fruit.
The Big Durian 1.
Big Durian 2.
Durian has a reputation as being a foul smelling foodstuff, which most westerners find disgusting. I'd heard so many stories about it that I had resevations myself. You see signs in hotels and guest houses: NO SMOKING OR DURIAN FRUIT.
I tried some the other day; it wasn't anything like as fearsome as its reputation, sweet with not even a particularly unpleasant smell. A good, ripe Camembert, something I love, must be much more intimidating to the uninitiated. Compared to Surströmming* which I wrote about last year, it was a doddle.
I didn't hang around in town very long as it was too hot, but looked around the cooler parts of the daily market. The fish market was impressive. We're on the coast here and fisherman cast their nets each evening in front of where I'm staying. The variety and freshness was mouthwatering.
* Surströmming. A Swedish delicacy which is fermented fish in a can. You open the can in water, as the smell given off is unbearable, even for the experienced surströmmer. I don't drinks spirits very often, but when I tried it, (I spat it out), I got through half a bottle of Vodka, the traditional accompaniment, in an effort to dispel the lingering stench. It smells like a Third World city in summer with a drainage problem. I'm sitting with a Swedish guy as I write this. No way for him either.