Kampot, Bamboo Island & Kep

Staying in Kampot a day turned into a week and we were still reluctant to leave. Days passed whiole we lazed on inner tubes in the river and read our books in one of the many hammocks. We took a few days to visit nearby Kep, Sihanoukville and an island off the coast.

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Pretty much sums up my time in Kampot.
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A trip up Bokor Mountain where a sort of French ghost town is being pushed out for new casinos and resorts. It was a fun ride winding up and down the mountain! “No sleeping here at night”??? No thanks!
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Abandoned casino from the 1920’s.
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The casino was built at the edge of a cliff where too many people jumped off after losing all their money. It was later moved to a ‘safer’ location.
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Swimming at the local watering hole in Kampot.
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On an island off the coast were freshly caught fish, fish and more fish was on the menu. I had the traditional amok which is a spicy curry with fish and coconut milk.
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Our accommodation for a few nights, right on the water. Sadly this island and neighbouring Bamboo Island have been bought by foreign countries for development and many of the small campsites are closing within two years to make room for casinos and luxury resorts. Seemed to be a similar story wherever we went in Cambodia. Happy we came when we did – I don’t think it will be recognizable in a few years.
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Our own private beach meant Jesse got to tan his upper thighs for a few days in his favourite budgie smugglers.
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Women setting traps at the crab market in Kep which turned into one of the most delicious meals of my life!
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Fresh crab with fresh pepper, both locally grown. My first time trying fresh pepper, still on the stem. Soo delicious!
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On the road to the Vietnam/Cambodia border. There is no limit to what you can carry on these bikes – we’ve seen 5 large pigs, probably 25 live chickens, thousands of eggs in two large baskets and families of 5 pile on these!
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Spider Village, Kampong Cham & Phnom Phen

We broke up the trip to Phnom Penh with several days visiting smaller towns and cities.

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Skoun (spider village), to eat fried tarantulas. These girls were completely unimpressed by our reactions.

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More temples a days ride from Siem Reap. These were even older than Angkor Wat – some were built in the 6th century.
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We hired a local guide who showed us bullet holes in the side of temples from the Khmer Rouge and craters in the earth leftover from when the US bombed Vietnam. It’s pretty amazing these temples still exist given Cambodia’s history.
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We finally made it to the Mekong River. This bamboo bridge in Kampong Cham is rebuilt every year. A new bridge is being built so it won’t be around for much longer.
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The bridge sags under the weight of a mere bicycle. Needless to say we were getting a little nervous when there was a traffic jam of several cars, motorbikes and bicycles on it at once! Bamboo is unbelievably  strong though and they use it for everything from scaffolding, to building houses and bridges here.
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In Kampong Cham we spent the night on an island in these awesome hammocks, complete with an attached mosquito net. $2/night

I always get renewed energy when I arrive in a big city. The possibilities of things to see and do in a place that never sleeps are endless and I can spend hours just walking around looking at all the new and foreign things. Phnom Penh didn’t let me down – it was buzzing day and night! One of the most important sights to visit in Cambodia is the S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields, both the sites of a horrific genocide with monuments and, in the case of S-21, hundreds of photographs of the victims. This made for a really hard and emotional day but helped us better understand Cambodia’s history and the resilience and spirit of it’s people.

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S-21 prison where hundreds of people were held prisoner, interrogated and tortured.
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Visitors leave bracelets around the mass graves that still contain fragments of skulls and bones.
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Outdoor barber shop across from our hotel.
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Getting hustled at the bar. These girls had all kinds of good luck rituals like rubbing the dice in their armpits before rolling. The more tequila shots we won the worse we got at this game – I think I’d had a few when I took this photo …

Siem Reap & Route 66

Cambodia has been my favourite country to travel, and the easiest. The people that live here are so beautiful with their warm smiles and eagerness to talk to you. We first checked in to a luxurious (by our standards!) guesthouse in Siem Reap with a pool (!) air conditioning and cable tv. We spent about 5 days there, mostly exploring the several temples of Angkor, eating and drinking in the town, or chilling by the hotel pool. I’ll try and limit the number of temple photos I post but they were so spectacular it’s hard to pick! Some were built almost a thousand years ago by kings and rulers trying to outdo eachother. The thing that always surprises me is that you can walk and climb all over them – no red tape or security guards like you’d find in the western world.

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part of Angkor Wat, the largest and most popular temple. We took quite some time in this temple and still probably missed thousands of little nooks and details.
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Since the temples aren’t well guarded several artifacts, such as these statue heads, have been stolen by thieves and sold on the black market.
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A monk studying Angkor Wat.
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This temple, which was mostly crumbling stone blocks and walls being pushed aside for new (and old) trees, was my favourite. Most of the temples had been restored and cared for in some sense but the fact that this one hadn’t yet added to it’s allure.
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Another spider photo! I can’t help it, the colours and patterns are soo cool!
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After a very long day of ‘templing’ we start our 7km bike ride home and left those tour buses in the dust!

About midway through our stay in Siem Reap we bought motorbikes from other tourists. It took a few days (or weeks) to get used to the traffic and road rules here (stop signs and traffic lights are mere suggestions). Meet Winston Hung Fat and Polley Hung Lo!

 

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Packs are strapped in and we’re ready for our fist day on the road!
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Watching a little cobbler fix a pair of shoes while getting a spare key cut.

We left Siem Reap with a full tank of gas, a road map (in Russian), and the excitement of getting a new toy at christmas. Our first leg of the trip was along Route 66 through rural cambodia. It has only been ‘rideable’ for a few years and has undergone demining and lots of roadwork. Even still it was mostly a dirt path covered in potholes! I’m not complaining though because we got to see some amazing sights and see a very ural part of the country. There was no chance of finding an english speaker but the kids were all smiles and waves and the adults just looked shocked/confused!

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Our view for most of the day. That red sand gets into your skin, teeth, hair … everywhere!
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A girl we met along the way.