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Goodbye to Cambodia

Looks like we saved the best for last

sunny 35 °C
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Kampot, a small town at the southeastern edge of Cambodia near both the sea and the Vietnam border, has been the perfect end to a fascinating two weeks here. It’s difficult to think of adjectives to describe Cambodia that don’t sound trite, over-used or conventional. I want to say it’s a place of incredible scenery and considerable suffering, where the individuals are warm and friendly but the collective mood is one of tangible despondency, where you can find extravagantly honest tuk-tuk drivers among a culture of rampant corruption, and where smiles are plentiful but fragile. We’ve seen just a slice of it—Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnomh Penh and finally Kampot—which really doesn’t do justice to all of its possibilities. Some of the most beautiful, scenic places are those we didn’t get to, lacking the time and mettle to reach remote areas in provinces like Ratanikiri and Mondulkiri. With more time (and possibly without kids), we would have loved to see more.

The guesthouse we’ve found in Kampot has been the high point of the trip. Called Les Manguiers (“the mangoes”), it’s a sprawling place with individual bungalows built on tall stilts along the river.

Les_Manguiers.jpg

The bungalows are spaced well apart from each other, scattered around grounds that include a badminton court, a playground, wooden swings hanging from trees, hammocks, and wood-and-thatch gazebos built over the water for dining.

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There are at least four dogs, including a puppy named Kmao (the kids’ new best friend), as well as sheep and two rabbits. Yesterday morning we were surprised to walk out of our bungalow and find half a dozen cows munching the grass nearby. There are bicycles available free of charge—we took the two-kilometre ride down a red dirt road into town yesterday—and kayaks to rent. The place is owned by a Khmer-French couple, and the French co-owner’s stamp is all over the menu: lunch and dinner are both served in the gazebos over the water table d’hote style, with a set menu that seems to combine Khmer and French influences. Breakfast is coffee (hot chocolate for kids), tropical fruit salad, and fresh baguettes served with real butter, cheese, chocolate spread, and homemade jams made from garden fruits – mango jam, banana & soursop.

Here is Kmao:

Kmao.jpg
Kids_with_Kmao.jpg

We’ll be sad to leave, but we’re on our way to Vietnam tomorrow. It’s a long country and we have to traverse it from south to north within the confines of our 30-day visa—leaving by January 4—so it’s time to get going. Tomorrow promises to be one of our more interesting land border crossings to date: it turns out that while we can get a taxi, bus or tuk-tuk to the border from Kampot, once in Vietnam the only option is motorbikes from the border into the nearest town, Ha Tien. Vietnam allows a maximum of two riders per bike, one of which is the driver, which means each of the four of us will be on a separate motorbikes, kids included. Apparently the ride to the Ha Tien bus station is just six kilometres, so we’re betting on being able to persuade our drivers to go VERY SLOWLY and safely. (We may be fooling ourselves, but the alternative was to take a four-hour bus ride back to Phnomh Penh followed by a six-hour ride to Saigon.) The plan is to wait at the Ha Tien station for the next bus to Can Tho, the epicentre of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Kampot to Can Tho or bust –it’s going to be a long day!

Here's one last look at our river view from Kampot...

River_view.jpg

Posted by The Rymans 23:56 Archived in Cambodia Tagged family_travel

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