Relaxing Kampot Style

It’s been a while since I posted, that’s because I’ve been very busy being lazy. It’s hard, time consuming work.
After leaving Battambang I pootled down on the bus to another French colonial riverside town, Kampot. I made the journey by day which most people avoid since it’s eight hours on the road with a change over in Phnom Penh, the usual route is to take the night bus instead which will get you into Kampot at 7am. I don’t like sleeping next to strangers though (repressed and uptight, I know, not what a gung ho, foot loose and fancy free traveller is meant to be like at all), and I also genuinely like seeing the country side whilst I’m going from one spot to another. Cambodian scenery by the way is picture perfect beautiful too. Acres of lush green rice paddies melting into a horizon of palm trees, tropical forest and distant mountains, the occasional lily pad festooned waterway to break up all the gorgeousness. I may have mentioned this before, but really it deserves a second go. The only bleak spot is the occasional hills of waste, dumped wherever.
Anyway, by the time I arrived in Kampot it was night, and pouring with rain. I’d found a little guest house on the river about 2 kilometres outside of town and for once I was grateful for the swarm of tuk-tuk drivers awaiting the tourists getting off the bus. The thing about arriving at a sleepy riverside guesthouse in the dark in Cambodia is that you can’t see anything apart from the bar and the enlarged shadows of mosquitoes stroking their proboscises with glee at the arrival of the dinner buffet. So after a beer, and bites of all descriptions, I made my way to the dorm. The dorm turned out to be a tree house with mattresses on the floor and the most lethal skinny steps that terrified me. I went to sleep feeling itchy, paranoid that things were living in the lumpy pillow, and willing my bladder to stay quiet until daybreak so I wouldn’t have to risk the scary steps again in the dark.
I woke with the sunrise to find all the night time scariness had been washed away, apart from the steps, those were still fucking terrifying. My tree house dorm was now the penthouse, commanding a view of fields to one side and towering banana plants to the other. The badly lit bar turned out to be a series of split level wooden decks, dotted with furniture hewn from tree trunks and branches, so close to the river they were virtually floating.
A friend of mine turned up that day and we spent a leisurely day catching up, drinking beer, staring at the massive expanse of river lined with wavering palms on the opposite side, and idly speculating on the nature of the occasional debris floating by unconcernedly.
That evening we went on a sunset cruise (bit of a debacle with the boarding, the boat left without us and then had to do some complicated 5 point turn to come back and get us. Nobody was very happy with us on the boat so we gave them all huge grins and jolly waves and hustled our way to the front of the boat and took up the best positions without one iota of shame. Technically it wasn’t our fault that the boat had gone without us, but we also didn’t help matters with our gently sauntering pace). With our feet dangling over the edge but –and this is the important bit – not touching the dubious sludge brown water, we settled down to appreciate a couple of hours cruising. We had overheard a conversation earlier on where it was revealed that all the effluence from the town and surrounding villages emptied directly into the river. No swimming for me today, thank you.
The views from the middle of the river are pretty spectacular, Kampot is at the foot of a national park so as you head out of town there are mountains a plenty. If you’re feeling intrepid you can trek through the park for a swim in a waterfall…which will be cleaner than in the river. The highlight of the cruise came after the sun had gone down, when our skipper switched off the lights and nudged us into the tree line to watch clouds of fireflies twinkling away as they looked for love. Did you know that’s why fireflies glow? When they’re trying to attract the a mate they light up their bums to look pretty. Fabulous hey.
The next few days consisted of some very leisurely exploration. A bicycle ride one day revealed a training school for monks; an abandoned medical centre that appeared to have been built very recently; a secret riverside path; numerous cows; and a finale of a ferocious dog that clearly wanted to eat me.
We played safe the following day and rode into town for pie and ice cream.
On our last day in Kampot we found a hidden gem of yet more peace and tranquillity, the Banteay Women’s Spa, two buildings down from our guesthouse. Here men are invited to participate in a mixed yoga season in the morning and from then on it’s a ladies only club with treatment rooms for scrubs, massages and the like, plus one of those delicious healthy menus that you always want to find so that your good intentions will not be scuppered by cake and chips. Fully intending to have a day package of treatments, we decided to grab a smoothie and a snack first on the river terrace where there are no chairs, only serene cotton covered queen sized mattresses on wooden benches. They’d put some sort of super glue on the futons because we arrived at 11 am and didn’t leave until a very charming lady appeared out of the darkness 8 hours later to inform us the spa was closed.


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