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2014 MARCH CAMBODIA - SOUTH TO THE COAST WE GO!

Our main objective for coming to Cambodia was to visit the coast line and beach, finally we make it down there and have a great week. First stop KEP.

Hello Readers,
Again I am going to fast forward to catch up time. I have only one day in Bangkok and want to be current so I do not loose the last week and you have no idea how it all ends. This is what usually happens and I am determined for it not to happen this trip.
The following blogs have not been proof read, so please excuse and mistakes or typos or just stuff that makes no sense. Also I am not going to load many photos as this takes too much time and all photos are on my Facebook page.
Cheers, Cindy.

WEDNESDAY 12TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 193)

The last breakfast in Phnom Penh of course had to be had at our favourite Feel Good Cafe. And of course the food did not disappoint. Breakfast this last week has been pure indulgence and throughly enjoyed, I'm sure a memory we will keep of our time in Phnom Penh.

There was no rush as we had to wait at the hotel for our 12 noon pick up for our 12.30 bus to Kep. So a relaxing morning we had and come 12.15 our minivan pick up finally arrived and we were transferred to the bus station, and shuffled onto a big air conditioned bus that started to pull out as we took our seats. It was running a little late, no doubt due to our late arrival, which was due to our late pick up. Anyway we were soon on our way and fighting the heavy traffic of Phnom Penh.

Crowded streets and horrendous road work made our exit out of the city very slow indeed. At one particular road stoppage I counted 8 lanes of traffic trying to all file into 1 single lane. This coupled with the hundreds of overloaded motor bikes riders who make their own lanes, it was an hour plus before we were out of the city limits.

The roads out in the countryside were not much better. We had a short distance of nice sealed road, but most of the day was spent driving on dusty, dirt tracks where roads are being repaired, resealed or redone. Anyone who lived roadside also lived with a constant layer of dust and dirt on everything from their homes to every bit of plant life on their property. I think if a person stood in one spot for more than 10 seconds they too would be dusted in a covering of reddish brown dirt.

We stopped about half way for a lunch and toilet break. After the slim pickings of our last bus lunch stop I had the hindsight to organise something more appetising for us to eat this time. A few days ago when we visited the big supermarket I bought a couple of tins of canned fish in tomato sauce. This fish teamed with the fresh baguettes I bought this morning before our transfer pick up was a much tastier lunch than watch might have been on offer at this stop.

The distance from PP to Kep is only 165km but our journey today took almost 5 hours. Of course the one hour delay at road works did not help. Actually it was not the road works that held us up but the pig headed drivers - our bus driver included. We were driving along a particular stretch of under construction road, when suddenly the one lane of usable road that was being used for both directions of traffic came to a stand still. One lane and traffic coming in both directions did not work. Our coach was a the head of the line travelling one direction with 2 other coaches behind us and head on was a line up of about 10 minivans packed to the hilt as they are. When both lines of traffic came head on it just turned into a Mexican stand off, with neither row of drivers backing off. It got ridiculous as time dragged on no one moved, literally no one moved. There was no discussion or even any arguing of who would have to move out of the way to let the others go by. It was mental, how could a solution or clear pathway be achieved if all drivers just stared at each other as if a staring contest was going to determine a winner. Coming up to an hour of this crazy behaviour we thought we would be settling here for the night. At least the bus driver kept the motor running and the air conditioning pumping otherwise we would have all perished waiting for their stupidness to subside. Eventually the minivans gave in and some pulled off the road into a driveway while the remainder backed up just 100 meters to clear the road. Such childish behaviour, I could not help but notice our bus driver with a triumphant smirk on his stupid stubborn face. I have no idea who was at fault or who should have moved but the fact it took almost an hour for anyone to react was the dumb part. These are grown men! Had I thought any of them would have understood me I would have got out the bus and advised them of the solution earlier. I wonder how often this scenario occurs.

Just over an hour later we arrived in Kep, thankfully it was still light. Tuk Tuk touts swarmed the bus as we exited and I engaged the first one to approach me. We needed a place to stay and they are willing to assist so why not use them. Mr Pon was advised of the accommodation we required and loaded up his tuk tuk with our luggage and us and we sped up the road. We had requested a hotel with a pool and the first he took us to was N4 guesthouse which had bungalow twin rooms US$12 for fan and US$20 for air con. They looked ok, especially for the price, but the restaurant at the hotel had not staff so was not open. Mr Pon said he knew another place, which he was happy to drive us to. The other place turned out to be double the price and also did not have an operating restaurant to we went back to the original place. Of course there were no US$12 fan rooms available so we had to settle for an air con room - still cheap at US$20 per night.

After dropping our luggage at our rooms, Mr Pon drove us down to the waterfront where we just missed the sunset but did enjoy a cold beer. Not wanting to eat seafood from the overpriced restaurants there, we took a nice stroll back to the place where the bus had dropped us. I guess this was Kep centre. We had a mediocre dinner in a restaurant and then caught a tuk tuk back to our hotel.

A bit of tv and internet catch up. Tomorrow we are hoping to hire a couple of motorbikes to go exploring.
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THuRSDAY 13TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 194)

After a good sleep, I went to reception to organise motor bikes for the day. As this hotel does not have a functioning restaurant we have to go elsewhere to find food. While waiting for the bikes to be delivered I jumped in the pool for a quick swim - water was lovely and warm and I dried off laying on a sun bed. Then it was time for breakfast.

We rode (Dolly on the back with me, Robyn on the back with Lyn) over to Kep Lodge to have breakfast. Lyn and I spent some time at this hotel during our last visit to Kep. We did not stay here we stayed at the place next door, but if you eat there you can use the beautiful pool. It really is a lovely setting. Breakfast was ok, a little overpriced, but that just seems the norm that food here in Kep is more than what we have been paying in other places in Cambodia. Still breakfast for just under US$6 per head is not too bad. We then took advantage of being able to use the pool - glorious.

Again we lay in the sun drying off a little before heading off on the bikes to explore a little. Just down the road past the roundabout, down to the water front and we were at the crab market.

This is where you can buy the tiny little sand crabs and the ladies pull them out of the water where they are kept alive in bamboo crab nets. You can't get much fresher than that. With the aid of a Cambodian who could speak English we managed to order a kilo of crabs for US$5 and the cost to steam them was 2000 riel = 50c. The crabs were taken from the nets over to where the cookers were. Here another woman killed the little wrigglers by stabbing them with a fork prong and then they were dropped into a big pot and put over a cement hole. A wood fire was built under the pot and about 10 minutes later we were handed the hot little cooked crabs in a plastic bag.

We were able to use one of the tables provided if we purchased a drink and a softie was only 3000 riel = 75c. These crabs may have been tiny and undersized by Australian standards, but the tasted devine. Sweet and delicious and like I said you can't get any fresher than this as just 15 minutes before we were eating them they were still alive in the ocean. Yum!!

Contented with our snack we got back on the bikes and continued along the road. Photo stop at the giant Lorelei statue and the ocean looked inviting enough for a swim and to wash off the crab juice from our messy eating. Since our last visit to Kep they have moved in pristine white sand from a beach further around the coast and I must admit it looks pretty good. Better than the brown slush that was there last time. The water was clean enough that we went in as did handful of other tourists along the beach. The sea water was luke warm in temperature, but still refreshing enough to cool us off.

Refreshed, back on the bikes we headed to the pier where the boats leave for Rabbit Island. We purchased tickets for tomorrow and paid for 2 nights accommodation on the island. This is very basic island bungalow accommodation and I think may be a bit of a shock for some members of our party. Most of this trip we have been staying in higher comfort (more expensive) places to what Lyn and I usually do and these island bungalows are more like what we are used to. But with no air con or fan or tv or power (except between 7pm and 10pm) or internet, I think some may be feel out of their comfort zone. However, this is all that is available if we want to stay on the island so we are going to have to 'rough' it for a few nights.

That organised we climb back on the bikes and continue on. We drive about 10 km out of Kep to visit a couple of pepper farms. Luckily the highway that we had come in on yesterday in the bus was not so busy with traffic and it was only 3km before we had to turn up and ride 4km along a dirt road.

Of course this area is world famous for Kampot pepper farming. We stop at an organic farm and are given a quick 10 tour and told about the 3 kinds of pepper they produce here. Black, red & white. All from the same pepper plant just processed in different ways to get the different colours and strengths. All the pepper is picked by hand when the little corns are a mixture of green and red. The two colours are separated (by hand) and the green peppercorns are boiled for 3 minutes and then are left in the sun to dry for one week, turning them black and a little shrivelled looking. The red ones are boiled for 5 minutes, then dried for 1 week - they maintain their red colour. To get the white pepper corns they boil the red pepper corns for 10 minutes and then the red is rubbed off, leaving white corns to dry for 1 week. We had intentions of purchasing some of the pepper but it seemed to be very expensive at $40 a kilo. We will have a look around in the markets to see if we can get a smaller amount.

Racing down to the water front just before 6pm to watch the sunset while enjoying a beer, we still managed to miss it. Reason being the last half hour of the sunset is lost in the clouds on the horizon. I recall the same happening last time we were on the coast of Cambodia. Never really saw the sun sink into the water back then either. Since we were down there anyway we decided to have the drink and found a nice little restaurant that was serving happy hour cocktails for US$2 - had us in straight away. This is really turning into a cocktail hour tour!!, but what the hell.

We had a drink and decided the food on the menu looked ok so we ordered food and another cocktail and thoroughly enjoyed both. I had prawns cooked in green pepper - fitting after the day we had and Lyn had the same with squid, Robyn the same with chicken. These meals were very tasty may be the most expensive we have had at US$7 each, Dolly had battered prawns at US$5.

Feeling happy we rode the bikes back up to Kep Lodge where unfortunately we missed their happy hour and also could not book any rooms there for when we come back from Rabbit Island on Sunday, as they were too expensive for us. We will try to get rooms at our current hotel N4 for when we get back.

A fairly active day was had today, but also a very enjoyable one. Weather is fantastic and looks like it is going to stay with us for the duration of our stay on the coast.

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FRIDAY 14TH MARCH 2014 (DAY 195)

Our tuk tuk to take us to the boat pier was right on time at ten minutes to eight. Early morning for us, but we arranged for an early pick up so we could have some breakfast before our boat ride to Rabbit Island.

We were able to store our bags here at the hotel and just take a minimum over to the island with us. The next couple of days were going to be spent on the beach so we did not need to take much. Togs, which we wore, jammies and a dry change of clothes to change into at night to go to dinner in. And a towel/toiletries and that was about it.

Breakfast at the pier was ok and on time at 9 we were loaded into a small long tail boat and soon were zooming across the bay. It was a smooth journey as the water was as flat as glass. Boat ride took about 20 minutes, the boat pulling up straight into the beach in front of bungalows.

Home for the next 2 nights are very basic bungalows which have just a large double bed inside (nothing else) and a very basic ensuited bathroom. Cold shower and no electricity but who needs those on an beautiful tropical island. We dumped our bags, did a quick tour of the two tiny rooms of our bungalow and hit the beach.

This is where we wallowed for the remainder of the day. Moving only to cool off in the lovely warm sea only to resume our lazing positions on the very uncomfortable wooden sun beds on the beach.

Movement again for lunch time and we were pleasantly surprised at the price of food was not over the top considering we were captive customers on an island. Fish amok very tasty!

Back to the beach and we did not move again until about 5pm when it was time to find happy hour cocktails, which we did manage to find for US$2. The actual cocktails were somewhat disappointing, but the magnificent sunset and ambiance made up for the lack of cocktails skill of our bar keep.

A short walk up the beach to another restaurant for dinner and to try another cocktail, also disappointing but the food was good.

There is no electricity on the island so each accommodation has their own generator to run the one light bulb that was in our bungalows. However due to the fact that no one was eating or drinking at our place the owners decided on a early night and we had to make our way to our bungalows and inside our bungalows in the darkness. No light calls for an early night and we were all vertical in bed by 8.30pm. It's hot and humid here, hopefully the breeze will come in our window to make it a little bearable.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:01 Archived in Cambodia

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