Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Phnom Penh

I Continue From Here 

Backpacking Cambodia: Day 013 (24-Feb-2019) 

To The Capital

At 6:15AM, when the reception had not opened yet and the guards were still sleeping, I walked out my hostel and marched towards the Captiol bus office. My bus left at 7 AM, as scheduled. The entire stretch of road from Kampot to Phnom Penh is under construction. They are constructing a four lane. Hence, it was mud road for several kilometres. A few hours gone, we had dust enter the bus and in no time the entire bus was filled with dust. Apparently, the driver had not shut the doors properly. Anyways, except for that one incident, rest of the trip was pleasant. 

At Phnom Penh, I walked a long distance from the bus station to Onederz hostel. It is located by the river. Hostel offered good food, so I decided to have my lunch there. The fried noodles and mango smoothie I ordered was delicious. 

I had originally planned to visit the National museum but when I got there, I decided not to go in. I also returned back from the palace gates. Somehow, I did not like the place. May be it was the heat or it was the crowd. All I wanted to do was sit in a CafĂ© that had AC and sip on a cup of tea. 

I went to the central market to buy some silver. This place is filled with shops that sell nothing but silver jewellery for real cheap price. Bargaining is a must there. I go up to 50%  discount on two rings. I am not sure if these are original but for that price, it did not matter. 

While returning back to the hostel, I walked into a small store run by an old lady. I was in search of condensed milk. I began explaining to her in sign languages. She seemed to understand and handed me a Teapot condensed milk. I bought two of them. She was really happy to have made this deal even without understanding the language. I was happy too. 

Back in my hostel Dorm, I met a traveller from Taiwan. We had a good chat about our travels, work and life in general. He was about 50 years old and had recently quit his job to pursue masters in psychology and was planning to shift his career. We were thus on the same boat. 

At night, I went to the night market, that was just a few blocks away from my hostel. There were kids performing at the entrance, a live orchestra at the centre of the ground that was surrounded by shops selling all kinds of things. I found some good magnets. 

The food court looked interesting. There were carpets placed in the centre for people to sit and the food stalls surrounded them. Unfortunately there was hardly anything vegetarian for me. I decided to have some Coconut ice cream. It was delicious. Overall it was a happy atmosphere out there.

What I did not like about this city is that, prostitution is common here. You could be just walking on a street and several pimps would come over to you with offers. There are many night clubs and massage centres. The employees keeping inviting you as you walk by. However, they do not bother you beyond that request, which is a good thing. Also, a common site around here is that of an old man walking hand in hand with young Cambodian girls. Among them were a few Indians as well on their secret vacations perhaps. 

Bokor Mountains & Kep

I Continue From Here 

Backpacking Cambodia: Day 012 (23-Feb-2019) 

Around Kampot

On a hired scooter, I decided to explore the locations around Kampot. Since there are no public transport here, this is the best way to get around. I had breakfast at a nice bakery/restaurant by the riverside. I first rode to Bokor mountains. It was an amazing experience to ride up the mist covered mountains. A light jacket is a must as it gets really colder as you gain height. 

I stopped near the statue of Lok Yeah Mao, an ancient mythical heroine. 

At the Black palace opposite, there were a group of officials from the archeology department. They were erecting a board with a brief description about the place. There were also a few bikers who were racing up the hill. I next headed to the old church built by the French. From the hill behind the church. you have an excellent view of the city of Kampot and the sea. I also plucked some wild plants to carry back with me. I met the Archeology department here as well. 

I next made my way to the old casino in ruins. Behind the casino is another beautiful view point. 

There is a new casino built here but hardly any travellers go there. Popokvil waterfall was all dried up but it was interesting to view the rock formations.

This sketch I found on my hostel wall depicts all the attractions in Bokor mountains. 

I headed back to Kampot for lunch. I ordered a veg pizza without mushrooms. The mushrooms were generously replaced by pineapple. It was delicious. After lunch, I rode to Kep. Keep is a beach town bout 30 kms from Kampot. It was an interesting ride. Almost everyday, I have seen weddings here almost every day. A part of the street is occupied to set up a stage and house the guests. 

The locals had gathered along the beach and had occupied the promenade. They had loud speakers on which loud music was being played and they enjoyed the afternoon by eating, drinking and chatting along with family and friends. 

I tried some roasted dosa like dish that contained grated coconut and sugar mixture inside it. It was difficult for me to memorise the name.  

Next stop, Kbal Romeas historic caves. I found the archeology department there again.  They smiled at this happy coincidence and since we could not speak each others language, we stopped at that. I met a small boy from the village here who offered to guide me through the caves for a fee. 

From here, I rode to the caves of Phnom Chhngok. Here again there were a few village kids offering to guide tourists into the cave. But I felt like it wasn’t necessary as I had already explored one. Moreover, I was extremely tired by the time I reached there. I just wanted to see the place and head back to the hostel. This cave has an impressive shrine sheltering a Shiva Linga. 

This had been a long day for me and I chose a local restaurant and had some Amok and Mango shake before heading back to the hostel and calling it a day. 

Continued Here 

Monday, March 25, 2019


I Continue From Here 

Backpacking Cambodia: Day 011 (22-Feb-2019) 

To Kampot 

I was at the common area by 7 AM.  My shoes were still wet. I had brought an orchid plant from the jungle and Lim gave me one more from his collection. He also gave me seeds of passion fruit. As the tea was very light, I chose to have some coffee with milk. Instead of milk, most places serve tea or coffee with condensed milk. It’s incredibly tasty. I am definitely going to carry a few cans of condensed milk when I head back. 

Our taxi arrived at around 8AM. The driver was a cheerful young boy. The Amercian and I were leaving together. I thanked Lim and his family before leaving. It had truly been one of the best experiences on this trip. 

At the village, our driver found a dead hen on the road. He decided to hand it to the butcher so that he could have some tasty dinner later that night. 

The drive back was interesting. I was sad to leave the mountains and the jungles. We again stopped at village homes as there were people who wanted something or the other bought from the town. We had one villager join us in the car as well. We drove past the hills and then past the dams constructed by the Chinese before reaching Koh Kong.

At Koh Kong, I almost immediately found a shared taxi to Kampot. I was sharing the ride with two girls, a boy monk and a man accompanying him. I informed our driver that I was a vegetarian. He assured me that he would help me find some food at where we would stop. But unfortunately, there was nothing vegetarian in these stalls that serve food. The lady offered to serve me some vegetable gravy by removing the meat from it. I refused that offer as that would not work with me. I had packed some biscuits anyway, so, I did not stay hungry. The boy monk seemed very curious to observe everything that was passing by as we drove. Occasionally, he would give me a smile. I wondered what life is like for these young monks. 

The weather was terribly hot. Men had their shirts folded above their stomach thus displaying their paunch. Many chose to drink packed cold drinks or frozen coconut. Another interesting site here are the animals. Most cats have their tails cut and the dogs look like they are cross between local and foreign breeds. 

At Kampot, I was dropped at my hostel- Mad monkey. Its a neat place; a bit away from the centre though. As I love to walk, it did not bother me. I freshened up and let my shoes and clothes dry in the balcony. My dorm mates were extremely reserved. I walked to the city centre, found a Capitol bus office and booked a ticket to Phnom Penh for the 24th. Again, booking directly at the office was $3 cheaper than what the hostel price. I simply loved Kampot. It is very classy with its river side restaurants. While on one end of the river is an estuary, on the other are the beautiful Bokor mountains. 

Kampot is truly another elegant town in Cambodia after Battambang. However, unlike the latter, it is a bit more touristy. There are a lot of shops and restaurants by the riverside. Since I had not had my lunch, I chose a nice restaurant and ordered some tasty spring rolls and a tea pot. I took a walk along the neighbouring streets, that are full of shops. I was hoping to find some interesting fridge magnets or something that I can carry back. Unfortunately, all shops here sell similar or rather same products.

I went back to the hostel, relaxed for a while, went to the night food market that is setup every night, very close to the Mad monkey hostel. At around 9 PM, I chose a nice vegetarian restaurant in the city centre. The food was yummy. Kampot has a very peaceful setup and no wonder travellers love this place. At night, the locals had gathered near the river side to relax. 

Continued Here