05/08/2010 Road to Kampot

August 10, 2010

I woke pretty early this morning 06:00, I had a quick breakfast in the Okay restaurant, showered then packed my bags. I was going to meet Sovann for lunch, get a few supplies then head off towards Kampot.

I met Sovann at the Russian Market, a vibrant energetic place with plenty going on. When you’re here get used to haggling, but don’t take it too seriously, remember that in many cases these people are simply trying to survive.

After buying a couple of bags at the russian market, we went for lunch at a cafe called Jacobs Wall (They serve apple pie here).

Jacobs Wall
N11°33.440
E104°55.093

This is a lovely place to eat and even get a hot cappuccino due to the amazing air con. Did I mention they serve apple pie?

Sovann
Tuc-Tuc Driver, Tour Guide and all together super guy (give him a call or drop him an email if you are visiting Phnom Penh).
sovann_tour@yahoo.co.uk
+85517691083

After lunch Sovann assisted me in getting additional supplies for my trip, (things like tools for the bike etc). While we where riding around PP we happened to pass an extremely interesting structure, I had to stop and take a photo. I plan to go back here, maybe spend the day shooting, speak to the people who live here and simply find out a little more about the place.

After all supplies had been found I dropped Sovann back off at his home and said good-by. I set-off to find national road number 3, and start my journey to Kampot, my mission to deliver a message in my care to its recipient at the Honey Bar. It didn’t take long to find national road number 3, although I wouldn’t really call it a road, more a work in progress.


The road started off as a dirt road, then progressed through to rough loose chipping’s (this is pretty hairy when your travelling on two wheels), back to dirt and pot holes again and then progressing to large 40ft drops, created by unfinished bridges. There was of course some safety provision in the form of diversion signs, these where hand drawn arrows pointing in a direction away from the edge of the aforementioned unfinished bridge.

Travelling this road was slow going, as well as the poor condition, I also had the added benefit of the billowing clouds of dust created by a constant flow of heavy construction vehicle’s. I decided I would do the minimal amount of stops possible as I had a fair distance to travel. This however proved to be pretty difficult, as although it was rough going, and although the dust was hurting my lungs and eyes, it was still one of the most breath taking landscapes I had ever seen.


I was trying my hardest not to stop, but would constantly come across something that I either wanted to take a photo of, or just wanted to sit for a while and look at. I came across this building and decided that it would be my last stop, I would take a quick photo then ride all the way to Kampot.


Now the picture it’s self is pretty uninteresting and one I would normally just throw away. Its what happen next that took me completely by surprise. I had literally taken out my camera, took a shot and immediately thought “that’s a bit naff”, and proceeded to pack my camera away. I had zipped up the camera bag when I heard a kind of skidding sound followed by a crunching noise directly in front of me. Two girls riding a scooter had lost grip on the loose gravel and hit the road just a few meters ahead of me. I instantly ran over to where they where. Their bike had taken the majority of the impact but both of them where grazed and cut pretty badly from sliding along the gravel. I managed to get both of them over too my bike were I had a medical kit. By this time local villagers had also arrived over to see what had happened. None of the locals had any medical supplies so I patched both the girls up as best I could, cleaning the blood and grit from their wounds and treating them with an antiseptic cream before putting bandages on them. I gave them the rest of my medical kit and my remaining water before another scooter arrived to take them away. I had done all I could here. I was thanked by the local villagers before jumping back on my bike and continue my journey. I was now well behind time and loosing light quickly.


The light had almost gone now and I still had a long way too go, I couldn’t afford any more stops.
Too late, the light had now completely vanished, I was left riding in the pitch black, over loose gravel, pot holes, with dust, oncoming heavy vehicle’s, bridges which dropped off into rivers and pits, people occasionally simply appearing out of the darkness in the middle of the road, and now a new little twist. It seemed that every single insect in Cambodia had heard about my journey, and thought it appropriate to face slam me attracted by the headlight on my bike. (oh i nearly forgot, I didn’t have a visor either).

On several occasions the bike went from under me, I some how managed to correct it preventing it from going over. I was also forced into the edge of the trees a couple of times by oncoming trucks, but again managed to miraculously coax the bike back to the road. I continued like this for the next 2 hours, tired, sore, without water and with no real idea of where I was going except forward into the darkness. The only thing preventing me from finding some where to pitch my hammock was the though of delivering my message to its recipient and of course an ice cold beer.

Soon though salvation, I had some how made it the rest of the way to Kampot 🙂
After searching for about 30mins I finally found the Cosie Elephant guest house. I checked in, had a quick shower and made my way to the Honey Pot bar to deliver the message in my care. Ok I would deliver it after my first pint, (which went down in under 5 seconds). Sadly the recipient of the message wasn’t there, so I wrote it down and left it for her. I then had some food a couple more pints and retired to my bed. Today was a good day for being alive, I now wondered what tomorrow would bring.


04/08/2010 @21:45 (in Okay guest house)

(transcribed from my paper journal)
Well things where pretty bad for me today, Im currently writing in my journal, with the intent of placing these thoughts directly into my blog. Today I had such a low, I felt depressed, hopeless and irritable, I felt so bad that I couldn’t interact completely with the children. They where amazing though, their smiles and laughs really helped me get through the day. I let Vichetr know how I was feeling, he was very understanding, (I really didn’t want to let anyone down). He told me he had sent the children home to plant rice with their parents, and I could take time off until Monday. I didn’t realised i had not been sleeping very well, maybe a few hours each night, what I needed was to just get away and reconnect with my self again.

I immediately loaded up the bike and set off on the approximate 50km journey to Phnom Penh. It was a pretty uneventful ride apart from going off road a few times to get past slow moving trucks. PP on the other hand was chaos! The rules of the road in PP initially can be intimidating. I found that it’s sometimes better not to acknowledge the person you are about to cut up (cut in front of, steal their space etc, you get the idea). If you acknowledge them you instantly put yourself at a disadvantage. With your weakness exposed your feeble attempt at dominating any space is lost forever, a torrent of vehicle’s will surge into it in a single exquisite fluid movement, leaving you wondering where you went wrong, and how on earth they got 4 people, 2 gas cylinders and a sewing machine onto one scooter.


Once in PP I checked into a guest house, I stayed at:-

Okay Guest House
Long Nget,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia
(0)12 300 804

GPS:
N11°33.588
E104°56.049

The guest house is very friendly and has great reviews from lots of travellers. My room cost me $7 with a fan and a TV. I requested a room on the top floor so I would have views over the city, and maybe a wee smoke before bed.

Once I had somewhere to sleep my next goal was to locate food. I didn’t really want to head out into PP, I was tired and it was getting close to 20:00 (I know not late, but remember I had not been sleeping that well) plus I wanted to get up early to pick-up supplies, and decide where on earth I was actually going to go. I made the easy decision to eat in the Okay restaurant. The food was good with a decent choice of options, both local food and western.

While in the restaurant I got chatting to a young guy from Switzerland. He lived in Cambodia and worked on a boat that took tourists to Vietnam. As we chatted it was clear that he was broken hearted, we chatted for just over an hour. During the conversation he mentioned a place called Rabbit island near to the town of Kep. He informed me that if it was seclusion and solitary that I was looking for, then I would find it on place called Rabbit island. As I expressed a keen interest he gave me the directions, he also said that if I took national road 3 then I would pass through the town of Kampot (a coastal town where his ex-girlfriends sister had a guest house and bar). As i was saying good night he kindly asked that if I did go through Kampot, then if I could pass on a message for him. I figured this was as good a reason as any to go there and asked him for the message. With that I retired to my room.


I showered, phoned my friends Ali and Dave in the UK, (just to let them know i was still alive), turned on the TV and laid on my bed to write my journal (which brings us to pretty much where we are now).

(Oh quick note, if your in cambodia then get to know a local who can get you a sim card for your mobile phone. It is so much cheaper to call overseas using a local card. I got a $5 card at the start of the month and still have $2.5 on it. I’ve made a few overseas calls and loads of local ones).

While writing I thought it would be a good idea to listen to a Khmer channel on the TV, just hearing the sounds seems to help me learn. Too my surprise Im finding it hard to locate a channel in Khmer. There are about 20 or so channels in all, and I’ve found about three in Khmer. There’s lots of english and Mandarin but thats about it. The three channels that are in Khmer are saturated with the mindless brain washing adverts for products that just aren’t needed. If you buy this you will be a better person, this will make your life better, look at these celebrates they are better than you, you can try and be like them if you buy this though. I find it atrocious that a country which has been physically destroyed is now in my opinion being socially destroyed as well. How many times has history shown countries and culture destroyed first through war and now through globalisation. Apologies rant is over….


Its probably time for me to sleep,

peace & love dx