Kampot to Kep and the crab market

Posted from Kep, Krong Kep, Cambodia.

Tonight I am in Kep sleeping in the most amazing Bungalow I have ever slept in. But first I need to tell the tale.

I woke up with diarrhea and some stomach pain. Fuck. I had already booked a ticket to Kampot, so I thought quickly and concluded drugs would be in my best interest. I took a Cipro and a Gravol and went and sat on the toilet for a little while. My main concern was that it would turn into projectile vomiting. Some banana pancakes later and a whack of water I felt good enough to venture off and begin my trek east towards Vietnam.

From Sihanoukville I caught a minivan to Kampot. It was nearly 30 minutes late in picking me up, and after they finally got everyone and then re-arranged and retied in the luggage to the back of the van umpteen times – the backdoor didn’t even come close to shutting, it was an hour before we were on our way. This minivan was crammed full with 13 passengers, one driver and one barker – the guy who checks all the tickets and arranges the pickups.

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It took a little over two hours down partially paved roads, still in disrepair since the days of the Khmer Rouge. Some hills were creeping up in the distance and the jungle looked lush and unspoiled. The way of life seemed much calmer.

As we approached Kampot, I already found myself liking the area. It’s not that it was exceptionally touristy, because there were plenty of us, it’s that it was really laid back. Very rarely were tuktuk drivers shouting at me repeated, and even the locals seemed to be lackidascial as they strolled down the promenade that lined the river-front. There were a lot of ex-pats here, though. Westerners had opened businesses and guest houses, and at times I wondered what drew so many people here. I am gonna start going with easily accessible pot, being out of the way and a cool town, and old retired men can find young women who will … be with them.

I went for some pizza as my stomach was still feeling flippy, but dumb me didn’t do my gut any favours when I ordered the one with chilis on it.

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I stayed at a guesthouse called Blissful on the backpackers street. There are other houses along the river, but this was easy and they had a room above the bar for $4. My own room. Blissful seemed like it was a favourite for retired Westerners who get more bang for their buck in Cambodia. Ahem. There were other backpackers there, but it kind of felt like we were merely tolerated as a way to pay the bills.

Tuesday is quiz night, so me and some other travelers formed a team and competed against these retired expats. There were seven teams and while we came far from first, we weren’t last.

In the morning I went to Café Espresso and had myself a $5 eggs benedict. It was a treat, plus my stomach was still in angst. I’m sure I could’ve found a much cheaper breakfast, but those eggs were amazing.

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I had the guesthouse book my ticket to Kep for $2.50. I later found out that locals pay $1. There is a lot of this in Cambodia. Foreigners will always be charged more.

The ride to Kep is very very bumpy. We were on a huge bus – the bus goes through Kep on its way to Phnom Penh, but the air conditioning was shit. I sweated my face off and the toothless Cambodian lady next to me was laughing at me in between her naps.

The ride to Kep is only about 40 minutes. I got off the bus and the guest house buzzards were in feeding mode trying to get people to book in. I got conned by a French guy to stay at his house way on the other side of Kep. The tuktuk ride cost me $1 there and luckily only $.50 to get back. The house was crap and it was too far from the crab market.

As I was only staying one night in Kep, my only thought was to go for a crab dinner. Peppered crab is the specialty here. Basically all the crab is caught that day, sometimes only hours before your meal.

I walked for a while but it was hot, so I spent $1 on another tuktuk who took me to this amazing new little place called Bacoma just a small distance from the crab market. The bungalows are made of stone, are round and have double beds with amazing mattresses, clean white linen, great mosquito nets and oodles of privacy. The bar and lounge area is open to nature and incredible homey and cozy. It’s a small place with only five bungalows, and a few other rooms, but it is gorgeous. I paid $9. The bathrooms are shared, but they too are in their own round villas. I had a shower and washed my clothes feeling very happy to be able to be naked and move around without worry of touching any scummy walls.

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The problem with Kep, though, well, there’s two. One is that they get their electricity from Vietnam, so there are common power outages that go all day. The power was off when I got to Bacoma. The other problem is there are no ATMs. None. So after paying for my room I realized I only had $15US left. My bus ticket to Ha Tien is $9. That left $6 to eat for the day and morning and figure out how to exchange my Thai Baht in Ha Tien after I crossed the border. I was screwed.

I decided to go for a bike ride (free bikes) and see if I could exchange money in the market. Surely someone would do it. So when I finally found someone and went to pull out my Baht, there was a $20 bill I’d kept just in case of emergency. Phew. The guy was gonna give me a crap exchange rate, so I thanked him for his offer and left.

Kep is small but very spread out. Many Cambodians come here for holiday because it has a beach (a crappy one.) There’s salt fields and caves. Some people even climb Bokor Mountain, though it’s more of a hill. But that brings me back to the crab market.

After I prearranged my ticked to Ha Tien – a whopping $9 for about an hour long trip – compared to the $2.5 I paid to get to Kep, I grabbed a bike and headed to the crab market to see what I could get into. I went to one of the stalls that had a nice set of tables close to the water. It was only around 5 p.m. so there wasn’t really anyone out having dinner yet.

The view from my table.

The view from my table.

I ordered a small plate of boiled crab with pepper sauce and a bit of rice. My crab came out a few minutes later, still warm, though obviously previously boiled. Seeing as my stomach was still being an asshole I threw caution to the wind. I was already on Cipro. What could go wrong? Then I saw the ants on the serving tray. Ho-boy. But the lady showed me how to break into the crab, ripping the first one apart for me and showing me what I could eat. I kind of screwed up the second one, but I still think I did okay for my first time attacking a crab.

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A kitten jumped on my lap and mewed for some meat, so I gave it some. I’m a sucker. When I finished they brought me a bowl with lime slices to wash my hands and a plate of fresh fruit of some unknown variety. I ate it. It was all quite good. I was impressed. I paid them my $5 and biked home to find the power was back on. And there was wifi! Yay. So down to the lounge area I went and played online trying to find out how to get to Can Tho from Ha Tien. But that’s tomorrow’s story.

Checking the crab traps before the dinner rush.

Checking the crab traps before the dinner rush.

 

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