February 27 – March 2, 2016
Another bus trip and we find ourselves at the ocean side village of Kep, Cambodia. While Christine likes the ocean, Mark loves it and can never get enough of it. Once again, we walk to our hotel… 2 km up the only hill in Kep to our traditional Khmer-style accommodation. The owners are surprised to see that we walked instead of taking a $2USD tuk tuk ride (that savings means more smoothies for us!). A young couple arrives later in their tuk tuk, I chuckle, show Christine and we high five that these old farts walked while those young kids took a tuk tuk. Maybe if they didn’t spend so much time on their smartphones, PlayStation or Xbox…
We are staying at “Khmer Hands”, a place opened by an American traveller who settled down in Cambodia and married a lovely Cambodian. They opened a small school on the site and they are training local youth in the tourism industry, sewing, local handcrafts and English. They have various styles of bungalows… creating a small village feel. Our room is an elevated bungalow with wood shutters for windows, a mosquito net to sleep under and a fan for cooling. Geckos on the ceiling eat the bugs that find their way into our room and poop wherever they want (another reason to love the mosquito net!). We love geckos, so we quickly become fast friends. A couple of them are even comfortable with our voyeurism as they “get it on”. An educational experience to say the least.
Kep was a booming resort town where rich folks owned seaside homes. Sadly, civil war and the Khmer Rouge changed all that and the waterside community is now trying to rebuild. Situated right along the ocean, we can imagine what this place must have been like years ago. Once fancy, expensive homes now lay in ruins, abandoned, bombed, and graffitid while mother nature absorbs them and squatters call them home. Our days here were for walking, chilling, hiking in Kep National Park, and mountain biking to the salt fields.
Kep has a terrific walkway along the ocean that goes for kilometres. Although it is mostly abandoned, crumbling, a bit smelly and covered in rubbish, the green ocean by its side easily makes us see right past the scars. Locals gather along the walkway with their red ice boxes trying to make some money selling pop, water and beer. Cows graze wherever they can find something to eat.
Kep is known for its seafood and market right on the ocean. Crab is king here, but loads of fish and prawns as well.
We rent mountain bikes. The bike is not my Santa Cruz carbon Tallboy 29er that I so very miss, it is a name I have never heard of. The brakes are reversed (left is for back, right is for front), but it doesn’t really matter, because they do not work anyway. My chain falls off twice during our travels. Christine’s bike is a bit better but without tread on the rubber. We strap our day packs on and head out for an amazing day of riding along the ocean and through the local streets. We observe all the destruction, we stop at a local coffee shop (another American and Cambodian couple) and I find homemade chocolate cake with peanut butter icing – I was in heaven!
Looking like bandits on bikes (trying to hide from the intense sun) we ride out to seriously cool, salt fields. Massive fields of salt lay adjacent to the ocean and are “farmed” in the dry season. Clunky looking storage sheds built every 500 metres or so amongst white ponds provide storage for the delicious chunks of salt that are raked off the top (predominantly by women – it is a man’s world after all). It takes 30-45 days to produce salt following a flooding from the ocean. Children fascinated with us and our bikes greet us. Their clothes are filthy, their bare feet black from dirt, and they are unable to speak a word of English but a smile between us and a friendly wave is all we needed to get them chatting to each other in Cambodian.
Khmer Hands is located about a kilometre walk from Kep National Park. We spent the next day hiking around this small National Park located amongst Cambodian-sized mountains. The hike provides awesome views of the ocean, a variety of fruit trees and shade from the intense sun. We even came across a large group of Macaque monkeys. A bit surprising, these little (and bigger) beasts provided some tree-swinging entertainment until momma or poppa monkey grunted, showed its teeth and had us running away with our tail between our legs.
This is a short video of the display the monkeys put on.
Khmer Hands was an amazing place to stay. Sleeping under a mosquito net was seriously cozy and it was very difficult to get out of bed in the morning. The stars shone brightly at night, waves crashed on the shore in the distance, a variety of insects made their cool sounds while geckos protected us. Christine only had one minor freakout one night when a beautiful Praying Mantis flew into her arm and then rested above our head. We used Google to learn the symbolism of a Praying Mantis coming for a visit. In China, the mantis has been honoured for her mindful movements. The mantis comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm… mission accomplished.
Mark and Christine
Sample Expenses for Kep, Cambodia (all in USD)
- $3.25 pancakes and fresh fruit
- $3.50 pancakes and scrambled eggs
- $3.25 muesli, fruit, milk
- $11.25 dinner for 2 (Mac cheese, ginger vegetables, 2 beers)
- $12.00 dinner for 2 (burgers and potatoes, 3 beers)
- $3.50 veggie sandwich
- $1.50 PB and Jam toasted deliciousness (a treat taste of home)
- $1.50 x 2 for lime juice and Sprites
- $2 chocolate cake
- $2.00 for 2 smoothies side of road, ice must have been okay… we’re still here
- $0.70 1.5L bottle water
- $8.00 dinner by ocean (fried rice shrimp/crab, 2 beers)
- $4.00 for 2 mountain bike rentals
- $11 x 2 for bus to Kep (rookie move… Had hotel book it, paid extra)
- $88 For 4 nights at Khmer Hands, traditional Khmer raised bungalow with bathroom and a fan. No screens or windows, just a mosquito net and leave everything open all day and night. We never locked the door.
- $2.00 National park entrance fee