A trio of Cambodia’s Southern towns

With our time on the pepper farm over we caught a tuk-tuk to Kep. Kep is a small town on the coast and is famous for its crab cooked with green pepper. We accidently arrived at the market rather than the crab market, so we had a fair walk to get into town. Luckily, this took us past a coffee shop recommended by one of the volunteers. With a cinnamon bun and chocolate cake to go with our coffee we were very happy. The ginger tom kitten to cuddle, was the icing on the cake. We also got to hear a little more about current affairs in Cambodia and how democracy is dying.

A lovely snuggly kitten

Kep’s famous crab

After our break, we walked into town to see the crab market and past the numerous restaurants offering seafood. We weren’t hungry after our snack, so we gave it a miss and figured out how to get the bus to Kampot. It was pretty easy as all the shops sold bus tickets, so we booked ourselves on the next bus.

Some of the fish cooking at the crab market

Half an hour later, we arrived in Kampot which is a slightly larger town than Kep. We found our guesthouse and then wandered town. We were shocked by how European the market area was. It seemed we could eat pizza, schnitzel or fish and chips if we wanted to. Although the market area was quite nice it didn’t feel a bit like Cambodia. We settled for a sundowner in a bar called the floating garden. It was a nice spot to watch the boats leave on sunset cruises and still enjoy the sunset on a floating pontoon. We didn’t feel much like European food so we went in search of something Cambodian. It turned out to be a great move. We found a street restaurant called Mr Sok’s. His menu was in English and he was very friendly. We ordered the green pepper seafood and chicken Amok. Both we delicious, but the chicken amok was really amazing and bursting with flavour. We asked Mr Sok about the ingredients and he happily showed us the galangal root and finger root which he cooked with. We are looking forward to having a chance to make his recipe.

Sunset on the river

A really cold glass or two

We returned to our guesthouse and had a drink with the owner and a friend of his before bed. The next morning we would be catching a bus to Phnom Penh to collect our passports and visa extension but we had a little time to spare. We spent the morning walking to the salt fields which are around 4km from town. The walk wasn’t the most scenic but we did see a lot of locals going about their daily lives. The salt fields themselves are a large expanse of flat land which is flooded at high tide by a series of channels. The water trapped in the shallow pools is left to evaporate before the large salt crystals are collected. We had a walk across the channels and saw some of the salt forming, but it was too early for it to be collected.

Salt fields
Salt flowers forming

We enjoyed seeing Kampot and Kep and there seems to be plenty of day trips to caves and farms in the region but as towns there isn’t too much to write home about. After two brief town visits we had one more remaining. Our next stop was Sihanoukville on the way to Koh Rong island. Sihanoukville has become slightly infamous for being full of Chinese and losing any charm it once had. We arrived after an overly long bus journey from Phnom Penh and the darkness certainly hid some of the ugliness.

The next morning we saw the true extent of what happens when the Chinese move in. Sihanoukville was apparently once a nice place to relax by the sea. At the moment it is a giant construction site which is springing up towering hotels and casinos to cater for rich Chinese. We definitely understood why people told us not to spend any time there and why all the European expats had moved to Kampot. It is a complete mess and it’s really no wonder that everyone wants to leave.

The entrance to the royal pier

We caught a tuk-tuk through town to get to the Royal Pier (rickety half built pier) and catch a boat well away from the unsightly Sihanoukville. We were certainly glad to be getting out of there and onto somewhere better.

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