Leaving Phnom Pehn was tough, it was the best of times bundled up with one big depressing afternoon. Yet off in the distance there was a dream, the dream of Kampot green pepper crab. That was the reason for our (Shane, Arielle, A&E) 5 hour journey from Phnom Pehn to Kampot and Kep. The three night stay was all about food; really really good food. The freshly plucked green peppercorns, still on their stem, fried with other unexplainable goodness, and either crab or shrimp, made for an incredible meal. Actually, everything we had, the soups, rice, and seafood, were meals we couldn’t exactly compare with anywhere else on earth. Kep was 100% worth the effort, even if you don’t like to get your hands dirty plucking flesh out of shells. Kampot, also had some good stuff to offer, surprisingly, the best pizza we’ve had in Southeast Asia, and THE BEST ribs in Cambodia (the guy just won a cook off in the capital). The town was sleepy, the streets were empty, had dozens of abandoned homes from bad times past, and the rain barely stopped falling, but E & I would still go back in a heartbeat. Cambodians are just some of the nicest people we’ve met on our trip.
Now, imagine a terrible emergency, and you for some reason needed to drive to a hospital fast. How would you be weaving through traffic? How desperately would you be using your horn? Would you pass traffic through oncoming traffic at a busy intersection and run motorcycles off the road? Now what if it was raining hard and you had no defrost? That, minus the emergency, was what our drive (from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh City) was like: reckless and dangerous. And the one question which no one could answer honestly was: How long? The day started a bit Gilligan Islandish…a 4 hour tour was what we were expecting, but we got 15 in all. For all of those hours, we were also blessed to be sitting next to a 40-50 year old human disease (alcoholic and drug addict) from New Zealand, who had mostly passport stamps from land crossings between Vietnam and Cambodia, and had the look of someone you would never leave anyone alone with for any amount of time. The bus driver at one point, stopped, got up, removed the terrified girl who was sitting next to him, made him put on a seat belt, and then made another employee sit next to him, just to put other passengers at ease. He mumbled, complained, yelled, had conversations with himself, laughed out loud, drank, drank, and drank all by himself THE WHOLE WAY. And did we mention he was wearing a blue sequined baseball hat, to top his outfit off?
Today, we’re in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh to be exact, which in attitude and in tranquility, may as well be one million miles from Cambodia. Still, after one bowl of Pho, we are excited to be here, but not excited at all to only have 20 days left before going home.
**Travel Information: We stayed at NYNY Guesthouse in Kampot and for a number of reasons we don’t recommend it. RikiTikiTavi or Mea Culpa get you the most bang for your buck and the latter has the best pizza we found on our trip. Rustykeyhole is THE place for ribs, they fall right off the bone. Make sure to get a massage from one of the blind massage places along the river in Kampot and JolieJolie is a great little spa for a facial or waxing. Kampot is a bit more “lively” than Kep, but Kep is where the crab is. Make sure you go to the crab market, not just Kep beach. Order a shrimp soup or green pepper shrimp, you won’t regret it. And, most importantly, if you are going to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon from Kep or Kampot, make sure you go through Phenom Penh. Its much easier and less stressful than what we did.