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. But wait, there’s more!
We went out until about 4:30AM our first night and ate breakfast at about noon. Erika and I met up with Shane and Arielle again for some fun and food in Phnom Penh with the goal of reaching Kep or Kampot to unwind and have some crab. But mostly just for crab, green pepper crab. Apart from being a bit bleary eyed we were looking forward to the day. Sunny (Sunn Ny), our taxi driver from the other day found us right away and after some quick negotiating (he’s a realist), we were off to a shooting range. We heard rumors, stories, and thought why not give it a try and shoot big guns you couldn’t shoot back home. Erika and I have lived in Idaho and Arizona, and had the opportunity to shoot all sorts of big hunting and hand guns, but neither of us has a big comfort level with them, even if we hold them with confidence. But wait, there’s more!
We have gone from one lovely country to another. Although instead of the quiet calm that the Laos people exhibit, Cambodians are incredibly friendly and engaging. Granted Siem Reap is a bit of Disneyland for adults, but mostly because the infrastructure is so developed and the city well manicured thanks to the tourism dollars. Still it was nice to see Cambodians also visiting and taking pride in their great temples. Maybe we’ll encounter something different in Phenom Penh tomorrow. For now, we enjoyed a lovely 3 days here, $1 street food, beautiful temples at Angkor (more coming soon!), and country, despite its haunting recent history, recovering well.
We love Laos. The clouds, the mountains, the rice fields. The thundering rains. The jungle and waterfalls. The tin roofs. The people! The food! Its been a great country. Lao people are probably the most chill and relaxed of anywhere in Southeast Asia. Three weeks have gone by way too fast and it hasn’t been nearly long enough. If you come to this part of the world, carve out some time for this wonderful, welcoming country.
p.s. Saludos a nuestra familia en Dos Caminos!
“How much longer are you traveling for?”
“What day is today? Oh wow, we have 1 month left.”
Before these words came out of my mouth it felt like our flight home was forever far away. But uttering those words, “1 month left” has brought it so much closer. For the past couple of months I’ve let all the questions I had (too many to count) float around in my head as we travel. They’ve appeared like a ballet, some taking up more time on stage than others, some flitting around romantically, some somber and filled with jagged movements. As my sweetheart says, “ask the right questions and live into the answers.” But now it seems with an ending in sight, my brain is starting to realize that some of those questions will require an answer sooner than I would like. And so I wonder….does the urge to answer the questions come from knowing the end is in sight, or does the end come because the answers start to appear?
We have a lot to look forward to when we get home – the wedding of a good friend, Amando’s brothers wedding, and our own wedding and all of the festivities surrounding that. Yet it seems that getting married will be the easiest thing for me to do. We will both be looking for new jobs and hopefully getting an apartment sooner rather than later so we don’t wear out our welcome with our parents. Our timing in coming home seems like a natural end, yet I know that its the beginning of something else.
After a lovely 5 hour ride in a half empty bus with leg room (yeah!), we were told the bus wasn’t going any further. All of us jumped out of the bus to see why it had stopped. As we stood there in the rain we saw that the road twisted up ahead and was flooded as far as we could see. The town of Thom Kong Lo lay just 45 minutes away and beyond that Kong Lor cave; the whole reason for our visit to this part of Central Laos. A 7.5km-long subterranean tunnel, 30m wide and between 20 and 100m high, located in the National Protected Area Forest Area of Hinboun Mountain (the cave was formed by the Nam Hinboun river), this seemed like the perfect place to get just a bit more off the beaten path. But wait, there’s more!
The sky parted in two, one side overcast, the other a stirring mess of charcoal ominously getting closer. The winds picked up, and right away we knew we had to return our bikes or be stuck walking in what looked like a serious shower. We raced, I returned mine, and it turns out Erika had forgotten her bike lock key. She heads back and I started to jog a three block French colonial stretch of Luang Prabang. I get to the corner of our street, only 100 meters from our place, when I hear a commotion and see people running in all directions. Just half a street down you could see the rain pummeling people racing towards cover. Anyone caught for just five seconds in the open would be soaked. But wait, there’s more!