Friday, 18 November 2011

Kep, Koh Tonsay and Kampot...

Arriving by bus to the sleepy village of Kep, the initial feeling I had for this place was the love of calmness. When I hopped off the bus with my huge backpack, a local offered me help and guided me to the place I wanted to stay. Here, the room was basic but pretty cheap, plus we had our own room mates...4 juicy cockroaches! The town itself is famous for crab meat, the local market holds the name of the 'famous crab market' and everybody seems to eat crab every single day with rice as part of their diet. The town is so quiet and calm, that I love the beauty is holds, the people here are sincerely friendly, taking time to talk to me and sharing experiences and stories. The two days we have in Kep is spent wandering around this lovely place, visiting the old 'haunted' French style houses dotted around the town, strolling along the coast and experiencing the wonderful and lively hustle and bustle of the crab market and restaurants around the place. Kep is a quaint yet beautiful town that has the luxury touches of delicious foods, friendly people and most of all a beautiful landscape. 

We headed over to an island not too far away called Koh Tonsay, the means of travel is hitching a ride with a local fisherman. Once, I was able to take one step onto this small idyllic paradise of an island, I literally fell in love with the place. It is totally undeveloped, the whole island only has around 15 bamboo bungalows lined on one side of the island, close the lovely white coated sands of the beach. The local lady greets us and then shows us to our own bungalow, overlooking the sea facing out onto the beach. The days spent here are used wisely, exploring the jungle areas of the island, meeting locals, relaxing on the beach and swinging in my hammock. As there is no electricity on the island, it gives the place an even more inhabited feeling and makes me feel more with nature and the real way of undeveloped, untouched and beautiful Cambodian life. One day, we meet another people from England and we arrange with a local to do something more adventurous, so the next morning, we pack a small bag with things to get through the day...water, towel, suncream, snorkel, fins, mask etc. The local fisherman takes us to two other islands close to Kho Tonsay, the first island is a huge mound of wild green trees, the island is unhabited and there is no beach, just one small inlay of red rocks on the North side. Here, the boat crawls close and we jump off and spend an hour snorkeling in the sea, taking in the underwater world! Then, we hop back on the boat and head over to another island West, this is where the local fisherman live, around 80 families live on this island and it is not open to tourists. However, with the local fisherman, we venture over and meet his brother and their family and lots of local children come to greet us with open arms and smiles. One thing that strikes me about Cambodians is how welcoming they are, we literally communicated in broken English and he provided us with chairs and iced coffee. After spending time with the locals, we walked across some tree land area and then joined our fisherman guide with his family in his home. This is where his wife rustled up a huge bowl of 10 crabs, rice and fresh chili. Even though I do not like seafood, especially crab, I had to eat the food given to me to show respect and thankfulness for what his lovely wife had made. The family don't really have many material things, there house is made of wood and they all sleep, eat and live in one big room, however, the friendliness and warm engagement they have, draws me in to be not only thankful to this lovely family but to truly love and enjoy my amazing day and spectacular experience. After a wonderful meal, we spent the end of the day cruising back over to Koh Tonsay, reflecting on my experiences of the day, whilst chilling outside my bungalow enjoying the sunset. 

As we departed the beautiful paradise of Koh Tonsay, we opted to travel over to Kampot via tuk tuk. Our driver was uber cool, sporting cool shades and wearing a cowboy hat. Arriving into Kampot we where greeted my a local guesthouse owner who spoke fluent French, Khmer and Engligh. Kampot is famous and renowned for it special 'Kampot Pepper', which is grown locally and produced. The Kampot Pepper is also included on lots of local menu's, designed as a special sauce that can be applied to meats, fish, vegetables or anything edible. We spent our days walking around the old French colonial style town, visiting many to a wonderful bakery/cafe called 'Sisters II', this place was owned and ran by a local lady. The idea for her business came when she grew up in an orphanage and herself and two other sisters, set up the cafe style places called 'Sister's 1,2 &3'. In each cafe, everything is homemade, from the bread to the delicious cakes that I ate on most days served with a lovely cup of tea. After a couple days of exploring the quiet town, we opted to venture further West and embark on a journey to the crazy, lively, vibrant town of Sihanoukville...otherwise known as 'Sinville'!! 

Chilling on my first day on Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)

Outside my bungalow watching sunset

Enjoying sunset, eating our food on the beach

The view from my bungalow, enjoying the sunset on this paradise island

Strolling along the beach after dinner, one of many fisherman's boats

Exploring the 'haunted' old French colonial mansions in Kep

Walking up to the crab market in Kep at sunset

Me and John chilling in our hammocks

Off to explore the Koh Tonsay island (hiking in the jungle)

Meeting the local fisherman's family

My éntourage around the island

Driving along in our tuk tuk in Kampot

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