Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day 2 - On the dot at Kampot

Pic - CW

Pic - CW

Pic - CW

Pic - CW

One of the best things about touring is the great sleep we always seem to enjoy. 8 hours on the road does wonders to wear us down. Our night at Meas Homestay was no exception. In fact I was enjoying such a good sleep in my extremely comfortable room that I actually got up a bit later, which was quite embarrassing as I wanted to ensure breakfast was properly prepared for the team.

That was not necessary! Siphen and Mach laid out both a beautiful Western breakfast of crispy toasted baquettes with eggs, as well as an Asian one of piping hot rice porridge with condiments. Fresh fruit was served too. Everyone was up and about, all chirpy and eating heartily. O yes, their coffee was to die for and Chris our resident coffee connoisseur gave it two thumbs up.

Pic - CW

We mucked around a bit to enjoy the beauty of the Meas property and even had time for a group picture. Mindful that we were keeping our hosts from scooting off to work, we packed our panniers and got our bikes ready to roll in record time.

However, they didn't seem to mind going in a bit late for school and told us to take our time and enjoy the morning. Such was their warm hospitality! We finally bade farewell to Sipean and Mach, and rode off through the rice fields towards Highway 3 with the brightest of smiles.

It was to be a shorter ride of only 80km today, so there was no great hurry to hit the road. Lots of time to stop and take pictures. The small quiet road that led us to Highway 3 was paved but strangely, it was smoother to ride on the dirt and we all did.

Reaching Highway 3, we turned left and headed southwards. Traffic was noticeably heavier but it was nothing to worry about. The road was most unlike yesterday - dust free and smooth. I was surprised to find there was a wide bike lane too and that made us feel very safe. It helped that it was a cloudy day as well and the sun for the most part was shielded by much appreciated clouds. This made for a relatively quicker pace and we raced down the highway in high spirits. Riding in a big group was pots of fun as we laughed and chatted the whole way, taking away the mundaneness of simply pedalling mile after mile. I particularly enjoyed drafting Papa Mike and here's why.

Highway 3 passes through many small towns that have usually nothing much to offer. However, something stopped me in my tracks as I was riding through one town - the sound of high pitch loud squealing from none other than little piglets. They were so cute and we couldn't resist picking them up much to the amusement of the locals. We wanted to buy one as it was only US$10 but fitting it in our pannier would be quite difficult.

Pic - CW

We also took the opportunity to stop for lunch and I spotted my favourite Cambodian dish freshly prepared in one of the eateries. This is chicken cooked with lots of ginger and its truly delicious. Also, ginger does wonders for those who have stomach trouble. A plate of this good stuff is an unbelievable US$1.50 only with unlimited rice! The recipe here if you like to try cooking it. Easy!

Pic - CW

Punctures are quite common here in Cambodia and it was Barbara's turn to experience one today. It started as a slow leak and she was wondering why it was harder and harder to pedal. Ying Chang and Pete wasted no time to attend to it, and the problem was easily fixed. The culprit was a sharp piece of shell that pierced her tire. All the kindness showered upon Barbara moved her to tears and this is what touring is all about - mates helping each other out! My other ride buddy Solomon also felt for Barbara.

As were eating through the miles, the lunch we had burnt off too quickly and we got hungry again. The good thing about Cambodia is that there is always food around and this time, we spotted a stall that sold delicious fried noodles. We descended upon the poor lady like a swarm of locusts and she was overwhelmed with all our orders. To make life easy for her, Roland decided to take over the cooking and he did an outstanding job.

Pic - CW

The scenery seemed to improve as we got nearer to Kampot especially when the Bokor Mountain range came in sight. That in the background and the vast rice fields in the foreground made for a compelling award winning picture. Many of us stopped to shoot some pics and here is my attempt at capturing what I saw.

Kampot is said to be the durian capital of Cambodia. This king of fruit tastes like heaven but smells like hell, and is an acquired taste for most Westerners. I don't mind them but I eat it with surgical gloves. The people here are obviously proud of this honoured status and use the durian like their national flag. We saw this on a prominent roadside sign just as we were coming into the town and there is a giant one in town as well.

Kampot used to be a favourite holiday town of the French when they were the colonial powers some 100 years ago and for good reasons. I took the opportunity to show the team the art deco French built railway station that was featured in the movie, City of Ghosts.

Beautifully situated by a lovely river and located at the foot of the Bokor Mountain, Kampot has much to offer its visitors and we were there to sample its delights. We found our way to our riverside hotel - Natural Bungalows easily and Daryl, the manager welcomed us warmly. This place is like an oasis in a dessert of dust and everyone was delighted with their well appointed rooms. Pete and I shared a spacious elevated wooden bungalow with river views. The inside was tastefully furnished and we couldn't ask for more at US$40 a night with breakfast.

The first thing we did was to have a shower, freshen up and have drinks at the restaurant just by the river. Before us was the biggest entertainment screen of all, the glorious golden sunset that took our breath away! Our timing couldn't be more perfect as we were on the dot to watch the the sun slowly sinking behind the Bokor mountains in all its colourful splendor.

Can't think of a more fitting way to end our 80km ride today than this!

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24


Shamiko Design said...

Those are fantastic photos Al. Away from civilization at the purest. I guess in same ways I thank God for 3rd world countries... because it reminds us of how we were before.

Now with all the sophistication and development, we tend to forget the hard beginnings as we become complacent and pre madonnas.

These rural areas makes us stronger as persons that inspite the lack of comforts, we can still be happy and comfortable in the simplest way and form.

Who are we to think we are so high up and cannot come down to the simplest levels? To experienced the richness and the ability to come down to raw living is an evolved human.

Oldyonfoldy said...

Fm Barbara Meadows...

Love your blog, Alvin. The photos are amazing and bring back so many happy memories! Even the tears were happy ones!