Thursday, 14 May 2009

Kampot, Kep & Bokor National Park

Arrived in Kampot on the 8th of May and my plan was to spend my time between here, Kep and Bokor before my Vietnam visa began on the 14th. And thus, this "plan" succeeded.

Kampot is a very small town with which sits on the river (forget it's name) and despite what maps show you proximity wise, it's not actually a seaside town, the sea is about 6km away. Despite this though it's very nice here; there's a bustling market, lots of riverside resturants with views of the mountains (beautiful at sunset), a few bars and a good book shop, but you can walk around the town in half a day. Most people visiting Kampot though use it as a stopping off point before heading up to Bokor National Park as more tours are organized here and it's cheaper than say in Sikanoukville.

I stayed here 2 nights in a nice guesthouse called Long Villa ($4) before taking the bus for a 2 day/1 night trip to Kep - 45 minutes along the coast. Kep is a quaint little town (even smaller than Kampot) and it's three main attractions are the fresh crab, Kep Mountain and an island off the coast called Rabbit Island. I didn't feel the need to see the island because the weather wasn't so good and it would have taken up a whole day, so I did a trek around Kep Mountain during the day and spent the evening at the crab market. I want to say that whilst exploring Kep Mountain I didn't get lost but unfortunately I did, except not on the actual mountain just on my way back to town. I walked for about 10km in the wrong direction (and in hindsight explained all the bewildered looks from locals) but luckily a motorbike driver stopped and eventually understood I wanted to go to Kep so he brought me back for a small fee. He was a nice guy and seemed quite proud to have a Westerner on the back of his bike, he enjoyed the attention of the villagers as he drove but I was just happy to be heading in the right direction (I still think I had to go left but evidently not...).

After Kep I travelled back to Kampot on the 11th and booked a 2 day trek to Bokor which turned out to be a bushwhack through the jungle going off the beaten track, across rivers and up near vertical slopes (climbing skills at one point were needed) for 6 hours. The road (which they're rebuilding so the park is essentially closed) is a 30km climb and the summit is 1079m above sea level. It was definitely the most challenging trek i've done and for this reason the most fun, but at the end my legs burned with the epicness. The biggest reward is when you reach the abandoned, battle scarred ghost town at the top - sorry, forgot to say, there's a deserted town with a casino, hotel, hospital, post office, church... It's eerily beautiful, like something from a post-apocalyptic movie and the mist which drifts across from the sea multiplies that by a 100. You can explore everything and the view from the casino out over the town and the ocean was staggering, made even more so because looking down, you couldn't believe how high you'd climbed. The town though, despite its nuclear disaster-esc feel, felt in no way scary, even when we ventured out at night with only our flashlights illuminating just 5 metres ahead of us due to the the dense fog, the buildings were just like modern relics and harboured no ill-feelings like the way S-21 did. Oh, and the sunset, followed by the lightening storms which lit up the horizon in all directions, were also incredible.
On the second day, after spending the night in the Rangers Station (the converted hospital) we set off back down the mountain and hitched a ride in a pick-up truck, then there was epic rain and because the road was blocked we did a 2 hour smaller trek back down to the bottom... Followed by a beer (or 5) beside the river. Thumbs up for Bokor National Park. X

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