Kampot I

Our first stop in Cambodia could have been Kep, but we decided to skip yet another Southeast Asian beach town, albeit a more interesting one, made up as it is of deserted French colonial buildings partly destroyed in the 70s by the Khmer Rouge. Instead we forged ahead to Kampot, a riverside town, very close to the sea. It’s old heart is mostly made up of crumbling old French villas, and as such is reminiscent of Luang Prabang or even Hoian. We chose a guesthouse just outside of town on the river, mostly because of its peaceful location and pretty fruit garden. However, we needn’t have worried – so far Cambodia seems infinitely quieter than Vietnam, and Kampot is so sleepy you wonder if its even a town.

Our first day in Kampot we took the bikes out to find the limestone caves in the surrounding countryside. Most of the ride involved the small dirt side roads, and we were unsure of exactly where we were headed but eventually we found a place other foreigners were arriving and assumed we had found our destination. Two children took it upon themselves to be our guides (attempting to go in alone might be possible, but they are quite tenacious and, in the end, helpful).

The cave was a very impressive and large network throughout a solitary limestone mound in the middle of farmland. Most of the cave was lit by natural skylights so the cave was unique in its lack of pitch black claustrophobic conditions. The children led us around, always eager to point out various rocks that looked like certain animals, and proved very helpful in showing us tiny cracks that lead to larger rooms we wouldn’t have dared ourselves. Some of the tiny openings required more scrambling and climbing that we expected and was a lot of fun.

After leaving that cave, we discovered that it wasn’t actually our intended destination, since it lacked the brick temple from the 7th century. Some more off road biking led us to another group of child guides and another cave, Phnom Chnourk. This one was less interesting in itself, but the promised brick temple was within, and our child guides very sweet. When questioned, they claimed to have just returned from school, but its hard to believe. Their English, at least, was certainly very precocious, and they also spoke some limited French.

Photos to follow!

~ by Elephants on January 22, 2011.

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