Mountain Roads and Abandoned Buildings

My little bug tent is dotted by mosquitos and other sassy little insects trying to eat me alive. Ha! Good luck bugs. I shake it out a little and open the circular draw string door to climb out. I pack up my stuff and am ready to go with enough time to lay in the hammock a little longer before our bus arrives. We’re moving onto Kampot today. Kep is cute, but there isn’t much to do here at all.

We say goodbye to Devin and Sigrid, feeling sure that we’ll see them again soon, as they too are heading to Kampot later this morning. The bus only takes us half an hour. The driver plays the exact same song but alternates between male/female versions for the entire ride. Naturally, it’s a slow love song. I don’t think South East Asia produces any happy music.

Upon arriving in Kampot we get a tuk tuk for $3 to a cheap hostel called Naga house. Oh, how I’ve missed tuk tuks! The Cambodian version is a little different from those in Thailand, but just as functional and comfortable. Much more comfortable than toting your 15 kilo bag with you on the back of a motorbike, that’s for sure.

Dorms are only $3 a night at Naga house, which is set up similarly to the bungalows in Kep. We get a mattress on the floor of a tall stilt house, but this time along the river. I set up my bug net instead of using the provided ones. I feel like a bit of a princess but like…why would I settle for a used worn holey net when I have a perfect one tucked in my bag?

Tamara and I rent motorbikes and drive into town for lunch. We run into Devin and Sigrid as soon as we cross the bridge. We are destined to travel with these two it seems!!
We lead them back to the hostel, and then go back to town for some food while they settle in.
We find a cute little restaurant filled with locals and decide it’s probably a safe bet to stop here for a good meal. We get a big plate of noodles with seafood for $2 each.

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After lunch we take our bikes out to the national park where Bokor Mountain is, after a recommendation this morning from a fellow backpacker at the hostel. Apparently there’s a big casino/hotel at the peak of the winding mountain roads, and for the small fee of 2,000 riel ($0.50) we can visit. I have no interest in gambling away all of my American dollars, but our backpacker friend also told us about a cool abandoned casino behind the new one. I also think a winding mountain road sounds like it could make for a fun drive!

I start out extremely slowly around every corner, and am thankful that we’re the only people on the road, because I’m sure my speed would annoy a lot of experienced drivers. There are some pretty sharp hairpin turns, but after some practice I get comfortable and start to pick up speed. It’s way more fun to wind around corners than to just drive straight. I have a few flash backs to my accident in Thailand, when I under estimate my speed coming into a curve, but I never have any close calls and I think I can officially say I’m a comfortable motorbike driver now!
We drive over an hour before we make it to the top. It’s much further than we expected! The giant casino sits majestically at the top of the mountain, the end of the road. Too bad it’s parking lot is entirely empty. It could be due to the low season. or it could be due to it’s ridiculous location at the peak of an otherwise empty mountain. We go inside just to check it out, and find an immaculate lobby. There are two greeters at the door, two staff members for reception, and four people working the bar. Besides one Cambodian family, we are the only other guests. A fruit shake only costs $1.50, so we sit down for a quick drink. The three Cambodian children in the family come over to our table and keep repeating “hello!” even after we’ve responded with the same more than once. They’re the cutest little kids in the world. One of them, about 5 years old, is wearing a blazer.

We don’t even bother visiting the casino side of things. We’re more interested in the abandoned one, so we go on the hunt for that. The bar staff speak minimal English, but manage to point us in the right direction. We drive out behind the big fancy hotel, and up a small hill. Once we’re at the top, we can see it in the distance. A giant worn stone building perched just on the edge of a cliff. Beautiful!! Let’s go! We drive a little further and park our bikes in another empty and over grown plot of land across from the old casino.

It’s the middle of the day and it still looks creepy. We walk inside and start exploring empty corridors and decrepit spiral staircases. We lose each other in minutes. I venture down to the basement which is, obviously, unlit by the sun like the rest of the building. It’s cold, eerie and awesome. Some of the floor rules are still in tact, so old bathrooms and bits of the main hall look extra creepy with one or two remaining tile fragments still visible beneath a layer of dust. I hear someone whistling a simple tune somewhere in the distance, and that’s my cue to get out. I take a break and walk outside to the backyard where I can see out over the mountain side and into the ocean for miles. There’s a rope railing, but I do what I want, so I step out over it and to the edge of the cliff (sorry, Mom). It’s a great way to appreciate how high up we’ve come, and really cool to see the jungle covered mountain merge into the town. I can hear birds and a few animal calls faintly from below the tree line, and wonder how many different kinds of animals live down there.
The day is so clear that I can see Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. It doesn’t look so far away from here!
I find Tamara sitting on the front steps of the old casino, and we head back.

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We make one last quick stop at a waterfall just a couple kilometres down from the casino, but it’s basically abandoned too, and there isn’t much water flowing over it. We’re the only visitors and I can understand why. It’s sort of beautiful in it’s way, but the water is dirty and there’s not enough of it to swim and that was our aim.
We leave and drive an hour back down the mountain. Going down is even more fun that going up!

We run into Sigrid back at the hostel, go for a quick dip in the river at sunset, and all head out on our bikes for dinner. We find a little restaurant with green pepper squid, (not like bell peppers, but real pepper. Kampot is famous for it’s pepper.) and order three of those. They’re delicious, and I think about trying to pick up some of this pepper to bring home. It’s still on it’s little pepper vine. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it like this before!

When we get back to the hostel Devin is around too, and we all sit and chat with other backpackers before taking one last late night swim in the river before bed.

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