When I arrived in Kampot I marched straight to The Magic Sponge, a guesthouse whose name cropped up a few times during my Trip Advisor research. I believe it was the first time I’d turned up somewhere without a booking (I’m learning to be more flexible, slowly) and was 5 minutes too late to get a $3 dorm bed so I opted for a huge room and bathroom to myself at $9 and was happy I’d get a few nights of uninterrupted sleep.
I was due to go on a countryside tour the next day but it was cancelled – I found out when they didn’t bother turning up for me, so I had a spare day. A Scottish lass, Kate, who I’d met the day before, came down for breakfast and we got chatting about what we could do to spend the day wisely.
That is until William, the hostel owner, announced at midday that it was happy hour. 50cent beers for the next 4 hours, followed by 2 for 1 shots and spirit mixers til 8pm. We started on the beers immediately, it would’ve been silly not to.
8 hours later we’d sunk a fair amount of beers and G&Ts, played a round of mini golf (yes, the guesthouse had a mini golf course!) and spent no less than 3 hours playing pool. When normal pool got boring we found some big Vietnamese style farmer hats that covered our eyes and invented a new rule – if the hat falls off it’s a 2 shot penalty. All very silly. I think I was in bed by 9 that night. Rock ‘n’ roll.
The next day we were up bright and early for the rescheduled countryside tour which I’d persuaded Kate to come on with me. The first tour highlight (in the promotional material anyway) was the local salt fields. What they didn’t mention, until we actually pulled up, is that it’s the wrong season for salt making, so we mostly looked at some dry brown fields, and peeked into a big shed.
After that we stopped at a pepper plantation. Kampot pepper is famous the world over apparently (I’d never heard of it) and we learnt how the peppercorns are grown and got to nibble on some black, red and white peppercorns. The different coloured peppercorns all come from the same plant, some are just soaked and dried for longer, but each had a unique taste.
After that we went to a cave with an ancient Hindu temple carved into the rocks inside. I blessed myself with the holy water (some murky drips from a rock) as instructed by the guide and tripped over a few rocks in the dark but the view from the top of the hill over the rice paddies was nice.
After that I found myself back in Kep at the Crab Market enjoying a delicious crab caught in front of our eyes before being cooked.
The boat ride to Rabbit Island was fun, mainly because the people at the front got soaked as we hit the choppy water head on in the wind. I got wet too but it soon dried when we arrived on the island. A short walk through jungle led us to a lovely sandy beach with hammocks to relax in on the water’s edge.
On the drive back to Kampot we picked up a gaggle of ladies who were hitchhiking from Kep – it certainly livened up the ride. I don’t know what they were saying but they were in absolute hysterics for the whole journey, giggling and squawking and joking with our guide. Their laughter was infectious! Then on the dusty road between the two towns the clutch went and our guide had to swap with the driver because he knew how to drive without one. We did the rest of the journey in first gear and jolted to a stop at the guesthouse giving us an extra laugh at the end of the day.