Monday, 28 May 2012

Day 65 - A few beers with some locals, and a foggy search for an abandoned casino. (Cambodia)

The town of Kampot where we are currently staying isn't exactly built up and happening. In fact we tried to compare it to an equivalent in Australia and realised we couldn't, because we wouldn't have ever heard of such a place. So when we headed out for something to eat last night we didn't have many options, so stopped in at the first street kitchen stall we found. Our meal was fine, and we were just about to pay up and head home when it started raining - tropical style. So really with no other option we decided to migrate inside and have a beer to sit out the rain. At this point we realised that inside was actually just the family's house - there were children sleeping in hammocks in the corner. But we were made to feel most welcome by the ten or so men that were sitting inside drinking and eating, so in we went. One of them (a policeman we were told) shared some of his meat (probably pork) with us, taught us "cheers" in Khmer and showed us some tricks with his beer can. Then the power went out, which the locals were obviously quite used to, immediately pulling out torches and candles from their pockets. Growing up in the countryside of Scotland, we were always equipped for this kind of thing, but it's something that living in Melbourne, we just never encounter. We were so out of place in this Khmer family's house, but they were so accepting of us, and I guess as long as we were buying beers from them they were happy to have our company. And so we bought beers and they kept us entertained until the power came on and the rain eased.

As with all the abandoned French villas in this area, there is an old casino of the same style up in the hills, supposedly only accessable by a 4x4 track and weather permitting. It was a pretty rainy day (not tropical type rain though, just constant drizzle which we found peculiar), but we decided to give it a go anyway. We took the turn off to the mountain road and were stunned by the brand new, perfectly marked, two lane road which has obviously been built since the edition of Lonely Planet that we have was published. As we ascended though we became enclosed in a huge cloud hanging over the side of the mountain, removing all visibility and making it incredibly hard to figure out if we had accidentally driven past the casino. There was quite a surprisingly complex road network, which we ended up exploring quite thoroughly. One of the roads we turned onto actually ended, abruptly and definitely with no warning. It's the first time I've ever seen a brand new road just finish at an exact line like that - very odd looking. We stopped at a grand old gateway, also abruptly ending the road we were on, through which were a few abandoned buildings from this era. Probably one of those buildings was the one we were looking for, but it was so foggy and by this point also raining and therefor muddy, so we decided to sit in the car and eat baguettes and pate for lunch instead. We may or may not have found what we set out to look for, but it was an incredible drive through dense fog in a Cambodian national park.

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