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Bokor Mountain, Kampot

We love Cambodia. We find more and more to love every day. A few weeks ago, we found Bokor Mountain.

As you drive South from Phnom Penh, you begin to enter rolling hills. Pretty soon you come across taller hills, oddly shaped hills, hills with temples on top, hills begging you to explore them. It’s all part of the Elephant Mountains, a small mountain range in Southeastern Cambodia. The tallest mountain of them all is 3,547 feet.

And its name is Bokor Mountain.

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Sean did an amazing job shooting all these panoramas; click on them to open in a new tab. It’s better to see them on a bigger screen to get all the amazing detail.

These are all shot from the top of Bokor Mountain. You can see the ocean, and islands off in the distance. This part of the ocean is known as the Gulf of Thailand.

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Bokor, in Khmer, means cow hump. (Pronounced: Bo-Ko.) You know what I mean; those cows you see in the countryside of certain countries with the massive hump on their back. It is apparently incredibly delicious. Sean has been dying to try it ever since he saw his first cow with that massive chunk of meat rolling between its shoulders…

I’m pretty sure the type of cow see in Cambodia is a zebu, check it out here. They live primarly in this region, and are known for their massive hump between their shoulders, or in Khmer, their bokor.

While doing my research, I stumbled on a fascinating article about the Kouprey, Cambodia’s national animal. It is a species of cattle found only in Cambodia. I had no idea! They are a “wild, forest-dwelling bovine species” in the jungles of northern Cambodia. They are seldom seen anymore due to deforestation and hunting. They weren’t even discovered until 1937! Learn more about the kouprey here.

Anyways, back to our trip to Bokor Mountain…

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You can drive to the top of the mountain and hike around from there. If you look at the left side of the above picture, you can see all sorts of cars and people on picnics. We were there during a holiday, so it was a bit crowded. But that didn’t make it any less beautiful.

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This is the statue of Lok Yeay Mao, also at the top of the mountain. Lok is the most formal version of Mr. or Mrs. You use Lok when speaking to someone of extreme status (like royalty, or someone in a government role). Yeay Mao is an ancient hero and divinity for the Buddhists in Cambodia. She is seen as the protector of travelers. One legend says that she used to be married to Ta Krohom-Koh, literally “Grandpa Red Neck“. (I’m not kidding.) They used to live in the forests, and her husband left her alone once and a tiger devoured her. Another legend has it that she was married to a powerful warrior, and when he died, she took control of his armies and became very powerful. I choose to believe the second story.

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Never miss an opportunity to have someone take your picture! We never have enough photos of us together.

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Near the statue of Lok Yeay Mao there is an abandoned building with some awesome graffiti. I later found out these abandoned buildings were part of the old King Sihanouk’s residence.  So much history on this one mountain!

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If you driver further along the mountain road, you come across an old French church. The French built it during the twenties when they wanted to have a French community at the top of the mountain.

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It’s abandoned now, but makes for an amazing place to explore…


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Inside the church.
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Speaking of abandoned things, the most popular artifact is the abandoned hotel. It was also built by the French in the twenties, but was never finished. It is in excellent condition, and you can explore every hallways and rooftop. There are no railings, security guards, or caution signs, so explore at your own risk!

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Explore we did. This is the view from the top of the abandoned hotel.

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The architecture was really neat, as was how well it is preserved. It was almost eerie…

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Then we found Popokvil Waterfall. IMG_8534

These guys live life on the wild side. They must have amazing balancing skills, because I would have fallen over the edge minutes ago.

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One of the steps of the falls. It was tough to get it all in a picture; they rolled on for quite a ways!


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A Cambodian phenomenon: The amount of people you can fit on one moto.

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Another view from Bokor. That is the town of Kampot off to the left. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Then we checked in to our guesthouse… or ‘nature lodge’ I suppose. It was thatched huts on stilts in the middle of rice paddies.

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The view from the balcony of our hut. That’s Bokor Mountain. How massive! You could spend a week explore every inch of its plateau.

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Then we headed into the town of Kampot for dinner. I loved the colonial-looking architecture…

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Sunset over the river in Kampot.

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When I woke up in the morning, I saw a woman heading to work…

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I wanted to get a shot the next morning of where we parked our car. We were skeptical when we saw that we had to park here and walk through the woods to get the bungalows. It was the first time I’ve seen a mosque since outside Kuwait!

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Sean in trusty Champee. The sign pointing towards Ganesha, where we stayed.

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The road was absolutely terrible. There were times that it felt more like a swamp than a dirt path!

Genesha4The rice paddies in front of Bokor Mountain.

Kampot is a beautiful place.

…but then we found Kep.

Check back soon for the rest of our weekend adventure!

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Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Waterfalls, Two Restaurants, One Campfire: More of Laos

You know a place has gotten into your heart when it’s a multiple-blog post kinda trip. I’ve tried to condense it, but the pictures are just too darn good!

There is so much of the country I want to share with you…

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From cows in the countryside…

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To dogs behind the wheel.  (Photo courtesy of Anna.)

Laos felt very pastoral. When I was in college, I took a classical poetry course, studying poetry from Ancient Greece and Rome. Virgil and Homer created a new literary style called locus amoenus. For some reason, I have never forgotten about.

Locus Amoenus is Latin for “pleasant place”, and is used to describe a remote, pastoral, safe, and comfortable environment, often a place of safety and devoid of people. A refuge. Animals are okay in a locus amoenus. A locus amoenus must have three things: grass, trees, and water.

Laos was my locus amoenus. 

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After cruising along the countryside, we stopped at a small cafe to get coffee and hot chocolate. It was surprisingly chilly, and we were all getting a bit hungry. Famous for their coffee, I had to order yet another latte in Laos.

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

After coffee, we hunted high and low for a restaurant to fill our bellies. Sean has something I like to call the “plastic chair policy”. He avoids places with plastic chairs. He does this for hygienic reasons, which isn’t entirely unfounded. A family friend of ours once said, “You think you can eat anything, and you do, until you come within inches of your death and wish you were dead. Then you’re off the street food.” Sean took his words to heart and now looks only for eating establishments with wooden or metal chairs and tables, a signal to him that the place must have a clean kitchen if they’ve taken the effort to set up a solid dining area.

Regardless, he had to throw his plastic chair policy out the window in Paksong, Laos. We were lucky to find the place that we did—Paksong is a quiet, empty town embedded in the hills of the Bolaven.

I have never had a “plastic chair policy”. I should probably create one. But, judging on the meal in the above photo, would you have turned this place down? Me neither.

IMG_7640The sun was setting, and it was time to find a place to lay our heads and dream…

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When I stepped out of the car to snap the vista photo above, it dawned on me that I hadn’t photographed our car yet. We’ve named her Champi, (pronounced chompy) after a waterfall we never saw. Poetic, right?

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

After our lovely morning of coffee, fried rice, and sightseeing, we stopped at Tad Fane, a famous waterfall in the Bolaven. We stayed in the Tad Fane Lodge—my favorite place in the entire trip. It felt like a fairy land. I could have stayed forever.
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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

Not only did it feel like a fairy land, but it was also inhabited by rather mystical creatures. I swear this guy MUST have been the same spider that bite me. Yeah, right.



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Like I said, this lodge was heaven. They had two levels, with the upper level having a fire pit with a roaring fire. As we were hanging on the edge of the valley, the fog was curling up through the trees and mingling with the smoke from the embers. I was in love with the moment.

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Then this guy showed up.

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And his girlfriend. Our host found them. He just casually picked them off the ground, or from a counter, I’m not quite sure—hopefully not out of my beer—and set them on the table. After meeting each other, they didn’t waste any time getting down to business. Must have been the romantic campfire…

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In the morning, when the fog lifted, we had the most amazing breakfast and view yet.

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This is Tad Fane.

After we left the lodge, we had another waterfall to head to. I know, I know, enough with the waterfalls. But remember what I said… trees, grass, and water. Locus amoenus

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The next waterfall we visited had the most amazing overlook. Dr. Seuss, anyone?

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Sean snapped this photo from above as I fought the raging wind and water blowing me sideways.

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I was truly not many feet from the waterfall. These falls were named Tad Yeang, and were some of the more touristy falls we’d been to. They had a nice entrance area, and a restaurant nearby. We weren’t complaining!

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At the top of the falls there were a series of bridge to carry you to the other side of the river. We walked upstream quite a ways, looking for the perfect swimming hole.

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True love. Between which two couples? You decide… (Photo courtesy of Anna.)

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.) Like I said, there was a restaurant near Tad Yeang, serving traditional Laotian food. It was an open-air seating area overlooking the falls, run by a few local girls who were making the food fresh from the ingredients they had brought that day.


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(Photo courtesy of Anna.) We had Beer Lao, red sticky rice, mango salad, grilled pork, roasted yams, roasted pumpkin, and bamboo soup. You heard me, bamboo soup. Honestly, it was a feast unlike any other I have ever had. We ate every morsel and loved it. It was really fascinating; a series of flavors I had never tasted before.

Our final stop for the evening was Tad Etu, our final waterfall for our trip.

IMG_7833Look towards Tad Etu, graced by a lovely mist rainbow.

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Sean had to get a little closer, so he went exploring. Anna and I took pictures and stayed dry. Every set of waterfalls we came to ended up being our personal playground. Where else in the world can you get that?

Where is your locus amoenus?

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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