I have been chomping at the bit to share our most recent adventure with you. As teachers, we work the basic 9-5 (or more like 6-5) job, Monday through Friday. When the weekend rolls around, we’re normally too knackered (a word I’ve adopted from our Kiwi friends here) to do anything but lay around the pool and catch up with our friends. When we got our first three-day weekend, we were set on venturing out of the city. I love Phnom Penh, it’s awesome, but there is so much more of Cambodia to see.
In Kuwait, there was Kuwait City, and that was pretty much it. I never felt like I was cheating myself on the weekends because I was doing all that there was to do, and I was loving it. Here, there is so much vast, untrammeled beautiful places, that they whisper to me in my sleep, taunting me.
When we accepted this job, I began to Google and fall in love with the Cardamom mountains.
We were planning on catching a bus to the coast, but our friends offered us a ride in their car to head out into the mountains to a lodge on the coast. (Yes, you can do both “mountains” and “coast” in one weekend!)
So, we all packed into their Mitsubishi Pajero and headed to Koh Kong.
It’s a four-and-a-half hour drive, and really got stunningly beautiful about halfway through. If you look at the map above, you can see all of the environmentally-protected areas. I never knew Cambodia had so many reserves and parks myself until we got here.
The most popular part of the coast is Sihanoukville, which is near Ream National Park on the above map. To get to Sihanoukville it’s about a two and a half hour drive. The Cardamom Mountains, where we were going, take up the left-hand side of the country along the Thai border. Koh Kong is a small town along the border, and the lodge we were staying in was a twenty-minute drive inland. We were meeting another couple there, who also work at the school.
Our friends Chino and Anna have a lovely puppy named Kampot. I am kind of falling in love with him and his goofiness.
We took a bathroom break on the long drive at a small roadside cafe. I love Cambodia’s calico sky.
We found a new litter of puppies at the cafe. They were such cute little things! I want to get a dog so badly, but know it would be tough on both us and the doggy due to all the travel we do. I think I’ll just offer to babysit Kampot as much as possible!
As we rolled into the Koh Kong area, Chino and Anna pulled off the road and told us we would be able to spot the lodge in the forest. I was confused about what they meant, but, lo and behold, we saw the teeny bungalows peeking out of the wilderness! You can only access the lodge by boat, but I will talk more about our arrival later…
The pull out where we spotted the lodge. We are loving Cambodia.
Before we headed up the river to the lodge, we decided to get lunch. We had been driving since 8am, and it was around noon. We drove up to the coast and took a dirt road along one of the tributary rivers to a place called the “Crab Chack” (… or “shack” to us Western landlubbers). We had heard about how divine the seafood along the coast was, but I truly had no conception of what we were about to experience.
The Crab Shack was a little hideaway on the coast with hammocks, tables, and a few tourists sipping beer alongside the locals.
You could walk along the beach, where Anna and Sasha looked at the beach glass. I was on a sensory overload. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do, it was all too much to soak in. I kept telling Anna and Sasha that I felt like I was on some tropical vacation that I would have to leave in a week and never see again, but then realized that I will be living here… for quite a while.
Then the food came.
And what a feast it was. Anna told us to order the prawns with garlic. Each plate was heaped with the largest prawns I had ever seen. You would then create a dip made of fresh crushed Cambodian pepper and squeezed lime. The pot at the top of the photo held rice, which made it a symphony of flavors and textures in your mouth.
I had never had such prawns in my life. They were so meaty, it was mouthfuls of shrimp. Never before in my life did I ever think I’d say, “Wow, that was a delicious mouthful of meaty, tender, juicy shrimp.” No tartar sauce needed here, folks.
While we were eating, Sean spotted quite a beastly arachnid above our table.
Here he tried to take another picture of the spider, but instead got a great shot of the atmosphere and mood of our lunch. Love the guy in the back.
I was sad to leave the Crab Shack, but know that we will be back.
Then it was time to head to the lodge… but this step of the journey must wait for another day. As it was our first ‘big journey’ out of the city, we took 300 pictures in 3 days. We were a little out of control. Instead of cramming all the pictures into one long post about the weekend as a whole, I thought you’d enjoy shorter, more focused posts to keep it interesting and palatable.
Check back in a few days to see where this boat takes us!