Kampot and the cloak of Bokor Mountain
"If you go to Kampot, stay at Arcadia!" So many different people raved about this place. Intrigued, I had to see this for myself. After my exhausting ride, I hopped off my mini van, dripping with sweat, after the exhausting ride. Mosquitoes instantly feasting on me the moment I opened the door. I got to chatting with a group of English fellows, most of whom were also in that hot box mini van. It turned out they were also headed the same way - Arcadia.
Off we went, our tuk tuk flooring it out of town, venturing into the jungle. After five or so minutes, we made a right down a bumpy dirt road and suddenly, we had arrived at Arcadia. The place was no joke. An enormous tree house style layout, huge open bar area, hammocks, gaming areas and loads of happy faces. Surrounding the building were water slides, a rock climbing wall, rope swings, Russian swing and a pontoon floating out for you to swim to. It is run by Australians, and once they got word that I was also Aussie, they tried to get me as drunk as possible.
A solid day or two at the water park will satisfy your adrenaline needs. Drop in off the rope swing, hang for life on the rock wall, fly down the flying fox and learn how to land a few back flips off the insane water slide. I was face planting into the water the first few times, but you get a little better with each attempt. The first time you drop down, you lose all sense of body positioning once your body is propelled into the air. It doesn’t look much from the bottom, but from the top, it is roughly a 4 meter drop straight down before an intense incline. Your stomach enters your mouth on the way down. Remember, tuck your legs and look backwards, your body will do the rest.
My dear friend Victor, killing it as always.
If you are after some adventure head off to Tada waterfall, it is a short scooter ride from Arcadia. Watch out for, uhh.. maybe local traffic controllers? A few random guys were standing on the side of the road, waving down tourists. They were trying to force us to pay US $2 just to drive on a road. It looked as if no one else was paying for this. Typical Cambodia, trying to make a dollar out of nothing. With everyone else just driving past, I noticed my friend speed off and I quickly followed suit.
Tada is a beautiful waterfall, though I am not sure if parts of it were man made. It looked too perfect in parts to be completely natural. Rent a scooter for the day and go lay yourself under this powerful flowing fall. I finally managed to stand up underneath it but it felt like it was going to crush me. Icy cold and very refreshing. Tada is definitely worth the short trip, and the 500 steps needed to make it to the base. Be sure to watch your step, I lost my footing and almost lost my camera and teeth to Tada waterfall.
I attempted to reach the peak of this beast, on two separate occasions. I had heard word of its peaks, clouded in endless mist. Everyone I had spoken to told me they had never seen a "clear sky" atop the mountain. I hoped I may finally brake the curse. This mountain must have its own climate, as it constantly generates mist and rain, while the rest of Kampot is bathed in sunshine.
Attempt number one.
I reached the entrance of Bokor, racing up the beginning of the hill in my black and gold Honda 125. I gazed up and caught sight of an enormous cloud formation coming in from the west. I knew the moment I start riding up, I'm going to have to head back. That was exactly the case, two kilometres in and the rain began smashing down on me, forcing me to head back.
Attempt number two.
Motivated by my failure I headed out again the next morning. I would not let attempt number one deter me. I was going to reach the peak, even if the rain came down twice as hard. Arriving at the entrance once more, I looked up and to my surprise the skies were clear. The sun was out, a smile stretched out across my face, I pulled back on my throttle and began speeding through the windy roads. The road up has just been resurfaced, making riding conditions immaculate. I was flying through hair pin turns, taking in the green forestation and jungle views, pushing the bike to its limits before I finally reached my first stop. In all honesty I had no idea what was up this mountain, I just heard the ride was incredible.
Up I ascended, until I finally found something to take me off my bike. I was having so much fun riding. I took a short walk up a flight of steps and sat observing the 29 meter giant Buddhist monument of Yeay Mao. The locals were in prayer and I was in awe of the sheer size of this.
I continued up. The temperature began dropping, the winds began to quicken and a thick mist began rolling in, quickly immersing me. Pausing at an intersection, I chose to head left, with belief that this was the right direction. I knew there were a few abandoned buildings in the vicinity and as I rode further into the mist, the feeling around me began to shift. It suddenly felt cold, dark and eerie. I looked down at my fuel gauge, "running low, wonderful." My excitement levels began to rise, giving me goosebumps. Fear tried to settle, but my spirits were not dampened. My adrenaline levels began to rise and I suddenly found a spot to jump off my bike once more.
I started up a random dirt path, climbing up until I caught sight of a building, its peak poking out from the mist. I ventured closer, finally entering inside. It turned out to be an old abandoned church. The inside was covered in mould, bricks had been knocked out, chairs thrown around, windows shattered . The creepiest thing was that the alter was prepared, and satanic graffiti was sprayed up behind it. After a quick walk through I got the hell out of there, it sent chills down my spine.
As my bike began to stutter, fuel levels running dangerously low, an odd shape began to break through the mist. I had made it to the abandoned casino, and soon found out, it was no longer abandoned. It is now under renovations. I had heard you could enter inside, and walk through the building. This was not the case, the guard started screaming at me the moment I parked and started my way up the stairs. Major anticlimax, but hey, the good news was, across the road, through the mist, was what I was really after, fuel! Finally.
I loaded up my tank, took one last look at the misty mountain and accelerated out of there, flying back down that mountain to civilisation.
This town has great little river bars, sensational food, history museums, funny locals and even its own rock climbing centre. The traffic is minimal, the draught beers are fresh, food is cheap and you can get around everywhere for a few dollars. You can take a tour to the secret lake, pepper plantations and basically anywhere for next to nothing. Kampot suits the Cambodia way of life. Laid back and slow paced. Perfect stop between Otres and Phnom Penh.
My Advice for good times in Kampot
Go to Arcadia, even for a day trip. If you choose to stay here, be prepared to get stuck. Everyone is drinking and smoking all day, chilling out and making friends. It is a great place.
Rent a bike and go ride up road Bokor Mountain. Also spend some time in the national park. I heard tuk tuks wont make it up the mountain, so make a friend who can ride if you can't, and, TAKE A PONCHO! Even if the weather looks perfect.
Go eat at CIAO! I have probably had fried rice over 150 times by now. When I heard there was a little Italian man who had settled in Kampot, making fresh pasta and pizza, I had to check them out. Needless to say, after I tried it once, I took over 20 people there over the next three days for dinner. Even my Italian friends were impressed. Don't go on an empty stomach, he is making everything fresh and it takes time to make food that is full of love. Get in early because everyday he sold out of food.
The differences in mood I felt here were hard to describe. From the sweet satisfaction of landing a back flip, having loads of laughs and good times with great people, to the odd and creepy times of being alone, disorientated and getting lost in the middle of a mysterious misty mountain, made this place an absolute roller coaster. I loved it all.
We need to remember the challenging times. For some reason we try to block them out and forget them. Why? They make the good times all the sweeter and more memorable. After thinking I could be stuck in the middle of a seemingly haunted mountain all night.,drinking an ice cold beer never tasted so good
Happy trails guys.
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