Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012, Day 324 - Friendship

This morning we had to get our collective acts together to get out of Phnom Penh before the President of the United States arrived.  Apparently the Cambodian government is very excited about his visit and will be closing down just about every street in the city because of his presence.  That would certainly make it difficult to leave town.  So we rushed across the street for a quick breakfast before finalizing our packing and meeting our driver, Mr. Tech.

Once our bags had been safely stowed in the SUV we made a mad dash out of the city.  Fortunately the road closures seemed not to have started yet and the traffic wasn't bad at all, probably because the prime minister had declared today and tomorrow national holidays in celebration of the ASEAN conference.  As we bumped along the sometimes rutted road out into the country buildings gave way to green and yellow fields of rice.  Those that had turned yellow were ready for harvest and we saw a number of people out beginning the harvest of the early crops.

It took less time that we thought to get to Kampot as we found ourselves just outside the main market about two and a half hours from our departure time.  We had expected somewhere closer to four hours but traffic was light and we made good time.  It took some doing but with the help of the hotel owners we were able to find the narrow dirt track that leads to our new accommodations.

As we navigated the winding path we passed homes on stilts, children playing in yards, and field after field of rice.  We even saw some water buffalo grazing idly in the fields.  There were times when the car could bare make it between trees and buildings but eventually we arrived at our hotel.  It is a collection of thatched and stone buildings along the Kampot River sandwiched between two small villages.  Because we always travel in style I hard reserved the three story tower.  The first floor is the living room, the second is the sleeping quarters with two large beds, and the third sports a seating area with table and chairs, four hammocks, and a three hundred and sixty degree view of the farms and jungles below.  Perhaps the finish is a little rustic and the plumbing works only with the assistance of gravity but it is really nice and totally peaceful.

Once we had settled in we decided to go for a walk around the countryside.  It had rained the night before and the dirt roads were made mostly of mud but the views were beautiful.  The rice is almost chest-high and there was a slight breeze that started the waves of green.  Children rode their bikes past us as we wandered shouting greetings the whole time and waving with enthusiasm.  The people we passed looked up and, when they saw who was making so much noise, smiled.  Homes out here might be a little humble but the people are so patient with all of us foreigners who invade their space and photograph their daily lives.

Along the way we discovered a small graveyard with tall thin markers.  They seemed impossibly close together but it was a nice little yard.  More water buffalo watched us as we wandered by and dragonflies flitted overhead marking the path in front of us.  There were a couple small villages that we walked through where more children waved and tried their basic English skills which far outstrip our ability to speak Khmer.  At the end of our walk the path became soft mud but we pressed on because we could see our tower in the distance.  I think Araceli didn't want to get muddy but Francene and I quickly gave in to the inevitable and just slogged through the soft thick warm muck.

When we arrived back at our tower we took turns trying to free the mud from our legs and shoes.  No one wants to smell the way we did for very long if they can possibly help it.  Cleanish and hungry we decided to eat at the little restaurant that is part of our hotel.  The food was decent, not exciting, but enough so that when we climbed back into the tower all three of us dozed in the hammocks on the third floor.

We hard to forcibly rouse ourselves when it was time for dinner.  Only feeling slightly rested and still groggy from fighting sleep we climbed into the SUV and headed into Kampot.  The busiest part of town is along the Kampot River and as we were about to turn down the road that runs parallel to it I asked the driver to stop and all three of us jumped out to photograph the sunset.  The sky hard stunning shades of pink, orange, and yellow surrounded by a sea of blue.  As the light began to fade we got back in the car and Mr. Tech took us to the center of all the action.

I don't think any of us was feeling particularly picky and the first restaurant, Riki Tiki Tavi, had a decent menu so we agreed to dine there.  It was a hot day and our hotel has no air-conditioning, just a couple of fans, so I think we were all ready for cold beverages and I cannot say I was disappointed; they were tall, cold, and plentiful.  The food was tasty, Francene and I split a curry and a sandwich, and I ordered a couple more drinks to capitalize on all the fresh fruit.

Full of fruit drinks and curry we headed back to our country tower.  I decided to sleep in a hammock on the third floor while the ladies wanted the comfort and safety of a normal bed with mosquito netting.  So I write this as I look at my swaying hammock anxious to get to bed.

Canon 1D X, Canon 70-200/f2.8L IS Mark II
200mm, f4, 1/400 sec @ 100 ISO

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