Today was a day of misadventure. Unfortunately Mr. Tech's English isn't too great and our Khmer is, even in the most generous terms, non-existent so we had a little difficulty explaining what we wanted to do. Our plan was to try to see some of the salt fields, locate one of Kampot's famous pepper plantations, and have lunch on the waterfront in Kep. So we sat down and showed the driver a maps and photos of the things we wanted to see. He nodded and smiled broadly so we figured he understood us well enough to feel confident about our requests.
To be fair, we were understood in the most general terms but the order was lost. First we drove through Kep, something which came in handy later. Then we found some salt fields, it would be hard not to as there are so many in the region, but none of them were being actively worked. Finally, we were told the pepper plantations had signage but we found none and ended up in a small village where the highway turned to a dirt road. Mr. Tech asked people for directions and after following a small country track deeply rutted and filled with mud we were told there was a pepper plantation just down the road. Perfect!
We had to walk to the plantation we were told because the roads were in such bad shape so we skirted the mud and wandered down the trail. Less than half a kilometer was the reported distance. So we walked, excited at the prospect. The three of us chatted happily and soon came upon a farm. There were no signs of pepper corns anywhere. But we searched and found nothing. Frustrated, we turned back the way we came on off to the our right Francene discovered a field of bell peppers! Not quite the pepper we were looking for. So we thanked everyone, took a couple pictures of the boy who shadowed us the whole way, and got back in the car feeling rather badly about the morning.
It was lunch time or past lunch time really and we were undecided as to what to do next. What I suggested was returning to Kampot to eat in town and then make poor Mr. Tech take us back to Kep for dinner. It would mean a little backtracking but we would get a great oceanfront sunset. Despite being hungry both Francene and Araceli agreed so we found a little place for lunch in Kampot. After we ate and before heading back to our tower retreat to rest for a little bit we stopped off to arrange for a guide to accompany us tomorrow. That way there would be no confusion and we would have the opportunity to learn a little more; I think we were spoiled by having Mr. Mony for over a week!
Our guide set for tomorrow we returned to our hotel for a little rest and relaxation, mostly in the form of dangling in a hammock. It seemed like in no time we had to set off if we wanted to catch the sunset. In our time in Cambodia it seems that sunset comes early and sunrise even earlier. When you factor in the long muddy unimproved road to get to the highway we had to leave well in advance of sunset if we wanted to catch it. There were times when we thought we wouldn't make it, the sky took on a peach-colored tint and the minutes ticked away. Right as the color hit its peak the buildings and trees disappeared and we were at the waterfront.
The location I had in mind was the giant crab statue that is currently undergoing renovation in the ocean. It was only another couple of minutes and we had arrived. All three of us leaped out of the car with cameras in hand and we began taking our pictures. I set up my tripod and within a few minutes some of the locals were stopping to see what we were doing. Some were peering over my shoulder to see the screen on my camera as each exposure completed and at one point we had a little crowd. All of them seemed curious as to why we spent so much time by their crab statute but they appeared pleased that we were taking an interest. Once I had finished my little photography session, I am always slowing down the group, we got back in the car and headed to the crab market.
The crab market is exactly what it sounds like, it is the oceanfront market where the crabbers bring this catch every day for sale. Along the market there are maybe twenty small restaurants vying for your patronage. Francene stopped in one to check it out and it took a couple attempts before we settled on the right one. The menu is dominated by crab but there were also dishes with fish, squid, prawns, and even beef available. Kep is known for its crab so we ordered spiced fried crab, green pepper crab, crab tom yum, and crab noodles. That's a lot of crab, especially for someone who doesn't have the greatest fondness for water bugs but when in Rome...
The crab was excellent and the sauces were amazing. My preference was for the green pepper crab, it had a thick spicy peppery sauce that was just amazing. The spiced fried crab was also good as was the tom yum even if there was too many tiny pieces of lemongrass hidden within. I think the only dish that was disappointing was the noodle dish but primarily because of the poor quality of the noodles; we agreed that they looked and tasted like the instant variety. I also tried a rather disgusting green Mirinda that was supposed to be "cream with a hint of lime" but tasted predominantly of sugar. Oh well, the food was great and we all ate with gusto. By the end Francene had constructed a carefully built tower of crab exoskeleton and hand tissues.
Stuffed, tired from a long day, and reeking of crab we headed back to Kampot and our country resort. We all showered and I think now it is time for bed. Tomorrow will be a busy day of trying to squeeze in everything that went awry today. Funny how even when things don't work out that the still work out in the end, huh?
Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
35mm, f4, 30 sec @ 100 ISO