I was going to give Cambodia a fortnight, cross the border from Vietnam and get the bus straight to Phnom Penh, then go up to Seam Reap (for Angkor Wat), and scoot to Thailand.
Oh, how wrong that plan was!
If Phu Quoc accomplished nothing else, it landed me (via Ha Tien) in Kampot, which was merely, at the time, the nearest small town that I could realistically reach from Vietnam. I'd booked 3 nights, just to give my ankle a rest as it was pretty swollen up, and didn't expect much.
Then I crossed the border.
I'm on the Cambodian side, here
And I fell in love. Immediately. Instantly. This place just *feels* different to Vietnam. Vietnam feels tense. The people are lovely, and it is a beautiful place, but looking at it from here, there is an undercurrent of tension in Vietnam. Every interaction I had, however pleasant and unassuming, had a subtext. Where is this going? What's this for? Who is going to win this round? Why do you want to know? I only noticed when it went away that I had been on edge for three weeks.
It may just be, of course, that Vietnam was my first stop and I didn't know what to expect. But there is no reason I would suddenly know what to expect on entering country number two, so I don't think that's it. Cambodia just has a more relaxed atmosphere, to my sensibilities. To steal an oft-used metaphor, crossing the border was like releasing a long-held breath, that I hadn't been aware I was holding.
Additionally, (and again your mileage may vary) I find Cambodia stunningly beautiful.
Mountains of rice paddies
What? You're one-street village market doesn't have it's own heraldic archway? You're so weird!
I'm not a photographer. Just trust me, this place took my breath away. I was grinning from ear to ear the whole way to Kampot. Then I got my first tuk-tuk ride.
Ears cannot hold me!
The tuk-tuk dropped me at Samon's Village - a collection of straw 'bungalows' across the river from Kampot town. There (as per previous post), I was told Hostelworld was not allowing them to list as completely full, so they keep getting overbooked and didn't have a room for me. But one set of people hadn't yet shown up, so I might be lucky. Which, as it transpires, I was. I got a $20/ night, 4-person ensuite room to myself for $10 for the first night. Nice as it was, I like my $6 baba-yaga house that I've had since:
Thursday I spent just sitting here by the river, thinking over Vietnam, resting my foot, and relaxing. The food is amazing - fresh seafood in abundance, fresh fruit similarly, and all seasoned with the regional pepper, which is incomparable. And I'm not sensitive to it in the way I normally am with black pepper. It actually tastes of something, rather than sneeze-inducing hot-ness.
Oh, and they have good cutlery.
The pancake machete.
I intend to spend at least some of tomorrow afternoon finding somewhere to buy one of these.
Tomorrow morning though, I'm going climbing.
I'll have had 5 nights in Kampot by the time I leave for the Cardamom Mountains on Monday.
It's not long enough, but it will have to do. If I have time, I can swing back through before I have to leave the country, but I'm not counting on it.
I'll be back, though.