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Cambodia 2014: Beaches, Pepper and Killing Fields

This photo has nothing to do with the title of this post, but I just had to include it in my last Cambodia post. There is just something humorous about young monks taking my picture with their Iphones.

This photo has nothing to do with the title of this post, but I just had to include it in my last Cambodia post. There is just something humorous about young monks taking my picture with their Iphones.

Our time in the temples was over. Our itinerary was to fly from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville. Our guide in Siem Reap took us to the airport and dropped us off, saying he could not come into the airport. Yeah, OK, whatever. We walked in and looked at the departure board. Our flight, booked on Cambodia Angkor Airlines was canceled. There was no office to go to to figure out why.  At the checkin counter there was a long line for a Vietnam Air flight to, of all places, Sihanoukville. we waited in line and it turned out that Viet Nam air was taking all comers. Our ticket on Angkor Air was honored no questions asked. This had happened to us before in Myanmar. Airlines in that part of of the world trade passengers like that to keep their planes full.  I’ve flown Viet Nam Air before and did not mind, but I was hoping to see the livery on Angkor Airlines.

angkor air

Nice livery. From my readings, this airline is almost grounded.

Maybe next time.

We arrived at the quite small airport in Sihanoukville. The airport has no connections to anywhere besides Siem Reap, and at present only Bangkor Air and/or Viet Nam air serve it, so it was a simple exit.

We were booked into the Independence Hotel. It was the oldest and finest hotel on the beach.

Jackie Kennedy

A previous guest of this hotel was Jackie. Her suite was above our budget.

For you foodies out there, this is a seafood soup served in a coconut. Fantastic.

For you foodies out there, this is a seafood soup served in a coconut. Fantastic.

 

The second beach town we went to, only a half hour drive away, is named Kep.

Kep is known for crab, so...

Kep is known for crab, so…

 

Crab ladies

…so we went to the crab market. Fresh crab pulled right out of the ocean. About 5 US$ for a kilo. These ladies were only too happy to help us. They waded out into the water and brought in a crab cage and together we pulled out our kilo.

There was also a woman selling Durian fruit. I have never had one. They have a reputation of smelling like an open sewer when you cut them open and I had no desire to ruin my crab lunch.

There was also a woman selling Durian fruit. I have never had one. They have a reputation of smelling like an open sewer when you cut them open and I had no desire to ruin my crab lunch.

Not far from Kep is the town of Kampot. Here they grow a dliciously different type of pepper.

Not far from Kep is the town of Kampot. Here they grow a deliciously different type of pepper.

From the organic growing methods to the quality control inside the facility, everything is done to assure you only get the best peppers.

From the organic growing methods to the quality control inside the facility, everything is done to assure you only get the best peppers.

Peppers that do not pass the QC test here are passed on to the local markets. These women work 8 hour days separating pepper corns that are too small or too something else, to put in their containers and ship worldwide. Kompot pepper is like Burgundy wine, only pepper grown in Kompot can be called Kompot. If you ever see any, buy it. It is truly different and absolutely excellent.

Our tour guide was anxious to show us a couple of undeveloped islands off the coast. They were perfect tropical islands with nothing but a few grass and bamboo buildings. They have “villas” you can rent for US$15 a night, right on the beach. Of course they are very popular with budget travelers “in the know”.

On the way to one of the islands we did a little fishing. My wife always catches fish, luck of the Irish I guess.

Yeah, so it wasn't what you would call a whopper...

Yeah, so it wasn’t what you would call a whopper…

...but it tasted great!

…but it tasted great!

As far as I am concerned, there is only one thing to do on a tropical island!

As far as I am concerned, there is only one thing to do on a tropical island!

The last touristy thing we did in Cambodia was visit what has been called “The Killing Fields”. Some people think this should be the last thing you do in country, so that the rest of this marvelous place will erase it from your mind. Others say do it last so it does not foul up your head for the rest of the trip.

The killing fields are the result of one of the most murderous regimes ever. Certainly the most murderous in my life time. Estimates say that two million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge in three years. Pol Pot, the leader of this regime was not committing genocide in the common definition of genocide. He was killing his own people. He killed, teachers, professors, doctors, dentists, bankers, business owners, for that matter anyone who wore glasses just in case they were intellectual. He outlawed trade. He outlawed money. He emptied out the cities and forced  everyone into the fields to do nothing more than grow rice. Then he prevented these same people from being able to eat the rice they grew. Starvation and disease killed as many as did the beatings. One of our two guides on the trip was 12 years old when his family was forced out of Phnom Penh. His father, a professor, was killed in front of him and he learned to just obey and survived.

Millions of others met an even worse fate.

DSCN7218 DSCN7221

 

I hate to leave you with this last image of Cambodia. Believe me when I tell you this is now my favorite South East Asian country. If you are considering a trip to Thailand, think again. Cambodia is better. They use US$ everywhere and speak English almost everywhere. The food is better, the beer is cheaper. Everything is less expensive. I can not think of many more ways to recommend Cambodia, except to say we loved it. As soon as we have seen the rest of the world, we will return.

Please share this on FB. Please make a comment.

Next two trips…back to CapeTown then onto planet China. I am a lucky guy or WHAT?

 

 

 

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Mary Ellen Watts says:

    You are a Damn Lucky Guy, and we are all lucky that you are willing to share. Thanks for that.

  2. Stefan says:

    Yebo, you are a really lucky guy. Back to CapeTown, I would like to go there again too. It evokes good memories: table mountain, good food, a glass of amarula. Kind Regards from Petra, Eric and me from cold Germany to you and Marie-Ann

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