Weekend means heading out of Phnom Penh and once again I found myself in a car on National Road 3 towards the quiet costal town of Kampot in western Cambodia just a few kilometres from the sea surrounded by rivers and hills.
Even though I was going back to a town I’ve visited a few times before, something was different this time… I was going to stay in a Yurt. Yea, that’s right, a Yurt. Somewhat intriguing, perhaps especially since it was a word I’d never heard before, perhaps because it was an eco-resort, perhaps, just for the sake of getting out of Phnom Penh again and instead entering a weekend of unknown adventures. So, I’d never heard the word Yurt before and I had even less of an idea of what a Yurt was – more than a place you could sleep in I guess – and what this supposed ‘eco tourism Yurt-place’ would be like.
After a little more than two and a half hours in the car we begin to approach Kampot and our driver slows down and pulls over to the side of the road pointing at a small red handmade sign with white scribbling on the side of the road spelling GANESHA. He asks (I think… it was in Khmer…) if he should turn down on this particular dirt road. The name was the one of the place we’d booked so a positive reply was given to him and he immediately left the main, paved but bumpu, National Road 3 just about three kilometres before reaching Kampot town; the small but just big enough weekend adventure had begun.
After a few hundred meters, thoughts questioning how smart it really was to direct our driver and his Toyota Camry down this narrow dirt road mostly consisting of pot holes and mud. Another kilometre down the road we started to wonder where we were going… especially when the road stopped being a narrow dirt track and turned into little more than a meter wide path through what showed to be the local Muslim village. Another kilometre a palm tree is blocking the way, apparently we’d gotten as far as we would get with the car, luckily, we’d also reached our goal, Ganesha Eco Resort; the home of the Yurts.
The place was great. Chilled out. Awesome staff. Super-friendly guests. Great fried noodles. Amazing setting next to a small river, and of course, Yurts.
Arriving late Thursday and ‘stuck’ a fair ride off the main road in the middle of a Muslim village left us no choice really but to stay at Ganesha spending the evening with the owner Dirk and guests; nothing bad in that. I think you’d have to try really hard to find a more friendly and calm setting just a few hours outside of Cambodia’s capital.
Nevertheless, the entire weekend couldn’t be spent at the guesthouse, hence, a moto was arranged and off we went the next day. Friday the 12th of August became ‘Exploration Day’. First, off to the seaside south of Kep – just 30 kilometres south of Kampot – where the ‘secret’ Angkol beach offered fresh crab and rice, hammocks and quietness, then, the muddiest main road to a country border I’ve ever seen.
Heading south from Angkol beach towards the newly opened Vietnamese border and ‘city’ of Há Tien was an acrobatic and exciting challenge in maneuverering the moto through the muddy street… and it went on for about a kilometre.
The border itself consisted of a few casinos – as always in Cambodia – and (seemingly non-working) border police… after a quick chat with one of them it was time to head back… on the muddy and slippery road was apparently the best one; once again it shows that all I relative. Well out on the main road, and a few miles from the Vietnamese border all started to feel better (if you read my entry about Vietnam a week or two ago you know why I liked getting away from the border) and the national park in Kep became the new goal.
The national park in Kep is located in the middle of the peninsula where Kep town is located where one of the mountains – probably more of a hill – offered an awesome forest-path drive up the hill from sea level to the vertiginous altitude of 294 meters (I know, but we’re in the flattest of countries so that’s kind of a lot…) where a great view of the coast was presented. Time wasn’t right to stay to enjoy the view that long – the park was about to close, and hunger started to make a presence why dinner soon became a top priority. You might think that seafood would be the only answer to a hungry stomach when you’re at the coast but no, pizza just sounded so much better. Just after dark and a pretty good Cambodian-Italian pizza, the 125cc reddish Honda Dream took us back to Ganesha’s quiet and beauty. Yea, we actually managed to find the way back!
Saturday and Sunday a few small excursions were made. Witch mountain, a hill close to our guesthouse, was climbed… we didn’t meet the old lady but her son and daughter said hi and their dog tried its best to scare us off. However, it was a great view and a nice climb. Just after lunch Sunday it was time for our taxi to take us back to Phnom Penh and city life… but really just to repack my bags.
At the time of writing, Monday 15th, afternoon and just about 24h after leaving Ganesha, I’ve just checked in at Hotel Mondulkiri in the rainy provincial capital of Mondulkiri province Sen Monorom in the northeastern parts of Cambodia. More on this in a future entry.
Oh yea, a Yurt is a Mongolian Tipi, kinda… see photo below 😉