Waking up at 5:45am and not returning home from work until almost 6pm every day takes it’s toll. Which is why a spontaneous trip to the sleepy riverside town of Kampot last weekend was very welcome, giving me a much needed break from the hectic lifestyle of Phnom Penh!
Accompanying me on this little excursion were two fellow Brits, Jess and Clare, whom I met only a few weeks ago but they are already very good friends of mine. Jess and Clare have been friends since high school and Clare moved over here a couple of months after Jess, in a totally stalkeresque manner! They have been so warm and welcoming however that I do not feel like they have a decade old friendship compared to our fledgling one. Jess works for iCan, a British international school here, and Clare is doing an internship for WHO …Both are far more qualified than I am in their respective fields! All three of us decided to have a girly weekend away to get to know each other better, whilst lounging around on the bank of the Kampot river.
I’d visited Kampot once before, in 2009, but only for a brief afternoon pit stop on the way back to Phnom Penh. My one memory of the town was getting hideously lost in the market and almost missing the bus home. This time we were able to walk around and explore all this quiet little gem has to offer. Situated on the banks of Kampot river, the town is compact, traditional, and awash with expats and the more adventurous backpackers. Surrounded by the Bokor Mountains, Kampot enjoys cooler weather and breathtaking scenery which can be enjoyed from the numerous streetside cafés and riverside restaurants.
We stayed right on the banks of the river which was incredible to wake up to on our first morning, after arriving in darkness the night before. Sadly, the food served at Olly’s Place did not entice us simply to hang around in hammocks all day so we ended up exploring the many other establishments in the area. In addition to the poor food served at Olly’s, our neighbouring guest house catered to the partying westerners and our Saturday night sleep was disturbed until 4am by terrible reggae and club music booming through the usually peaceful air. Had I not been so relaxed, I may have ended up sabotaging their electrical system somehow, with the aid of Jess and Clare I’m sure!
But relaxed was the epitome of my state that weekend. Predominantly because we had all enjoyed a 3 hour spa session on Saturday afternoon: a full body oil massage, a full body scrub and steam, and a luxury pedicure. Firstly, anyone who’s lived in South East Asia knows how disgusting feet get out here so the pedicure was definitely needed. The body scrub was amazing but turmeric based, which means my one and only white bra out here now has a distinctly yellow tinge to it, despite having showered (accompanied by a toad) before putting it on. And describing a circular black canvas tent, with a radius of about two feet, and a steaming pot underneath a wooden platform, as a steam room would be stretch in every sense of the term. But I haven’t felt more relaxed as when we walked back from Banteay Srey Spa, accompanied by the croaking of thousands of frogs and toads which had awakened by the monsoon rain, gently pattering on the roof of the spa throughout our sessions.
The three of us returned to Phnom Penh revitalised, relaxed, and much closer friends after two nights spent together with dangerously cheap, and dangerously delicious caipirinhas for company. As we trundled slowly into the hot, dusty, sticky capital, I found myself already planning our next trip away. Much as I love this city I now call home, I’m still a country girl at heart and I’ll always find time to escape to Cambodia’s scenic, unspoilt, calm, and varied countryside.