We take the supply boat into Kep for a quick taste of civilisation. The boat is packed with volunteers doing the same thing as well as empty water bottles, 5 gallon diesel containers and a compressor being taken for repair. We look forward to toilets! showers! and proper beds! If only for a couple of nights.
We’re staying in an old Khmer hotel, the Palm House. It’s authentically Khmer – both the rooms and the food. Most of the staff are not English speaking, so ordering food and drink can be an interesting experience – even with our grandchildren to translate, we get several meals we didn’t ask for! But the best thing about it is the pool, which the children love. We’re taking full advantage of it too.
And it also has a tree house, excellent for escaping little monsters and finding quiet time to write.
But there’s another story here too – a view you can get from the tree house. Behind the hotel are a series of overgrown plots, some of several acres, with big wrought iron gates and burned out villas inside. They have not been re-colonised, except by the thin, white cows that wander freely here, and they remain as a grim reminder of Cambodia’s recent history.
The main attraction in Kep is the crab market, with colourful stalls and a lot of street food – squid and cuttle fish grilled on sticks and bowls of crab which are caught just offshore and haggled over on the quayside. The crabs this year seem to be only half as big as they were last time I was here.
There are also piles and piles of shrimp in the market – most of it caught by damaging methods – either electric fishing or bottom trawling. We don’t buy any. There is also a political twist to this fish market. A lot of fish is caught in Cambodian waters by the Vietnamese and sold back to the Cambodians at Kep and Kampot, which causes a great deal of friction.
Then there’s the fruit - most of it unrecognisable. There are prickly things rather like Lychees inside and big green Jack-fruit with custard-flavoured seeds. Mangos here are eaten green and crunchy, dipped in chili.
Driven by European, middle-class cravings, we make several expeditions by Tuk-Tuk to and from the French coffee shop we can’t resist.
We avoid the heavily polluted Kep beach and the swarms of Monkeys who rifle through the rubbish bins. Then, fortified with real coffee and pastries, we head out for the privations of Koh Seh once again. It’s our final week, so we want to make the most of it.
|Not so cute monkeys!|