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For details of the places I visited in Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville.
Last night I arranged with the manager of the hotel I am staying in, to be my guide to white mountain, where “the whitch of Kampot” lives. He said we should meet at 7am, then go for breakfast. I commented that is not needed, as I have breakfast in my room in the morning. Oops, should not have said that. What? He asked, and I can just see it in his eyes that he is under the impression that I am cooking in my hotel room. In actually, I brought a bag of rolled oats with me, as I love it, and to save a bit of money. So in the mornings and evening, I just have oats with milk and bananas. However, it took me all of 10 minutes to convince the guy I was not cooking in my room, and in the end he settled for that I only eat a chocolate bar for breakfast. But then he lectures me in how bad it is not to eat a proper breakfast. 🙂
So, we eventually agreed then on meeting at 8am, so he can have breakfast. Now, I am renting a scooter from him as Tuk tuk prices is stupid high. You can rent a scooter for a week, with the price a Tuk tuk asks to take you to Bokor mountain. I expected him to take another scooter and go and show me, but no, we are going with the scooter that I am renting from him, and he is driving. So I end up being bitch on the scooter I am renting. I hold on with my left hand onto the grab handle at the back, while taking pictures with my right. We are doing a blistering pace of about 30km/h. After about 5 minutes of driving, he turns around and says, sit closer. WHAT? Sit closer he says again. I inch a bit more forward on the seat. We go about a minute more, and he yells, sit closer, your weight at the back makes the front wheel to light on the road. Crap, I knew I should not have had that extra banana last night. Reluctantly i move closer.
We continue our record setting pace, and I enjoy the scenery while oxcarts overtake us. Slowly, i start to fall asleep. A loud crack wakes me up as I slide forward and my helmet slammes into the back of his, while i body hug him. The manager, totally ignoring me pressed againt him, points into the distance alongside the road and says. That is my house. I look at the small humble wood house standing in a rice field a distance away. Oh, cooooo, shit… I scream as he pulls away without further ado and I almost fall off the back. “Sit closer”, he yells at me over the wind noise.
We drive for a few miles, and I lean forward and inform him that he can go faster. He complies, and increases the speed to 35km/h, on an 80km/h limited road, in very good condition.
Cambodian countryside as we make our way to white mountain.
We finally turn off from the main road, onto a dirt road, and head deeper into the countryside. A few km down the road, the guy says that he is not sure where the place is. Now, when Cambodians say they will be a guide for you, as they know where the place that you are looking for is, they actually sometimes mean that they probably would be able to find it by asking the locals there. We stop by a house next to the road, where a small boy plays outside. Unfortunately the boy has no idea where white mountain is, so we stop a women cycling past us. She points to a small mountain we have just passed. We drive back, and find a small footpath heading through scrubs, then up the mountain. The hotel manager walks to a house across from the road, and asks if he can store his motorbike there, then joins me. The small footpath splits in two, and I go and check out the short path to the left. This turns out to be an unimpressive small Buddhist shrine, so I head back and follow the path up the mountain.
The path starts out as nice steps, then turns into a gravel path, that turns into climb over rocks and scale the side of the mountain and make your own path.
Finally we come to “the witch of kampot” house. She turns out to be a very sweet Buddhist nun, of over 100 years old. As we pass her ramshackle house to go to the cave temple that is over 1000 years old, I notice she has a small radio playing to keep her company.
She shows us where the cave temple is, and follows us in.
The nun says something in Khmer to the hotel manager, and he translates that she wants me to make a donation at the Buddha shrine. I comment that I do not pray to Buddha, but i hand over 10 000 Riel ($2.5) (all I can afford) to her. (2000 Riel buys 1kg of rice). I say that it is for her, to use for her. The nun is very thankful and blesses me. Then, she says something else to the hotel manager, and he traslates that I am allowed into her holy prayer temple. This temple is inside her house, right at the back, and is a rare privilege. With great respect, I enter her house, past her bedroom, and into her inner temple, where there is a shrine and prayer area for her father, mother, herself, and buddha.
Inner holy temple.
Shrine for the nun herself.
Shrine for her father.
Shrine for her mother.
Returning outside, we go onto the top of mountain and snap some pictures.
View from the top of White Mountain where the “Witch of Kampot” lives.
It is time to head back, and I am thirsty as hell. I spot these two water tanks, and ask if it is drinkable water. The nun says yes it is rain water, but then produces a small bottle of water for me. I am reluctant to take the bottled water, but the hotel manager informs me not to worry, as the bottle goes for les than 10cents in town. After thanking her, we head back.
I ask the hotel manager how she gets food and stuff, and he informs me she lives solely from donations from people coming to her for advice and blessings. She has devoted her life to being a nun.
Next, we to go and see phnom Sasear, that is close by. There is actually two caves, one called bat cave, and the other one called elepahnt cave (due to elephant statues in it). There is also a few shrines around, and a round building with sculptings all around the sides.
Road on the way to Phnom Sasear.
Steps leading up to shrines at Phnom Sasear.
Entering bat cave, that has probably 20 or so bats. 🙂
Inside bat cave. It is not a large cave by any standard, and in Cambodia you will soon realize, that any cave that has at least one bat in, is called bat cave. Next, we head over to the elephant cave. The cave has two levels, an upper small level, where the elephant statues are, and then a lower level that requires hands and feet climbing down to just a cave. I was too tired to go down just another empty cave, so only did the upper part.
Elephants in Elephant cave.
Looking down at the lower level. There is a small base that I went downt to, where the people are standing, but from there it is hands and feet, and not really anything to see. If you have never been inside a cave, go for it.
The hotel manager asks me if I want to go and see another cave, and I ask how far. Close by, he says. Close by turns out to be over 40km away, past Kep. That is 1 1/2 hours of riding. My ass starts to go numb as we crawl toward the place. I shift my weight from one buttcheek to the next to try and get some blood flowing. “Sit still, move closer”, is my rewards for my efforts to save my sexy ass.
Eventually we make it, and I try to climb off. My legs are as numb as my butt, and almost gives in. I hold onto the bike for support, and get a sideways glance from the hotel manager. “It is okay, they will not bite you” the manager says and I hear a few kids behind me chuckle. “They just want bananas” the guy continues. What? I ask as I turn around, and stop as a monkey stands way too close to my pride and joy, while holding out his hands with nails like hawk talons that can rip through delicate flesh. I try to get my iPod out to take a picture, but the manager shoes the monkey away and comments, you safe now, I chase away. I bite my lip while the kids around me almost roll on the ground from laughter. About six kids of around five to twelve form around me, and offer to be my guide for $1, into the cave. I chose the only adult guide around, as one I believe the kids should be in school and not put to work, and two, they laughted at me. We are standing in a large open parking area, and the guide points up to the mountain and says that there is a bat cave we can first go and have a look at, and I can feed the monkeys. I decline, and hear the kids chuckle and say to the guide that I am afriad of them. He gives me an up and down look, then just shakes his head at me and says I must follow him. We head to where two statues are, and what looks like a small opening. Great I think, another small cave, boy, how wrong am I.
This place is amazing, and a must do. You walk through a tunnel that water at some time years back have formed, and come to the center of what is almost a small volcano. All around the side is vegetation, and at the edges of the clearing in the center, a small river runs all around where a number of shrines are located against the rockface. At points, a number of tunnels lead into the mountain, that can be explored. (I did some, but as it is the wet season, it is very muddy and you cannot go far, suggest the dry season to explore them).
Tunnel as you go through the side of the mountain. On the other side, is a reclining Buddha statue.
Hotel manager taking a break, and having his picture taking by some of the kids that laughed at me.
As I stand around, I get an incoming email. (3G connection is good all over Cambodia, and I have unlimited data at a snail pace, for $2.5 a month, that is actually the cheapest plan). I note that I got $25 donation though the PayPal button on my website, so I give the guide $2 for the short tour instead of the $1 he asked for. Okay, I am a softy, now shut up. 🙂 (For those not knowing, Cambodia is very poor, and .50c buys 1kg of rice, also, I work on a very limited budget from the sales of my books and would give more if I could).
All too soon we have to head back, and it is another 1 1/2 hours of butt numbing riding back, with “sit still, and move closer” almost the only conversation on the way. At least there are no monkeys at the hotel where I stay.
Back at the hotel, I inform the hotel manager that I plan on going to Sihanoukville, as I want to cover that in my book as well. It is 115km away, and he informs me that absolutely Not, may I use the rental bike to go that far (although we just did it two up today). Reluctantly I book a $4 bus ride to Sihanoukville, then do like I normally do, and hunt on the Internet for deals. If you know where to look, then you can always find specials, like the hotel I stayed in for the past few days. The manager just started there a month ago, and they just put the hotel on bookings.com, and I got it for a better deal than the backpacker places down the road. After a bit of searching, I find a hotel that is also having a special, and again get a room for very cheap, and this one actually has hot water and air conditioning, cool.