In the morning, I took the luxury minivan transit to Kampot in a vehicle devoid of any Cambodians and cockroaches (not that I am trying to suggest a comparison). Once in Kampot, I drifted toward my guesthouse while throwing up a stiff hand and fence to rebuke any efforts for a tuk-tuk driver fighting for my dollar. The first thing that welcomed me into Kampot was one of the city’s many statues scattered throughout to help with directions and probably humor passersby. This particular statue is built in the shape of a particular object famously called ‘the king of fruits’ but should be called ‘the whiff of death’: the durian fruit. My guesthouse The Magic Sponge is run by a Westerner with all the comforts that come with the lifestyle including free mini golf onsite and a bar loaded with various happy hour specials and a big flatscreen TV hovering over the liquor shelf not to mention the open air penthouse dorm room and personalized fans hovering above the beds. It is just a bit more expensive at $4 per night but I can handle a splurge at that price. Since I had gotten to Kampot in the middle of the heat stricken day, I had no desire to venture out at any midday hour so with time to kill why should I deprive myself of a little lazying about? In the meantime until the sun offered some rare forgiveness, I soaked up some happy hour beers because the tap was staring at me the whole time as I sat at the bar slowly luring me in with its promise of refreshment and delight. All the while as I sat there kicking back, the guesthouse was celebrating the holiday of 4-20 with a marathon of marijuana movie classic. When the time arrived, I explored the town and the riverfront. The city may have quite a few Westerners flocking the streets but it doesn’t take away from the feel and vibe of the place but rather shows why it is such a place to stop and linger longer than you may have first thought upon arriving. Kampot is a French colonial town with colorful two story shophouses lining its main streets and doesn’t shy away from its presence along a river than runs outwards to the sea. Once the day had darkened I was pulled in from the river walk towards the durian statue for a tour of the Old Market. After enough teasing during my many travels seeing the many succulent cooked insects sitting in their stalls waiting for a Western appetite to enjoy them, I finally took the leap of faith and bought what I believe was a bag of grasshoppers seasoned with a ladle of a chili and garlic brine. The crunch, spiciness, and otherworldly mouthful brought me back to the stand for seconds. The insects were only an appetizer so I headed for the main street to find a pop up restaurant to my liking. When you know what you are looking for, local food is king; not only is it far cheaper, it usually tastes better and the restaurant’s guests roughly hover around 100% locals and like minded travelers. I noticed two white people appearing to enjoy their meal so I sat down to join them. Over a bowl of chicken and rice soup along with cubes of coagulated pig’s blood (tastes much better than it sounds), we chatted like old friends. These two friends (a boy and a girl around my age) were from Belgium and they refreshingly held similar views to mine on travel amongst other life practicalities. After we ate the local Cambodia dessert of pumpkin (already a bizarre concept considering I usually eat my pumpkin in the fall and winter when it is cold as can be outside), coconut cream gelatin, condensed milk, coconut milk, and sugar, we more or less made plans to meet up here again at the same restaurant and at the same table for tomorrow. After making plans to ride up to Bokor Mountain with an Aussie I met earlier in the day, I rest assured I came to a place that fit my mold with the relaxed, laid back, and hippy side of life.
‘Wats’ in Cambodia Day 130: Kampot for International Pot Day 4-20