Niko and I decided to ditch the motorbikes for bicycles to actually incorporate some exercise into the day. Enough riding on the motorbike makes you fat and lazy. The thinking is that even after the main riding has been completed from place to place, why bother walking around town when you have a capable engine at your disposal? After being denied of my sandwich yesterday, I was determined to reveal that I was not crazy that this Cambodian classic was not a mirage or a figment of my imagination. We actually waited around for a shop to open up and get their supplies together just for the sake of this 75 cent sandwich. Boy oh boy was it divine! It did not let me down or come up short to the expectations I had raised for Niko. Without charging anything extra, they even gave me an extra heaping of the green papaya, radish, and carrot slaw to crown my sandwich. We took our time starting the day, which is fine and dandy, but it burned us literally and figuratively as the sun was approaching its utmost summit in the sky. We rode on regardless out of Kampot town over the river to the nearby island directly attached by a short bridge. The streets were lined with coconut, mango, and palm trees as well as many locals going about their business. Although not as large and pronounced as yesterday, many salt fields stretched out far into the distance taking up much of the island’s real estate. Unlike yesterday, no one was out working the fields for the simple reason that it was too bloody hot in the middle of the day. I got so hot and toasty you could have probably fried an egg upon my head. If you are thinking fried eggs aren’t exactly your thing no worry, you could have very easily pooled enough of my sweat together to hard boil an egg as well. If that weren’t enough, the roads were so shitty that they had to have been planned that way on purpose. After leaving the decent level and paved road behind us all too soon, we hit the dirt and pothole riddled street that consumed most of our journey. Even when you managed to dodge the many potholes available and ready to consume your wheels, so so many rocks stood in the way to make you feel like you were riding a crazed jackhammer from hell. Through all these obstacles, the seat/saddle hugged my goods in the most unfriendly way to the point I had to check that I still had the same full pair that I came with. The whole ride was pointless in the end since we dead-ended at some dreary shore on the coast only to have to return across the same deadly passage that we took to arrive here. As I was drenched in an unmistakeable thorough coating of sweat, the only respite was the sight and sound of the village children shouting hello, emphasizing the vowels longingly. Water helped as well as I continued my efforts towards the eventual 7.5 liters I would consume by the end of the day. Eventually after much displacement of my booty and goods, we arrived back to an actual road upon which I legitimately began chanting ‘amen’ and ‘alleluia’ aloud for all to hear. Being as tired, thirsty, and hear stricken as I was, the only thing pushing me forward was the promise of jumping into the cool river but it would take another 7km in the opposite direction. We pedaled again on well paved roads to the Greenhouse bungalows after I acted as the lead pace car for the village boys who drafted behind me. That initial plunge into the water soothed every burn I had and every dehydrated muscle in my body. When I emerged from the river’s water I felt birthed anew, like a reincarnated Buddha. I ate fish amok once again but this one was special, being the best version of the famous Khmer cuisine dish I have had up until this point. We agreed to hang out here until the sun’s tortuous rays of hear died down so in the meantime we enjoyed the comforts of the hammocks, shade, and some duels of chess play. After another soak in the water, we regrettably had to head back to Kampot. I enjoyed sitting around and not feeling the need to keep moving and doing something. Stressing too much on the emphasis to see this and do that each and every day can kill the purity of travel. The calm of a few lazy afternoons brings you back to whole again. After chugging more water to the point it just felt unnatural (upon reaching Greenhouse bungalows, I shit you not I guzzled down a full liter and a half within a few minutes), we went into town for some food. Niko couldn’t handle another one of those sandwiches while I couldn’t help myself from having another heaping off that papaya slaw to soak the crispy French bread along with the rest of the accompaniments. When we stopped to get some avocado and banana shakes to soften the fire from the sandwich, I found the Eastern European couple I met originally in Myanmar and then again in Siem Reap. After another bizarre catchup, we went our separate ways so that I could take a shower and lather my body’s aches and pains with lotion to ease the scorched burns of my poor skin.
‘Wats’ in Cambodia? Day 134: “A Song of Ice and Fire”