Friday, June 25, 2010

Kampot

Kampot

I am getting out of order again. That is what happens when I am so far behind in my blogging. However, we are leaving Kampot tomorrow and I haven't had the opportunity to explain why we have stayed in this tiny, riverside town for three weeks.

Cale has already declared Kampot at the top of his list of places to retire early (we just have to figure out how to retire early...which I suppose starts with having jobs to retire from) and I am inclined to degree. There is something about the atmosphere here. The people in Cambodia have all been overwhelmingly nice and welcoming and Kampot seems to take that friendliness up a notch. Someone we met once at dinner will come up to us days later at a bar and ask us how we are doing. The owners of Wunderbar will be tooling around on their moto, see us at a riverside cafe and wave happily. Its nice.

Kampot is also a Khmer city. Granted, it is a tourist destination and the riverfront road feels pretty much abandoned right now in the low season, but even empty riverfront road feels lived in. At night we watch families out on motos and the kids at the playground. Tourism is obviously not the overwhelming purpose of this town, unlike Siem Reap (another city we enjoyed).

There is also the buzz of revitalization in the air. Everywhere you look construction is underway. Old, French-era row houses are being gutted and rebuilt. Public, park-like promonade spaces are under construction in the middle of town. When the heat of the day has passed you can see kids playing hackey-sack-like games in the one that is completed. There is a sense of determined people committed to growth and rejuvenation. Of course, all this development can have its downside too. Up on Bokor Mountain where the decaying remains of a French resort sits like a ghost town and new resort is all ready under construction in the years to come a golf course, casino and hotel will spring up and the French ruins will not longer stand, shrouded in mist.

When Cale and I arrived we thought we would stay a week before continuing on to Kampong Trach and meeting up with the Peace Corps volunteers there. However, in addition to being actually sick, I was sick and tired of being on the move. Also, the PC volunteers were busy that first weekend. So we decided to unpack our stuff, make Paris Guesthouse (great place) our home and settle in for another week. We started to look at our options of where to go next. We thought that next weekend we wold visit the PCs and then head on to Battambang. The next weekend came and the volunteers found themselves in the whirlwind of activity surrounding the arrival of the US Navy's humanitarian hospital ship (which was in Samoa almost this same time last year). Should we just break camp and head to Battambang, we wondered. We looked at the calendar, our visa expiration dates (30 June) and our flight home (12 July). Did we really want to leave a city we were enjoying so much for one we were unsure of with two weeks left on our Cambodian visas? The answer to that was no. And so we left our backpacks in the corner and called Kampot our home for another week.

Unfortunately, the time to leave has finally arrived. Our visas expire in four days. Travel logistics will not allow for us to travel directly to the border from here (we want to arrive at the border in time to make the train to Bangkok). We have decided to spend one more day in Siem Reap before heading to Poipet. Tomorrow (Sunday) will find us on the bus to Siem Reap and on Tuesday, with one day left on our visa, we will cross the border and be back in Thailand.

I am sad to leave Kampot, but to be honest I am also a little excited. We are reaching the end of our travel and I am ready. My mind is already in Bloomington and going back to school. We got confirmation of our student loans, we found a place to live (thanks Grandma Hellman), we are thinking about the future. We are still more than two weeks away from that flight home, but packing up tonight and getting on a bus in the morning are the first steps we have taken in that direction in three weeks. I think I am ready to be on the move again.

— Sara

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