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Quiet South-East Cambodian Coast

After parting with Margaux early in the morning, I might have opted for a day of rest in Phnom Penh but Yann was eager to push on so we boarded a local bus for the coastal city of Kampot in Eastern Cambodia. We thought about Margaux on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City, hoping that she would cross the border without too many hassles. We arrived in Kampot at lunchtime and searched among many full guest houses before we could find a room. I was hot, and exhausted (we were coming from our near sleepless night in Phnom Penh), it was my birthday which meant I had an emotional free pass, so I let myself collapse into tears after the third guest house which had no vacancies.

We finally found a room in a friendly guest house run by an energetic 76 year old, French, English Khmer speaking man. He was happy to speak to us in his less frequently used French, which he had learned at school back in the days of colonial rule. He told us inprisonments and miraculous survival.. Most French speakers of the time were educated upper class and thus obvious targets of the Khmer Rouge. His children, who help him run the place are also tri-lingual. Kampot is small, quiet and lovely. By nightfall the streets are deserted and the guest houses close their gates by 10p.m., the locals are friendly but don't pay us any mind. We walked about Kampot like we were back in our own neighbourhood. Our second day in Kampot we rented a motorbike, now one of our favourite activities. We drove along the coast until we hit the small village of Kep, that sits right on the sea. Much of what remains of Kep are the ruins of old colonial villas, shelled by Khmer Rouge up until the mid- nineties. Some luxurious villas have begun to reappear, and it seems destined that Kep will once again become a getaway for Cambodia's rich (and us foreigner of course) but today there is not much other than fishing. We pulled up our motorbike to a small beachside hut with hammocks. We were immediately greeted by a crab seller and we bought ourselves 2kg for lunch. The woman at the hut prepared us rice and spicy dipping sauce to accompany our crab and in return we bought our drinks from her. We paid less than 5$ for the crab, so we couldn't much complain, but the larger crabs were definetely sitting on the top of the bag, we spent at least 2 hours working away at the miniscule little crabs at the bottom of the bag. Our evening was spent back in Kampot, relaxing in our cozy guest house and eating on a rooftop restaurant in one of the old colonial building downtown. For the next day we had booked a full day tour of Bokor National Park. Bokor is the site of a former French hillstation and former retreat of King Sihanouk. It is now abandoned and the jungle surrounding it houses some of the most diverse species in the region (including tigers). Here is the approximate schedule that we were given for the day in Bokor:

08:00 : Departure
08:30 - 10:30 : Travel by 4WD to Black Palace
10:30 - 12:30 : Two hour hike through park
13:00 - 14:30 : Lunch and visit of Bokor Hill Station
14:30 - 16:30 : Travel by 4WD to boat launch
16:30 - 17:30 : Travel by boat back to Kampot and watch sunset over Bokor Mountain

Here is our approximate ACTUAL schedule:

08:30 : Departure
09:00 - 09:45 : Boat ride to Bokor National Park
09:45 - 10:00 : Wade through thigh deep muddy water to get to shore
10:00 - 10:30 : Wait for 4WD to show up
10:30 - 14:00 : Ride up to Bokor Hill Station, 11 people in the back of a pick-up truck, the bumpiest road I have ever been on in my life, slow and with little protection from the sun, this ride included at least four breakdowns of the truck (read: hood up, driver underneath truck, pouring cold water over motor)
14:00 - 15:00 : Eat lunch and visit Bokor Hill Station
15:00 - 18:00 : Drive back to Kampot, only 10 people in back of truck this time, and only one flat tire and one "hood-up" breakdown
So, the day was quite long. The National Park was beautiful and the eerie abandoned hill station looking down over the jungle was an amazing sight. We regreted not having booked a few nights at the ranger station. Of course we thought that if we liked it we would just head back up the next day. No power on earth was getting me back in the back of a pick up truck up that mountain again. At least we were only short the 7$ each that we paid for the tour.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Coucou

Pas facile quelques fois ma belle Emilie
moi je vous trouve bien courageux, ne lachez pas.

Tout ce que nous voyons depuis quelques temps est passablement dur a imaginer.
Vous etes tres bons et encore une fois bonne fete ma belle.

Bonjour a toi Yann

On vous embrasse

Raymond & Denise.

P.S.: Encore une fois Raymond n'en revient tout simplement pas que vous ayez pu manger ces bebites la.

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Geneviève said...

So how many actual pics do you have now?

Miss you guys a lot, but keep on ridin'!

xxxxx

Super-Mario said...

Bonjour,

je ne peux pas croire que vous n'avez pas encore compris que dans la vie on obtient pour ce que l'on paie.

À $7 à Ottawa, vous avez un billet d'autobus OC TRANSPO aller-retour. Le hic, tu attends l'autobus pour 30 min aussi mais à moins 30C.

Have fun!

Papa.

2par4 said...

What's this??? An article about travel blogging with a feature sample from one of the hottest blogs on the net.... Check it out!


PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2007.03.17

Photo: Yann Lamontagne, Emilie Richer and Margaux Brisco, all of Ottawa.

BYLINE: Rebecca Osler
SOURCE: The Vancouver Sun
WORD COUNT: 1129

-------------------------------

Forget the postcards: Travel blogs are the new standard for backpackers chronicling their journeys

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It used to be a lonesome road for travellers.

When homesickness, a rotten day or the creeping "what have I gotten myself into?" feeling struck, a backpacker had a limited arsenal of tools to relieve isolation. A battered journal, a stack of postcards or a coin-gobbling phone booth -- that was about it.

But now, an explosion of travel blog websites is enabling travellers to join virtual communities that stay put no matter their physical whereabouts.

More than just platforms to showcase trips, these sites enable instant communication with family and friends as well as the opportunity to forge new relationships with like-minded wanderers.

Carmella Lesiuk is well-acquainted with the ups and downs of being on the move. In 2002, the Edmontonian quit her IT job, sold most of her possessions and embarked upon a four-year odyssey to discover not just the world, but her own destiny.

"I realized I didn't want to become a computer," says Lesiuk, now 30. "I didn't know where my fingers ended and the keyboard began."

Not wanting to assault loved ones with obnoxious group e-mails, Lesiuk joined TravelPod, a free Ottawa-based site that claims to be the web's original travel blog.

As she journeyed across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, Lesiuk posted religiously under the username "whereshegoes."

She wrote not just of her journey, but of the emotions she met along the way.

For instance:

"I'm sitting on my sunny rooftop patio in Riomaggiore. My freshly washed laundry swaying lightly on the line as I nibble on toast with Camembert from France and vine-ripened tomatoes. I look out beyond the terrace dotted with flowerpots spilling over with pink and purple blooms and notice a lemon tree with what seems like hundreds of plump neon yellow lemons.

"In the past, I have been so caught up in trying to anticipate the next moment that I have forgotten to breathe in this one," she wrote.

At first, Lesiuk assumed only her mom was reading her photo-laden missives.

"Then I started receiving these random e-mails from people ... strangers from all over the world commenting on my blog and how they were enjoying it," she says.

"There were actually people who sent me messages saying: 'OK, you've inspired me. I've quit my job and I'm going to travel around the world now.' "

The cheerleading went two ways, especially on those occasions when Lesiuk felt down and very much alone.

"It was almost like having a friend that was always there to listen to me and to be there for me. It was like therapy," she recalls.

"The days that I considered quitting and was having a bad day and just wanted to go home, I would get an e-mail like that and it would just change my whole view.

"It's probably one of the biggest reasons I stayed out travelling for so long," she says. "The entire world would encourage me."

Furthermore, Lesiuk says the blog provided stability when everything around her -- location, people, cuisine -- was changing daily.

Four years later, Lesiuk is now TravelPod's top-ranked user, as whereshegoes has garnered more than 400,000 views. TravelPod itself has mushroomed since its inception, having tripled its membership (which currently sits at 65,000) in the past year alone.

And unexpectedly, Lesiuk -- who found herself back in Edmonton struggling with reverse culture shock -- was offered a job moderating TravelPod's forums, which she gladly accepted.

Like many sites, TravelPod is not limited to virtual connections. It also enables users to search for specific destinations, allowing members to meet in person if they so desire. Lesiuk says she met between 10 and 20 members on her trip, including a guy from Calgary who saw that she was in South Africa and asked to converge.

"We ended up meeting and working in the same hostel for a month or two and becoming really good friends. The guy is one of my best friends now," she says.

Not all travel blogs are created equal. For instance, TravelPod, travelblog.org, realtravel.com and igoUgo.com, while free, are visually busy and contain advertising.

Mytripjournal.com, the brainchild of Vancouver's Dan Parlow, requires a paid subscription after the complimentary 45-day trial period, but is entirely ad-free.

"We wanted to keep a clean look and feel," says Parlow, a former lawyer who launched Mytripjournal after keeping his own website during a family trip to China in 2001.

At first, Parlow figured his users would be mostly youngsters. Yet, to his amazement, travellers in their 80s are blogging up a storm. Topics are equally diverse, including travelling with kids, overseas development, youth travel, honeymoons, travelling to adopt, cycling adventures, cruises and road trips.

But even the occasional visitor to cyberspace knows of the common pest known as the "bland blog." So what makes an online travel saga stand out?

"Talk about your feelings, because your feelings are usually going to be what you remember afterwards," says Parlow.

Also, don't dawdle: "The real prizewinners are made when people write when their memories are still fresh," he adds.

Lesiuk says: "Be honest and describe your experience fully, as deeply as you can.

"Describe how things taste, how they smell, how they feel. Describe the temperature of the rain as it falls on your skin.

"Look at it as if you were describing it to someone who wasn't from this planet."

BLOG SAMPLES

With only two nights left in the city, we had already agreed on our final two meals: one seafood dinner and a dog meat dinner. Since we wanted to end our time in the city with seafood, this left us with only one option, and we were now starting to regret it. Dog meat eating in Ho Chi Minh city is not really out in the open for tourists to see. With no dog restaurant listed in our Lonely Planet we sought out the directions from a small tourist office, who led us to a dark alley about 15 minutes walk away.

When Margaux and I walked in with Yann, armed with our notepad on which our friends had written four dog meat dishes, we were greeted with a look of curiosity and mostly surprise. I crossed off the "dog stomach" and "dog soup" items from the list and pointed at the fried dog meat and steamed dog meat.

Fried dog meat looks like any other fried meat, marinated in some sauce with a few sesame seeds. We very soon wished we had not ordered the steamed dog meat: thin slices of meat complete with large strips of fat and veins.

The three of us sat staring at the meat, no sign of movement, until Yann reached for a piece of steamed meat and stuck the whole thing in his mouth. Margaux made the first move for a fried piece. I, however, seemed, against my will, to be frozen. Luckily for me, our neighbour came to our table with a couple of shot glasses. Feeling a little bit embarrassed about still sitting there with the meat in my hand, I put it in my mouth. It only took me two bites to finish it. Once the liquor started flowing, the meat seemed to go down much easier.

-- Emilie Richer and Yann Lamontagne of Ottawa on ye-blogs.blogspot.com (or Google "Yann Emilie")

2par4 said...

Oh and contrary to the headline of that blog article, we have NOT forgotten the postcards. ;-)

Y&E said...

Geneviève,
we curently have a total of
photos uploaded: 6254
disk space used: 16.27 GB


Yann