Kep, Kampot & The Big Motorcycle Crash
19th July 2012 13:32
Kep is famous for its crab. Which would have been great, had I actually enjoyed the crab I tried there. I've never had to work so hard for a meal in all my life. It would be perfect diet food, as I'm certain you expend more calories actually going through the ordeal of eating your meal than you consume. I didn't even think it tasted all that great. Sure, it was nice, but not fantastic. The little bits of shell in my mouth didn't help matters. I can safely say I'm over crab. The view in Kimly restaurant was amazing though, and it's built over the water so you hear the waves crashing underneath you. Very cool.
I decided to splurge with my accommodation in Kep, settling on a whopping $16 (£10) a night tree top bungalow with a view across the Gulf of Thailand, at the aptly named Tree Top Bungalows resort. To give you some idea of prices in general here, they also had a slightly smaller bungalow with a shared bathroom for $5 (£3) per night. Cheap somehow doesn't quite cover it.
It's a very sleepy, quiet place with a relatively small beach, a crab market (and associated strip of restaurants), a siren and crab statue, abandoned villas and the promise of huge development in future, I'm sure. It used to be Cambodia's top seaside destination, but was abandoned during the Khmer Rouge era and Civil War, hence the old, rotting villas dotted around the area.
Kampot has much the same kind of vibe, very chilled and relaxed (apart from when you cross the dangerous looking old bridge, when your arse clenches somewhat). The attraction of the area is Bokor mountain, where there is a brand new hotel/casino complex. There are also plans afoot to develop the whole of the area to include new housing and more hotels. Frankly in my opinion it looks like an eyesore, but decide for yourself. There is also an old abandoned hotel and church which I'd heard about, which I was really interested in. I love exploring old buildings, back in England I'd previously wandered round an old mental asylum with some friends, generally getting spooked out and taking cool photos. Good times. Unfortunately I'd arrived a little too late, and the old hotel was already being restored by workers back to its former glory. It still looked pretty eerie when the mist rolled in though. I was more fortunate with the church, and got a few nice photos inside.
I enjoyed the atmosphere of Kampot for nearly one day before things became very stressful and painful, extremely quickly.
Remember the fantastic, joyous time I'd been having riding my beloved Honda Win around the place? It suddenly decided to turn on me in a vicious, unprovoked attack. Well technically, my Win didn't turn on me, the motorbike that crashed into me turned on me and decided I'd had enough fun for a while. The other guy hit the side of me as I was turning into a side road across his path, but it was clear from the damage to the front end of his bike that he was travelling at quite some speed, at night. Both of us ended up sprawled on the road, thankfully only with scrapes and bruises.
He immediately demanded $200 for the damage to his bike, and I naively agreed, having read online it's best to just pay out and avoid getting the police involved. His friends turned up, took us to the nearest ATM, only for me to discover my wallet had somehow got bent up in the crash, including my credit card held within. I tried straightening it up somewhat, fearful of snapping it, then fed it to the machine which predictably swallowed it and never spat it out again. Shit. I explained the situation to my new pals, they seemed pleased.
Expecting that I would do a runner without paying up (hard when my motorbike was unrideable), they wanted to know where I was staying. We all happily rode off to my hostel (ironically named Blissful), where I was quite literally saved by Ez, the owner. He told them in no uncertain terms, they were not getting a penny out of me that night and we would bring both bikes down to the hostel and inspect them there with the tourist police. I wasn't too sure about that bit, but frankly, the guy's been there eight years so he knows his stuff, and I was in no fit state to argue even if I'd been inclined to. I actually later found out, if you're the ones who call the tourist police, they're almost on your side anyway.
My buddies wandered out of the bar, and Ez sat me down and poured me a large scotch. I don't usually drink this but I definitely wasn't going to decline on this occasion. After virtually downing it I went back to the scene of the accident and started walking my bike back to the hostel, as it was unrideable due to a broken clutch lever.
When I returned, I found the police (of the tourist variety, to be honest I still don't understand the distinction) had been called in by Ez, and the group of Khmer guys were back. Much arguing/negotiation ensued, translated by staff at the hostel and mediated by the police. It was eventually agreed the damage to the bike(s) would be repaired, and I would pay the bill. The alternative would have been the police getting further involved, taking the bikes into the police compound, determining liability etc, which was a whole heap of hassle I didn't want.
The following morning we got the bikes to the mechanic and had them checked over. The other guys bike would cost $175, mine would cost $75. This would have been fine, had I actually been able to withdraw any money. If you've been reading regularly you may remember I lost my debit card in Hanoi. My second card was now trashed. I had a third emergency card, which also would have been great, if I could remember the pin number for it. I really don't make things easy for myself sometimes. A Skype call to super mum back home, giving her a near heart attack before a day at work, saw £400 rescue money winging it's way to me via Western Union. With the money situation temporarily sorted, the bikes were repaired, the garage was paid, and everybody lived happily ever after.
Except I didn't particularly want to get on the bike again. I know that's technically the first thing you should do, but I'd known it was dangerous enough in the first place when I bought the bike, and I figured my luck had run out. I planned to ride the bike a short 100km to my next location, Sihanoukville, where I would attempt to sell it.