Friday, March 22, 2013

I saw my shadow today. Must be 6 more weeks of winter.

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.

 - Clifton Fadiman

Friday March 22 2013 - Kep

I am sitting on a huge King sized bed letting the A/C waft over me as I type this in my very well appointed room overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. I'm not out on the balcony mostly because I am just too comfortable to move.

The bungalows at Jasmin Valley are mud brick up for 10 feet or so. Then there is a two foot  gap before the thatched roof begins. I assume it is for ventilation and so the mosquitos can have an easier entrance and egress. I had dinner, which I didn't think too much of. Maybe it was the minerals in the water, but it just tasted off to me. I was in my room laying on the bed listening to the dark surround me and fell asleep. I must have woken somewhat in the night because my pants were on the floor in the morning. Around 4:30 something big landed on my bed. I woke in a start and began flailing on the bed with my pillow. I fumbled for my flashlight and eventually found it and surveyed my bed to find - nothing. Absolutely nothing. I tried to go back to sleep but with all that adrenaline that got pumped into my body sleep just wasn't happening. I opted to get up and smoke a cigarette. Maybe the nicotine woud counteract the adrenalin. Next to my pack of cigarettes, which were next to the toy stuffed frog was a real frog. Cute little green Kermit about half the size of the palm of my hand. I looked at him and realized that he was probably the reason I was awake. I thought about picking him up and showing him the door, but some frogs have poison in their skin and most don't. I don't know which from which though. So I just left him, mystery solved. When I came back in he had moved on to other Lilly pads.

So breakfast and a phone call to another Lonely Planet recommendation. $75 a night. O.k., I'm on vacation "Do it". Mr. Chandra my tuk-tuk driver picked me up and when I told him my destination he said we would have to walk up the hill again. The Tuk-tuk just wouldn't make it. I rethought the plan and said 'Take me to a big hotel'. If it cost me more that I felt comfortable in cash, there was alswys those little plastic cards with the word VISA on it. As we passed one (it wasn't one listed in L.P.) he asked 'This one?'. Sure I'll ask. Brand new hotel (Rock Royal) so new in fact the pool isn't even finished. I took the stairs down tonight and there were four treadmills and a couple stair climbers still in their boxes waiting to be un packed. I asked to see a room and we came to this one. The price? $70. "$70 ??" - "Oh, ok (he probably said) $65" but I wasn't sure so I held five fingers twice and said "$55 ??" So now for $110 I am in the lap of luxury as far as my room goes.

I tossed my luggage in the room went down to talk to the tuk-tuk driver about sight seeing today. The place I wanted to see was 25 Km (15 miles +/-) away. That was too far to go on a tuk-tuk. Mr. Chandra, tuk-tuk driver mediocre, said he had a friend with a taxi (of course). So said friend arrives in a nice Toyota that runs on gasoline or LPG. Go figure.

First stop a cave temple. 203 steps up to the entrance. Around 175 I needed to stop and "Take a photo". After I recovered from my photo taking we continued onward. In the cavern was a small brick building. It was an old Hindu temple with a male and female fertility symbols inside. Of course I failed to bring a flash light.

Then we drove to the town of Kampot another 10 Km down the road. made a quick couple shutter clicks and back towards Kep. Where we stopped at a different cave temple. This one didn't have steps. It did have children with flashlights though. I enlisted the boy with the biggest light headed to the mouth of the cave. Over there is where the Khmer Rouge dumped the bodies of the people they killed. Over there is where the Japanese stayed in 1935 We walked a good way through enough darkness I'm glad Mr. Flashlight was along. Then the cave opened into a huge circular vault, except there was no ceiling. Maybe 100 feet of shear cliff faces in a 50 foot circle with blue sky above and vines climbing down. I'm not sure if the feeling was Tomb Raider or The Hobbit. In this cavern was a reclining Buddha as well as a Hindu god 'The Hermit;. We kept on going as the ceiling kept getting lower the kids were saying "Mind you head" just before I crashed into the ceiling. I hope my neck isn't too sore tomorrow.

Then it was to the pepper plantation to buy some of the internationally famous Kompot pepper grown in Kep. I picked up some white, red and black pepper. All the same pepper just processed differently. And finally the salt fields. They fill shallow basins with sea water and in a week have salt. Only in the dry season.

I hung out a few hours in the room and took a long needed and missed hot shower before calling Mr. Tuk-tuk for a ride to the Sailing Club. Reputed to have great food. They do. Mojito, bottle of water, grapefruit and shrimp salad (to die for) and 2 Kep Crab in green pepper sauce, all for $18. The crab came the same way Dungeness crab came to Chris and I when we went out to our birthday in Seattle's Chinatown a couple years ago. It arrived in this great sauce, cleaned but still in it's shell. I have not found a way to eat crab without using your hands. At least this time I was offered a finger bowl. Good food and good times.

Back to the hotel and the conclusion of today's entry.

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