Phnom Penh and Kampot
I took a bus to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap; it’s a 7-hour bus ride, for $16.
The bus agency that is most popular is called Giant Ibis, and they’re really comfortable, for such an inexpensive way of travel. They have wifi that sometimes works on the buses too!
Phnom Penh – all the Siem Reapers(?) told me they didn’t like it because it is too noisy and crowded and hot. Well, it wasn’t too hot… I kinda didn’t like it either! It’s a big city, it felt a whole lot bigger than Siem Reap, even though I’m not even sure that it is. It has high rises, lots of traffic, lots of trash… I call them “pop-up landfills”. I think it primarily was that I was just not in the mood to be in a city. But, the people are still really friendly! Here are some of my travel pics…
disclaimer #1 :: these next couple of paragraphs are not upbeat
The place that I saw in PP that left the biggest impression was called The Killing Fields, or Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. It’s one of the mass grave sites where Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge executed thousands of people. It’s not a very big area – there are human bones and pieces of clothing coming up out of the dirt everywhere. They are building wooden walkways for people to use so that we’re not walking on the dirt anymore and bringing up more remains.
disclaimer #2 :: don’t read this next part if you don’t want to be upset The worst thing I heard was that one of the trees is called The Killing Tree because it’s where the executioners working with the regime would kill babies by smashing their heads against the tree and breaking their skulls. Disgusting. Disturbing.
Even though it’s depressing, I think it’s important to see these types of things to be reminded of them and be grateful for what we have. And remember :: that things like this have happened in the past in our own country (Native Americans). And be aware :: that things like this, the exact same things, are still happening now. I haven’t heard about Sudan on the news in months. The Khmer Rouge slaughtered 1-2 million people and were still members of the U.N. – and Pol Pot was still in power – years after. I can’t go down this rabbit hole into politics and privilege, but yes, it makes you think.
Onward! To Kampot: my favorite Cambodia thus far. I had two days in PP, and only one day in Kampot. I would’ve stayed only one in PP and two in Kampot, had I known how I would take to each😊 Beautiful countryside…
Riding in a tuk-tuk, it’s perfect 85* weather and sunny, with a cool breeze. Amazing. And I found the Secret Lake…
And I found some cool temples in the woods…
And I found an awesome pepper farm😊 I was so psyched about this, and it didn’t disappoint. Kampot pepper is like champagne and bourbon and prosecco – it has been given the status of “protected geographical indication”, which means that this distinct, awesome, organic pepper can only be grown here. It smelled and tasted SO good.
Some things I learned:
- Black pepper is unripened (green) berries that are then dried
- Red pepper is ripe (red) berries that are then dried
- White pepper is ripe (red) berries that are skinned and then dried
- Pepper plants are vines that naturally grow on the ground
- The plants have to grow for at least four years before they start yielding any berries
- The older the plant, the less pepper it yields but it is higher quality
- Be careful if you don’t buy direct from the farms because Cambodians rip-off the labels and sell non-Kampot pepper under the label!
I bought some black peppercorn – can’t wait to use it on scrambled eggs or mixed with EVOO and salt for bread dipping. Yum.
Andddddd, I love this random dude…
Next up: Beach!, Sihanoukville
Loved the temple….so colorful.. Hard to imagine looking up in that museum and selling all those skulls !!! 😦 ; but I bet the freshness of your pepper will be awesome
me too! i had no idea how pepper was made:) and yes, fresh air and greenery was needed!
After all of the bright lights of the cities, crowds, killing fields, and bus rides it looks likes the secret lake and temple in the jungle past the rice fields helped to balance things out. The pepper vines and descriptions were all new to me. Had no idea where they grew and how they were processed. I for one took the common spice for granted. Sounds like those from Kampot are really special.
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