Discussion in 'Cambodia Road Trip Reports' started by JimCA2, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. JimCA2

    JimCA2 Ol'Timer

    Bike Trip to Kampot, Kep, Koh Tonsai (Rabbit Island), and a few Stops In Between

    Need to break away from Phnom Penh, but can¡¯t find the time? Kampot and Kep is just an easy 3 hours away. After a few rough bike rides, I needed something a little less strenuous and relaxing while still taking in some new terrain and sights. I try to see something new every time I leave the city, and this time it would be Route 31 south off of Highway 3. As usual, it takes me a little longer to get my motor running, and hit the road by 11 am. We were on 250cc bikes, but this journey can be done on a Daelim or a Trans Alps.
    My partner and I headed south on Highway 2 towards Takeo which has been repaved recently. Just prior to the turn off to Phnom Chissor about 45K away we made a brief stop at the 10th Century ruins of Prasat Neang K¡¯mal. I had been here before but lacked photos so this was my opportunity. Located in the back of a Wat complex on the east side of the Highway 2, sit two prasats facing east. I¡¯m not a real history buff, but I do find it fascinating how spread out the Khmer Empire once was and how intact many of the ruins still are. Click, click and on the road again.
    At Takeo the road splits, Highway 2 veers left to Takeo, and Road 22 cuts west to Highway 3. This is a great alternative when heading to Kampot province due to the good condition of Highway 2 and the 22 is much better to drive on instead of heading west through the Phnom Penh traffic past the airport to hook up with the 3. We made a left at the Tela gas station at the junction for Highway 3 and headed south about seven kilometers where the road splits. Highway 3 to Kampot goes right and the 31 (known to locals Tani Meas) is left.
    I was expecting some small country road trails through villages, however there is an aggressive road project under way widening and potentially paving the 31. Simultaneously work is taking place on the 3 as well. I suspect there is a pent up demand to get down to Kampot and Kep with out getting the new land cruisers dirty hence the vigorous work on the new roads. On the return I took the 3 back to Phnom Penh and with more traffic and trucks it was a lot dustier than the 31. Upon completion of the roads, the trip should be pretty quick, though plagued with more idiot shared taxi drivers, and unfortunately more deaths.
    Along the 31 we crossed the railroad tracks to Kampot 2 times; once just prior and just after going through the town of Tani. Also after Tani there is a nice little Wat on a hill to the left with beautiful paintings inside. You can drive up to the Wat, but we chose the stairs to ascend to some pretty picturesque views of the countryside and the adjacent mountain range. The 31 will take you through Banteay Meas before you finally hit the junction for Route 33 to Kampot. The road dead ends here and the road construction makes it pretty obvious. Heading west we stopped in Kampong Trach.
    There is a nice cluster of mountains north of Kampong Trach that is sacred to the locals. Just past the bridge coming through Kampong Trach take the first right and the road will bring you to a Wat complex surrounded by rocky peaks that jut into the air. Below the rocks is a network of caves and caverns and shrines with Buddha¡¯s. A couple of nice ladies took us on a tour through the caves with torches fueled with some kind of toxic substance. With in the confines of the caves they pointed out rock formations of a turtle, an elephant and many other things I just wasn¡¯t seeing. I suspect either they have been inhaling their torches way too long. The ladies seemed to enjoy our visit as much as we did. We kicked them a couple 1000 riel each for their hospitality.
    We traveled approximately 25K to Kampot and were able to arrive before dark. The 33 is also undergoing a widening project. This nice little southern dahling route from Phnom Bayuong will never be the same. In Kampot we stayed at the Borey Bokor for 10 bucks a night. AC, cable hot water, and motorcycle parking. The Sen Monorom offers rooms with the same amenities from 8-13 dollars. There is a good restaurant off of the main traffic circle with pretty good value. This time however I tried the Rivers Edge Restaurant. Nice to sit on the water, but the fried pork ribs were more batter and bone than pork meat. The old Marco Polo Hotel on the riverfront has been taken over and is now the Bokor Mountain Club. There were a few people drinking there, but the Tukralok stands between the bridge and main traffic circle had a lot more atmosphere, and the girl was more than happy to mix our Mekong Whiskey with our fruit shakes. While we drank the weathered cinema across the street spilled out with movie goers. We contemplated what the inside of the cinema looked like and whether it had worn out chairs or bleacher seating.
    The next AM we headed back on the 33 towards Kep Beach, but took a slight detour to Phnom Chhngok. About 7K outside of town the road Vs and we headed left into the countryside. The road is lined with coconut trees and houses. Reaching a clearing it crosses the railroad tracks, passes a small market place then goes into a small mountain. Following the road left for another 3 to 5 K towards Phnom Chhngok is an entrance to a Wat. Behind the Wat we picked up some easy single track through rice fields to the mountain. We had a guide take us up stairs to Prasat S¡¯lok located inside a high ceiling cave. The guide had said the Prasat was 1400 years old, though smaller, it was similar to the 10th century structures at Neang K¡¯mal, and after 1000 years who¡¯s counting anyway. Bats flew overhead as I snapped off a few pics of the prasat. We didn¡¯t opt for the extended tour deeper into the cave, nor did we have flashlights for it. I also didn¡¯t want another go at a guide trying to explain to me in Khmer that some rock formation looked like two guys shooting billiards. We gave our guide a couple thousand riel each, though I was told that sometimes there is a dollar entrance fee. Filling the cultural void once again it was now time to hit the beach.
    We got to Kep Beach around noon and started hitting the boat operators to take us to Koh Tonsai (Rabbit Island). The guys off of Kep Beach with the smaller speed boats wanted 15 bucks. My Cheap Charlie partner could do better. Beyond the beach and Crab Monument towards Kep Town there is an old pier where there is a customs and immigration office. Here we locked our bikes parked under a tree with the customs officials. We were able to get a wooden boat for 10 bucks. The Captain, who was pretty well hammered, made out as he was on a vendor delivery run anyway bringing beer, ice, and supplies to the island. Now would have enough cash for his next buzz. Traveling about 15K an hour we hit the island in about 20 minutes. The long beach is a typical tropical island setting lined with coconut palms. The sand isn¡¯t as white as Sihanoukville beaches but the water is crystal clear and the jungle covered mountains provide a nice back drop to the coconut palms. There were vendors on the island with ice cold beer. By 4 PM our Captain had slept off his drunk and we were ready to leave. We shoved off and were pleased to see our bikes where we left them. We gave the customs guys a couple thousand riel for watching our bikes and he seemed pretty grateful.
    Before leaving Kep we treated ourselves to some fresh crab. They keep them live in cages off the water. 12,000 riel per kilo, grilled chicken & squid on a stick, rice and a few Anchors, put the total tab at about six bucks. We left Kep at dusk and we were happy to have proper eye protection for the bugs that were out in force on the way back to Kampot.
    The next morning my partner and I parted company. Despite wanting to take alternate Route 124 north I opted to continue on the 3 for reasons of stopping at a particular sugarcane drink vendor near the town of Noreay. I had stopped there before and the vendor¡¯s sister is missing an arm and has a prosthetic leg. I was able to find the house but no sugarcane drink as the road widening has created a dustbowl along the roadside. They had remembered me from my previous journey and this time I purchased a coconut for the windfall amount of 10 dollars. It should help them until the road gets done.
    I made my way to Highway 2 and a brief stop at Tonle Bati 30k south of Phnom Penh to see some long time friends before finally rolling back into Phnom Penh in time for a late lunch.
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  3. lunch box

    lunch box Member

    I just completed a trip following the same route minus the Kep stop.I picked up a 250 from lucky lucky in PP ,all the roads were easy to find even for a first timer with no map! I stayed in Kampot at the Kampot gh and ran up to the Bokor hill station early in the morn and had the time of my life on the road up. The road (trail)up was so fun (and empty)that I immediatly went down and did it again! I found myself on some pretty interesting paths and even managed to find some single track. At the end of the day I bought some park rangers some beers(+donation). I found myself compelled to return the next day because I failed to visit any of the parks historic buildings.The afternoon ride back to PP didn't seem to take all that long (autopilot)just watch out for the usuall trucks, kids , dogs and cows.
  4. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    Hey Lunch'y keep'm com'n stay awayn from kids an landmines an trucks an yo mite have a hoot in cambo, keep yo posts com'm I'm lov'n the read, bye fo now Scott,
  5. lunch box

    lunch box Member

    afraid I can't write about Cam any more as I am heading to Lao. Too much cheap booze and too many ladies in PP for me to get on a bike.I'm in Bangers looking for a new liver then I'm off to the north, look for me in the Lao section in a week or so.
  6. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    hey lunchy if'n u find a liver get'm ta seve it with bacon, tre ok. Scott

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