Sunday, 29 May 2016

Scooters in the Sahara at HUBB UK 2016

A 4 week overland trip to Bansang Hospital in The Gambia on Honda C90 Cubs!
A little under 3 weeks to go to HUBB UK 2016 where I will be giving the full low down on this years trip at 10am on Sunday 19th June. I’ve had special dispensation from Grant & Susan for potential Scoots participants to come in to Sundays presentation without having attended and paid for the full event. So if you have any interest in riding with us get yourself over to Baskerville Hall Hotel, Clyro,  Hay on Wye HR3 5LE,  bright and early on the Sunday and hear what it’s all about!
In 2006 I was privileged to participate in the very first Scooters in the Sahara trip to Bansang Hospital. In October 2016 I will be leading my last trip to that same Hospital. Come along and see how you can be part of this truly life changing ride - life changing not only for the riders but also for the patients and staff at the hospital.
One of the riders who participated in 2012 recently wrote on Face Book "I have been lucky and ridden around the World, rode all 49 States in America BUT The Scoots trip was and always will be my all time favourite. If you have a chance to do this... then DO IT."

This is your last chance to get on the 2016 team for this amazing experience. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Scooters in the Sahara

Now I'm back at home for a few weeks, I’m in the process of starting the planning for this years little Adventure run down to Bansang Hospital in the Gambia. Probable departure is either Sunday 2nd October or Tuesday 4th October with flight back to UK on Saturday 29th October, but please keep in mind that these dates are provisional at the moment.

The trip involves almost 4000 miles of riding on your little Honda C90, although there is a possibility that we may take Honda Innova 110s this time around as they are coming down in price whilst C90s are going up….

I will be arranging a get together in the Worcester area on Saturday 19th March for all interested parties to meet up at a hotel. Rooms, camping and camper parking will be available.

If you are interested please have a look at Then drop me an email to giving a very brief resume of yourself and riding experience.



Saturday, 13 February 2016

Time to go home!

With four weeks of constant touring on a not too comfortable (the polite version) motorbike under our belts (or bums!) we were quite enjoying playing the simple tourists. So after our day at the museum and fantastic night at the Traditional Dance Show, we opted for something a little less mentally taxing but rather more energetic the next day and set off on a walk to the Russian market some 3 miles from our hotel. We had been told that it was a good place to look for presents and souvenirs, although some haggling had to be the order of the day as starting prices were always “tourist” prices. With our time in Cambodia rapidly coming to an end we had yet to pick up anything much due to the limitations of what we could carry on the already overloaded little bike. Of course, haggling was nothing new to me having spent so much time in North Africa, where it is also very much expected and necessary if you don’t want to pay way over the odds for everything.

Family Transport Asian Style

How many can you get on a Scoot?

It was quite a long walk in the heat of the day, but still enjoyable as it took us through a part of the city that that we had not previously seen. The market itself was interesting but probably due to the Chinese New Year, many stall weren’t open, however that didn’t stop us picking up a few silk items at around 1/3 less than the first asking price and under a quarter of what we would have paid in the smarter tourist shops!  Most of the stalls, as at all the other markets we had seen were selling fresh produce; varieties of fruit and vegetables we had never seen, and much less would know what to do with them! Fish, crabs, lobsters and other seafood still flapping and flopping around in big bowls of fresh water that the vendors changed regularly. Our supermarkets may have high-tech refrigeration facilities, but their produce will never ever be as fresh as that you can buy at markets over here.  After a nice cold drink it was time to head back. We talked about getting a tuk-tuk but eventually decided to take a slow amble back; we were now in the hottest part of the day.

Using my new free map app, (which I would heartily recommend to all travellers), I headed us down towards the river with a view to then just walking along the bank towards the Royal Palace and our hotel. It was a good route as once more it took us through yet another entirely different part of the city, past huge hotels and casinos; office and apartment blocks. This was not an area which your average Cambodian would even recognise! This was where so much of the billions of dollars of UN aid had ended up, lining the pockets of the politicians, generals and their cadres! Money that was destined to improve the lot of the people as a whole but which had been spirited away by the very people that were supposed to be helping them!

I had been recommended to read a book by a lady we had met at our beach cabin in Kep; Hun Sen’s Cambodia, which I managed to pick up for just $5 from a Phnom Penh bookstore; it’s £24.95 on Amazon! In many ways I wish I had read it before we set off, but in another way, it is better read having seen so much of the country. One thing is sure, my naïve view of politics and particularly the UN will never be the same again. Nor will I be quite as critical of our political system; whilst it may well be corrupt and imperfect, at least our politicians (to say nothing of our monarch) don’t go around slaughtering their opponents with AK 47s and rocket propelled grenades. Written by a well respected, prominent journalist, it makes most works of fiction seem very tame. Whilst most in the West know at least something of the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot’s Kymer Rouge, that isn't even half the story! If you like a good read of political skulduggery and intrigue I would urge you by buy the book or borrow it from you local library, believe me you won’t be disappointed, and I speak as one not generally into politics or such writings; it makes compulsive reading!

Development in the city is pushing on at a huge rate on knots, funded it appears by principally by Japan and China (as well of course, as the misappropriated funds), although just who is going to patronise the fantastical developments God (or perhaps Buddha) only knows. Most of the gigantic hotels appear to have only a handful of guests and since the withdrawal of the UNs huge contingent, one wonders just who is going to replace their spending power!  Phnom Penh even has, against all odds, a theme park called Dream Land, although like so many other things out here it appears to be abandoned and very run down.  Perhaps that too is a victim of the UN withdrawal

The Silver Pagoda

Next morning it was back to the culture theme with a visit to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. We had been staying within a stones throw of them on all three visits to the city, but whilst we had viewed and photographed them from the outside we’d never got around to the tour! Now it was probably just case of us being “templed out” but I must confess that neither of us found it as interesting as we expected. No parts of the actual palace were open to the public so it was just case of wandering around the grounds and visiting, yes, you guessed it, the various pagodas. Even the silver pagoda was a bit of a let down.

I had read that the entire floor was paved with 5000 solid silver tiles, which I had read somewhere, each weighed about 5kg. Although only a small proportion was on view with the rest being covered by carpet, I think someone is telling porkies! Firstly, I cant see anyone sticking down real solid silver tiles with 2 inch wide clear sticky tape (and badly at that!). Secondly, if even just the ones under the carpet were solid silver, I don’t think they would give a hollow rattle when you tap then lightly with your toe !!! No, sorry your Royal Highness, I think that dastardly Hun Sen, has legged it with them and replaced them with cheap Chinese stainless steel ones!!!

We had taken the sunset cruise whilst passing through Phnom Penh on our way north to Koh Kong and had thoroughly enjoyed it, so had promised ourselves that when we got back to the city we would take the longer, Silk Island cruise. At a little under $30 each, it included lunch, drinks and a tour of the Silk Island and Silk farm; a total of 4 ½ hours, so didn’t seem bad value for money. I booked on line with Viator as it was a little less than from the Hotel and included a buffet lunch rather than just a snack. Again, we weren't disappointed. From the welcome cocktail to the cruise itself, the crew couldn’t have been more pleasant or helpful. The tuk-tuk tour of the island, whilst a bit dusty, was very interesting, with the driver pointing out all the different crops from the ubiquitous banana trees, to aubergines and ginger; we also saw the biggest bull I've ever seen in my life.

At the silk farm itself we had the entire process explained to us, from the laying of the eggs, through the pupae stage to the actual weaving of the cloth on traditional hand looms. The experienced weavers manage just 10cm of finished fabric per day; no wonder it’s so expensive, even given the stupidly low salaries in Cambodia. Speaking of which; going back to my earlier comments about the UN, it seems that on top of their already high salaries, the UN staff were paid $130 per DAY living allowance whilst in Cambodia, which equates to the ANNUAL wage for the average Cambodian. No wonder that inflation ran riot whilst they were in the country…

The French Colonial Central Market in Phnom Penh

And so we arrived at our final day in Cambodia. The bike had been taken back, most of our kit was packed and there seemed to be just one place of note that we hadn’t visited; The Central Market! Yes, yet another market, although this one was more famous for its French Colonial architecture than for its contents! We didn’t mind another long walk as the following two days would see us sat on our backsides on a variety of planes for hours on end, so a walk would be good. It wasn’t as far as the Russian Market and through an area we had visited before, just a couple of blocks further on. Again, possibly due to Chinese New Year, only the perimeter stalls were open, but I did manage to buy a replacement for my very scruffy and torn little Deuter rucksack for $10 as against about £50 in the UK; I know it’s probably a Chinese copy but that’s where the genuine ones are probably made anyway. We had planned for an early nigh as we had to be at about 4.30am, but as is often the case it didn’t quite turn out as planned. At a little bar/restaurant just along from our hotel where we took our eveing meal, we discovered that whilst they didn’t have any Scotch, they had Bacardi! We returned to base a little worse for wear for the first time on the entire trip… and somewhat later than intended.

Flight Day!
Our alarm was set for 5am as the taxi was due to collect us at 6am for our 8am flight. We needn’t have bother as we were both wide awake by 4.30, albeit a little hungover! With most of the packing already done it was just a case of showering and sorting the few bits to go in our cabin bags; toting the lot down to hotel lobby and waiting. But not for long; our cab arrived 10 minutes early and off we went to the airport which was about a 20 minute ride away. Traffic at that hour of the morning was fairly light; certainly the lightest we had seen in the city so we arrived with plenty of time to spare. I can’t say either of us was particularly looking forward to the long flight, particularly as we had discovered on the way out, we would have three rather than the expected two, stops. On the return we also had a much longer layover in Beijing; nearly 15 hours but then China Southern would give us a free hotel and transport for the night as it was over 8 hours, wouldn’t they… Well, no actually, on arrival we searched high and low (literally!) over the three floors of terminal two for the Transit desk. We asked at countless “information” desks, none of whom could give us any information! So finally we bit the proverbial bullet and went to the hotel reservations desks and coughed up for our nights accommodation. In truth it wasn’t too bad at $38 including breakfast and free transfers, but I had been assured when I spoke to China Southern Airways after booking that hotel would be provided.

Now THATS what you call a canoe - it holds 60 paddlers! 

We dined in the hotels almost deserted Chinese (there’s a surprise!) restaurant at a very reasonably 100 Yuan, about £10, which even included a couple of rather warm beers and toddled off to bed. Breakfast, which was taken in the same restaurant, was aimed fairly and squarely at their indigenous guests with no concession to western tastes, so was more than adequate but “interesting”. So back to terminal two for our long 9 ½ hour haul across to Amsterdam; well that was the plan but somehow we along with a local lad heading back to Uni in Cambridge, manged to get off at terminal Three; Doh! Fortunately our new friend, whom we had met at breakfast, managed to sort us all out and we still got to check in with plenty of time to spare. Which is more than could be said for the final transfer! We only had just over an hour for the transfer at Amsterdam and by the time our KLM flight left the tarmac at Beijing we were already running half an hour behind schedule… this was looking tight. As on the outward flight, we read and slept and eat and read and eat and… It all gets a bit monotonous after the first couple of hours. Usually when we land we take our time and let the rush go before we even try to get our bags from the overhead bins, but this time I was like an athlete out of the starting blocks; no sooner had the seatbelt light gone off than I was up, bags down, coats on and we were ready to move. Once out of the plane it was a mad dash through the airport and short transfer channels, along the moving walkways (which Allie hates!) and we arrived at the gate just as boarding commenced ! We were even more please when from our little window we saw that our bags had arrived from the Beijing flight and were being loaded.

A little over an hour later we were back in Birmingham, Airparks meet and greet service brought our little Wagon R across to us and off we went into the maelstrom that was the Birmingham Rush hour… Hmm, not sure quite what had happened to the usual Friday night mayhem on the M5, but it was clean and green all the way home, which made for a very pleasant surprise ending to an amazing trip. The house, watched over by my good friend, Paul Evans, in our absence was still in one piece, although due to the stupid heating system (which had just been repaired) eating over half a ton of pellets whilst on “frost watch” it was, shall we say, a little chilly.

The body is an amazing thing, I awoke this morning, fresh as a daisy, without a hint of jetlag at my usual stupid waking hour of 6am as though nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. Off to collect our little Staffy in a bit and then a nice quiet Valentines day tomorrow; our first together for  few year. Then it’s just a case of Let the Planning Begin!!!!   

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Culture day

Sihue was as good as her word. The fish Amok was fantastic. Spicy, but not too hot, even for Allie. Served up in a half coconut shell with the steamed rice in an envelope of banana leaf, it was a fitting last supper at our little beach side retreat. All that remained after breakfast the following morning was to load up the bike and pay our bill… I must admit that one hurt a bit. We hadn't been keeping too close an eye on our expenditure and one does tend to consume rather more tinnies than usual whilst lazing around in the sun. Add to that three evening meals and two breakfasts and it all tots up rather quickly, but it was worth it, not least after nearly four weeks on the little Honda, I think Allie deserved a bit of pampering!!!

At this point we knew we were close enough to Phnom Penh to do the run in a day, but that put us two days ahead of schedule (and our hotel booking). So my plan was to head up to Toek for a couple of nights by the lake, which would also put us on a slightly less major route into Phnom Penh. Our guide described the town as “languid” with a picturesque lake. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans… The lake was only a lake in the wet season, when we arrived it was but a rather mucky swamp and the town was so languid, it was one of the scruffiest we’d seen. So we voted with our wheels and kept them rolling, straight through to the capital. Arriving at hotel we checked to see if they our room was available, which of course it wasn't, but we were told they had another room which we could have for two days before transferring to the room we had booked. Then came the sucker punch. In spite of reserving the room for 4 days and paying a $10 deposit, they were now asking $25 per night as against the quoted price of $15! They made no comment when we asked for our deposit back and we simply walked next door to the Channsoda Guest House and booked in at $20; once more over budget but with Chinese New Year Looming on Monday and the streets far busier than on our previous visits, we coughed up!

Cambodian National Museum

The Channsoda is a fairly small, nice clean guest house, situated opposite a park and across from the Royal Palace, which I can see from the balcony where I’m sitting typing. It’s also just a stones throw from the river, so very convenient for just about everything we might need. Having spent the rest of our first day back getting some of our kit sorted, such as straps and bags which we will no longer need, we wandered down to the Kymer Royal bar on the riverside to relax. It felt odd knowing that we would be in the same hotel for nearly a week and would not have to pack and load the bike every morning. To be honest I think we would have both preferred to have stayed down in Kep for another night or two if we had know what to expect in Toek, but then that’s the joy of travelling!!!

Talking over what we both still wanted to do and see before heading home, we decided that the following day, Saturday, would be a culture day. After a light breakfast at the Bright Lotus we headed over to the Cambodia National Museum which fronted onto “our” park to the right of the Channsoda. It had barely opened it’s doors when we arrived but was already quite busy. A huge and very ornate building, as befits such an amazing collection of artefacts covering the last Thousand or so years. As you would expect, much of the collection were various figures and other items from the Angkor period. The carvings were exquisite, with so much detail on them, even after so many years of weathering. Most were carved from sandstone, although granite and schist were also used. One room had a collection of wooden carvings, most of which were in surprisingly good condition, and another housed traditional silk pieces which had been recreated from photographs of the originals.  Whilst I admit to being a bit of a philistine when it comes to such things, I still found enough to keep my mind entertained for a good few hours and by the time we left it was getting on to beer o’clock; but not before we had purchased tickets for the evenings performance of the Cambodia Living Arts Traditional Dance Show.

And what a show it was!  Cambodian Living Arts was set up in 1998 by one man, Arn Chorn-Pond to try to preserve Cambodian Art in all it’s forms, in the wake of the Pol Pot massacres of just about every Cambodian intellectual and artist,  Arn Chorn-Pond,  is a musician and a survivor of this time period. He was born into a family of artists from Cambodia’s second-largest city, Battambang, separated from his family in 1975 and sent to a children’s labour camp. The organisation gives work (and therefore a wage) to dozens of Cambodian artistes, as well as training a new generation of performers. The show which played to a full house, lasted for an all too short hour and a half and in spite of rather uncomfortable seats we sat spellbound, judging by the applause, we weren't the only ones.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Kip crabs and Kampot Pepper.


We chose our spot well in Kep. From the nice clean room, the hammock in the trees and the obliging lady host to the beautiful beach and calm blue sea. We enjoyed our dinner last night sat on the beach in the last embers of the days sun; a huge plateful of freshly cooked giant prawns served with Kampot pepper, a spicy sauce and boiled rice. Oh, and of course the obligatory ice cold Cambodian beers; if this isn’t paradise then I don’t know what is. On this whole stretch of about half a mile of beach, there was just us and for a short while a couple sat about a hundred yards away; bliss!

During the night it rained hard, but I’m not sure how long for, I was sleeping far too contentedly on our huge, firm but very comfortable bed. I think I only heard it at all, as Allie chose that moment to shout to me in her dream and I had to save her from the baddies !!! Otherwise I would probably have been stood out enjoying the cool refreshing water running over my skin. By this morning all that was left to show for it was Allie’s soggy cushion on the bike, but it will soon dry in the heat of the day. After a leisurely breakfast we wandered further along the beach; it was as though the apocalypse or a plague has struck earth. The whole place was as near deserted as makes no difference. We walked to the Independence Monument and the Museum (Closed and looking as though it will stay that way). Other than a few friendly dogs and a young girl sat at a road side stall selling drinks… well, water anyway, there was nobody to be seen. Perhaps the entire townsfolk of Kep have been spirited away on Alien craft, or perhaps they have all gone to Blackpool for their holidays. The fishermen are all still here on their boats but that’s about all, except of course for our lovely hostesss!

We’d been told and read in the various guides that as Kampot is famous for it's pepper, so with Kep for it’s crabs. So back in our cabin we freshened up with yet another cold shower, dressed and wandered up to the main road to find a tuc tuc. True to form, it was only a couple of minutes before the familiar buzz of a C90 was heard and ubiquitous little vehicle hove into sight. You don’t have to hail a tuc tuc as with a cab. If you’re walking the driver will assume that his services are required and pull over to you. We asked Osseman to take us to a good crab restaurant for lunch and off we went. In less than 5 minutes we were being ushered into the Crab Shack, right on the waters edge and next to the crab market… you will never get fresher seafood. Whilst crab isn’t perhaps top of my list of favourite seafoods, I have to admit that it was very good. It was served up together with grilled prawns, squid and a small salad and a separate plate of prawn fritters. We only ever order 1 plate of anything so that we can share and enjoy a wider selection of dishes and flavours. As we sat, we watched the women collecting the crab baskets right below the restaurant and afterwards wandered next door to the crab market to watch the women selling off their catches. Whilst there didn’t appear to be any shortage of crabs, we were told that the average size of crab caught has dropped significantly over recent years; not a good indicator for future stocks.


The other item we were still looking for was Kampot Pepper, we had a look around the stalls in the market but couldn’t find any until we were approached by another tuc tuc driver. Asking him where we could find some pepper without going to a plantation (which we had seen up at Sen Monorom), he told us his wife sold it in the market and took us over to her stall, tucked away in a back corner which we had missed,. Sure enough, laid out on her stall was bag after bag of the precious spice in all three of its varients; black, white and green. Better still it was all weighed out and priced up ready for the locals to buy. After selection 3 bags of green and one large bag of black, we even got a discount and ended up with a bout four times the quantity we had looked at in Phnom Penh for the same money; OK it didn’t have the fancy jars, but we didn’t really want to be carrying glass jars anyway. All together a very satisfactory morning; morning?, hmm well, it was gone 3pm by the time we arrived back at our beach cabin and time for a siesta… I just wish I hadn’t taught Allie how to get into a hammock though as she always beats me to it now!  LOL.

The days just fly by when you’re relaxed and having fun. No sooner were we “Siestaed” than it was beer o’clock and dinner time… Oh no, not more food! We had ordered the menu special a Kymer Feast for two, but there was a slight problem. It seems that the new menu had been printed up by the American that was staying here long term and I can only surmise that he had neglected to fill in Sihue, our hostess, with the finer points of it. The meni spoke of a feast of different dishes such as would be served in a Kymer home! What we got was a pork curry with boiled rice… Very nice though it was it definitely couldn’t be described as a feast, Kymer or otherwise!!! However, she is so lovely to us we can’t find it our hearts to complain or even point out the problem, though I shall if I get a chance mention it to the silly Yank!

So relaxed are we here in our little beach paradise that we’ve stayed on yet another day; almost unheard of in our travels, three nights in the same place, but I have said before that Taz and Joel taught me a whole different way to travel. After another leisurely breakfast, we hopped onto the bike and set off to find the town centre of Kip… That didn’t take long then, it simply doesn’t exist! The point the GPS took us to was a dirt cross roads about 400 yds up the road from our cabin, with nothing to be seen but a few trees! No worries, we ran down a little further, past some rather grand looking Government buildings, which surprise, surprise, looked empty. Then headed back around the coast to the north where we stopped for an iced coffee before finally riding round to the crab market to snatch a few more pics before returning to base for… yes, you guessed, it another Siesta. We thought we’d give lunch a miss today as tonight, we have been promised the regional specialiality dish, Amok, a fish curry made with lemongrass, coconut cream and curry leaves, steamed and served up on a banana leaf. It should be good as it doesn’t appear on the menu and it was Sihue who suggested it, but only time will tell.

North to South for the last time!

From Koh Kong it was simply a case of backtracking to just below Sre Ambel before turning right to head down to Sihanoukville. Once we made that right turn we were back on that least favourite road National 4, on which we had left Phnom Penh. The GPS gave the distance of 233 km or about 140 miles, a nice easy day even on the little Honda. We called in at the river side café we’d been to a couple of times, to have breakfast before hitting the road in the relative cool of the morning air; I reckoned that if we had a good run we would be in Sihanoukville by lunch. After all we had seen most of the interesting bits on the way up, and with Allie now well happy with her seating arrangements, other than drinks we could just forge on.

And so it was that by mid-day we were entering the outskirts of the town. The traffic got heavier and the rural heaven gave way to urban mayhem. With the help of the GPS, I managed to bypass the town center and head straight down to the water front. I swung into a car park right on the beach and we enjoyed a cool, fresh coconut juice almost in the shadow of an enormous ocean liner. Staying with the waters edge we moved on along the coast, past huge casinos, hotels and restaurants, none of which seemed to be particularly busy. I must confess I’m finding the economy of Cambodia very baffling. New developments, large and small seem to be sprouting up like bamboo forests after the rains, whilst most of the existing complexes and guest houses appear to be running on or near empty, and remember this is supposed to be their busiest season. I really don’t know how most of the places that rely on tourists are surviving.

We tried several guest houses and a couple of hotel, where the prices ranged from $25 for rather scruffy little room at the back of a little guest house to $45 in a smart hotel. As we were planning on staying probably two or more nights I really didn’t want to be paying as much as $45 per night, so we moved further along, eventually settling on a
1st floor motel room which I managed to knock a few dollars off to get for $22. It was also right opposite the beach which was lined with more restaurants and bars than even the hardest boozer could manage to get through in a month of Sundays… but again there were but a handful of people eating and drinking in them with row after row of empty tables and chairs. Enough I suspect to cater for every passenger on board the cruise liner we had seen over the other side of town and still have enough left over for passing trade!

We lunched on rice with lovely fresh seafood; it just has to be done when your sitting right by the beach and then took a tuc tuc tour around town for an hour in the roughest sounding tuc tuc I’ve been in yet. A couple of time we thought we’d have to get out and push it up the hills but somehow it coughed and spluttered through, dropping us back, close to our hotel wher we celebrated our successful return at the nearby ice cream parlour.Even though the place was almost empty, Sihanoukville simply wasn’t our kind of town. Imagine Blackpool in December but with sunshine and you’ll get something of the picture. But before we left we did enjoy the evening sat on the beach in very comfy chairs at one of the bars sipping G & Ts in the moonlight; all very romantic!

Next stop was scheduled to be Kampot, famous for it’s special pepper and then Kep, but not before we had ridden up to the former French Colonial hill station of Bokor. The road up was spectacular, by far the best in Cambodia in my opinion. Views, bends, jungle, a huge monument and the largest casino I’ve ever laid eyes on (and that includes Las Vegas!). All in all one of the strangest places I’ve ever visited. It’s as though some mad megalomaniac billionaire has bought one of Cambodia’s best National Parks and decided, without recourse to any market research, to build an monstrous great holiday and casino complex but then lost interest (or ran out of cash) before seeing it through. I wonder if Donald Trump has a hand in it somewhere! Seriously though, it has to be some sort of a scam as judging by what we have seen all over Cambodia, there is no way on earth that a place of such gigantic proportions can ever make enough money even to cover it’s running expenses, never mind the capitol costs. We also went to the well signposted waterfall, which had just a trickle running over it! Right next to it was another huge building, this time a restaurant. Other than the monks sat picnicking on the steps outside it too was deserted and locked up and looking as though it were ever so!

The ride back down the 3500ft mountain was, if it were possible, even better than the ride up. The bends were taken with “enthusiasm” and the heat gradually built up one more as we got back down to sea level. We road into Kampot and staright out the other side to Kep for reasons we will explain on our return !!! Strangely, in spite of Kampot’s fame for it’s pepper, we saw not a single field of it being grown. Hopefully we’ll have more luck with Kep’s crabs….At Kep I again  followed the coastline and we finished our day at a lovely little beachside complex of individual cabins, where we seem to be the only guests apart from an American who is here long term, having been in Cambodia for 17 years…It’s nice, but not that nice!!! We’ve booked for two nights and might just make it three its so nice, we’ll see how it goes!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Koh Kong

Our first full day in Koh Kong and it just keeps getting better. A gentle wander through town brought us to a nice little river side café for breakfast and iced coffees, then back to our hotel to collect the bike for a leisurely ride across the Koh Kong bridge and head for the beach. And what a beach; a tropical paradise with a few drink stalls and cafes, plenty of shelter from the blazing sun for Allie, hammocks to laze in and cool, clear, safe water to swim in. Amazingly we had all this to ourselves, there was not another living sole to be seen, just a few sand crabs scuttling to and fro from their holes in the beach. Even Allie, who always professes that she doesn't do beaches, relaxed and enjoyed the few hours of just lazing about.

We’d been told about a great little place for lunch, the Crab Shack, so come that time of the day and we rode about half a mile further along the beach to that very place. Fat Sam hadn't been wrong! Nestled under a few trees right at the edge of the beach were scattered a few tables and chairs with the ramshackle restaurant at the far edge. If you’re in a beach side restaurant with the name “Crab Shack” there really is only one choice you can make from the menu!!! In fact we not only ordered the crab but also stir fried vegetables, seafood and rice; it was superb, and all the better for being washed down with an ice cold tinnie!

After letting the crab settle nicely we mounted up and headed back to look for the Buddha Hell we had been told about. We’d missed it on the way out so thought we’d try again as it should be just before we got to the bridge. I turned left through an arch which I thought would be the place, but still didn’t find it. We found out from Sam, at dinner in the evening, that I just hadn't gone far enough. So hope fully we will find it, third time lucky….. 
Across the bridge we rode through town and straight out the other side. This time looking for the mangrove swamp and watch tower we had read about. This one showed up on my GPS so should be easy to find I thought, but of course the GPS had other ideas! After turning us off the main road about 100yds too early, we had an “interesting” ride along some dirt roads running actually through the mangroves until we arrived at a locked gate. Damn, it had brought us to the tradesman’s entrance! A short back track with Allie getting ever more worried about going for a swim in the swamp and we arrived at the correct entrance. Funny, but I’d swear she used to be far more trusting of my riding, I don’t know what I've done to upset her equilibrium!

It was another attraction well worth the tiny entrance fee of about 75p each, with a concrete boardwalk running deep into the swamp, with covered platforms every so often, many of which had family parties picnicking on them. After walking through the covered market area and crossing the road I had originally tried to access from, we found the lookout tower at the far side of a very bouncy wooden suspension bridge. 

Crossing it caused little concern, however after going to the top of the tower, on the way back there was a couple of young lads making it bounce and sway rather more, which made for an “interesting” crossing. At the top of the tower we found three young teenage girls who for some unknown reason were very keen to have their photos taken with us. Back at Fat Sam’s in the evening, the expats were holding court in their usual positions at their usual table, it was as though we were caught in a time warp… and so the day ended!