The most beautiful thing in Cambodia isn't the country - it's the Cambodian people.
- Rithy Panh
Crab market in Kep – a string of wooden shack restaurants and blue crustaceans
The seaside town of Kep is famous for its blue crab. A string of wooden shack restaurants and a small (but hugely smelly) marketplace along the seaside make up the Crabmarket of Kep. The restaurants all serve mainly the same kind of food – crab, fish, seafood and other Khmer [pronounced khmai] and some Western dishes, so you’re not obliged to tuck into crab if you don’t want to. I had beer and chocolate pudding – I have a problem with eating crustaceans that dates back a looooong time! But I did go there at 5 o’clock one morning to witness the hustle and bustle of the fishmongers. On this particular morning there were no bobbing wooden boats coming in to unload their cargo, but the women and men where instead wading through the waters to their baited bamboo traps close to shore. Inside the traps where masses of blue-coloured legs and claws and snow-white bellies. Supposedly the are sweet-tasting and quite delicious but again, I wouldn’t know! However the chocolate pudding at Holy Crab was worth every dollar, and I heard the red snapper was amazing.
Koh Ton Say – sway in a hammock and switch off completely
Koh Ton Say, or Rabbit Island, is a small patch of land in the sea off the coast of Kep. It’s accessible only by a 30-minute boat ride and one Sunday I went with my fellow traveller Doro from Germany. Since I was in Cambodia during the hottest month of the year, April, the ride over to the island was very refreshing and quite cool.
Koh Ton Say is only about 2 square kilometer big and the only thing there is to do is relax and enjoy one of the two beaches. Apart from the beaches it has a dense jungle interior, no roads, no wifi and no electricity during daytime – so a perfect getaway when you want to switch off and enjoy a more rustic way of life.
The main beach, where we decided to stay, had lovely white sand, shallow water and quite ok beach chairs you could use for free. We just read our books for the entire time but I did manage to sneak off for a cool beer in the shade – so worth it! There are bungalows there if you’d like to spend the night but there is not really a lot to do so perhaps going back to town is a better option. But the water on the island is much, much better than the beach in Kep – so if swimming and keeping cool in hot weather is what you’re after: STAY! We wanted to get back to afternoon yoga so we left early in the afternoon. And perhaps we wanted to charge our phones and post something about “a paradise island” on social media…
Phnom Penh - don't worry about the potholes, just enjoy the city!
I went to Phnom Penh at the end of my journey and stayed only for a few days. The bad news is I wanted to stay longer, the good news is I need to go back! Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and where three rivers confluence; the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the Tonle Sap. The city was once considered” the gem” of Indochina and I think it still has enough charm to bear that name, all though maybe it is not as it used to be. Perhaps better? The French colonial mansions are still there to see, old and rugged though and have seen their best days, but the tree-lined boulevards are somewhat intact and the monumental Angkorian architecture is all over.
I stayed very close to the Royal Palace at Preah Ang Eng St, in a small but friendly hotel/hostel. And I decided to walk all over town. Now, this is not a very easy task. People don’t walk – the drive scooters or take tuktuks – walking is hard. Mainly because the city is not made for walking and traffic is intense. But I am a walker – a true pedestrian – so I did give it a shot and it does work. Just walk – cross the streets without consideration (cars and scooters will make way). I walked to all the markets – the Central Market, the Orussey Market and the Tuol Tompoung Market. The central marked was a tourist trap and not really worth the visit. The Orussey market is the locals market – I was the only foreigner the time I was there. It was all local stuff on sale – everything from kitchen utensils to food and textiles. I did love it – certainly more than the Central market. But a bit dirty for food for me. The Russian market – Tuol Tompoung – was much cleaner and something in between the Central market and the Orussey market. I liked it a lot but bought nothing. Now that says nothing about the stuff on sale – I just very rarely buy things. I have everything I need, unfortunately (or thankfully). As markets go, I strongly recommend finding a street market – much more authentic and much more interesting. And they are there – you just have to walk to find them 🙂
I did leave Phnom Penh with stuff I bought – I am not an ascetic and not against bit of tourist consumption. I did buy some essential oils and I got a tattoo at Phnom Penh Tattoo. Leo did my piece and I am super happy with it – it is a rose (…) with the pavement pattern of Cambodia in the middle.
Phnom Penh – I’ll be seeing you again!
Vagabond Temple - a yoga and meditation getaway
Vagabond Temple was my whole reason for going to Cambodia in the first place. I needed some time off to think and decide stuff about my life – leave my career and start a new one? Do I really want to, or am I just unhappy and tired? Can yoga and meditation ease the noice in my head? I had stalked Vagabond Temple on Instagram for a while a now was the perfect time – a month off before the summer madness started in Stockholm and my life. I booked in advance and went. And for three weeks I stayed within the compound – I did various kinds of yoga twice daily (1,5 hours each), 1 hour of dharma talk (I am not a very spiritual person but there are some useful stuff in it), 1 hour of meditation and ate all vegan food.
Now, I think the middle way is the way to go so I did find a hole in the wall and snuck out during nighttime to grab a beer at the nearby Sailing club or the hotel next door that served beer, wine and coffee . I did this quite a few times I have to admit but I was up at the gong at 6 AM every morning for yoga and I participated in stuff I was not really comfortable with (like dancing) – I was pushing myself for sure.
Vagabond Temple did what I wanted and needed. I found a sort of peace, and I realized I have an ego that I urgently need to let go of. If I am able to do just that, I will feel a lot more content and happy. That is a work in progress but at least I am now aware of it. To give you an example of the trouble my ego gets me into: During yoga class one morning I had a super flexible yogini next to me. Now, I am not supposed to pay attention to anything but my own practice. But I was. And I was acutely aware of my own inadequate style. Suddenly Jessica, the yoga teacher, introduces a squat to the sequence. And I am like: Yeah, I can do this – this is my thing! You just watch you supernice, superflexible american yogini next to me! So I went full on “ass to the grass” and boom – a lumbago hit me. So I was in the horisontal position for the next few days. Just let go Ego-Saga, no need to prove yourself or feel less for any reason. Just do you.
Anyway, Vagabond Temple was founded by Pazit and Kobi from Israel and they have created something beautiful in Kep, Cambodia.The place is situated within a tranquil, dense bush on top of a hill, surrounded by flowers, exotic fruit trees and plants including papaya, passion fruit, mango, jackfruit, kampot pepper and monkeys. Set near Kep National Park, and sort of overlooking the sea, the retreat center is a true haven of peace and quiet. I think I might so back at some point and I do recommend a stay there. Check them out at Vagabond Temple.