We arrived at Champa Lodge around lunchtime and Rahul was giddy. It was, he said, exactly what he’d been hoping for – a sweet paradise. Champa Lodge is the brain child of Steph, a Belguim man and Yan, his Cambodian wife. Their daughter plays all day in this idyllic setting.
Chickens, dogs and cats settle lazily around the kitchen and grounds. Yan’s mother lives in the apartment above the kitchen with Maitee, a woman from Spain who is volunteering there for an extended stay.
Maitee was our bike guide. She led us through the town of Kampot, a fishing village nearby and a beautiful Wat (temple) near the Lodge. Parts of the ride were very muddy and I navigated my way through some pretty rough terrain on my loaned mountain bike. I managed to get through with only one major spill but the mud splatterings of red clay ran in trails down all of our legs.
The Kampot river runs along the embankment and the next day we kayaked downriver toward the sea. We were surrounded by gloriously green mountain ranges and glass still water.
We watched as a parade of fishing boats puttered past us. I counted around 30 of them at 4:30pm and they didn’t return until early morning the next day. I heard they were all from one fishing village just around the river’s bend and they were fishing solely for local consumption.
Rahul was loathe to leave but we had already made plans to go to the Vine Retreat in Kep so we packed up and bid adieu to the sweet scene. On the way, our tuk tuk driver took us to a hindu temple in a cave and to a lake. We saw a roadside lunch place so we stopped and invited the tuk tuk driver to join us. While we waited Rahul took a dip in the lake. He and Wanden, the driver, split a whole roasted chicken and we talked about Cambodian politics.
Cambodians we’ve spoken with and one resounding one is that they are not crazy about their prime minister, Hun Sen. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy. At the end of the war the King, the Khmer Rouge and Hun Sen formed an agreement and Hun Sen has been prime minister ever since. That was thirty years ago. Wanden was very sweet, pointing out his school, his home and the Wat where he learned English.
We were a little concerned that the Vine Retreat would be a little corporate but, luckily, it was nothing like it’s website portrayed it to be and turned out to be a super mellow scene. I was having a heat stroke so we made a beeline to the pool. We basically chilled for the rest of the day, taking in the stellar view of the jungle, mountain ranges and even to the sea where the Vietnam border is.
Next day we biked to a small village and a lake where Rahul took another plunge. The water there looked pristine.
The rest of the day was happily wasted away with eating delicious Khmer food, sleeping, swimming and dreaming.