Christmas road-trip with Miss Igorota*

Happy new year everyone!
We were away for Christmas and got really busy thereafter so this blog was quiet for awhile. While the rest of the world were in a frenzy preparing to greet the New Year on December 31, it was a normal day for us here in Cambodia. While there was a NY countdown planned at the Sisowath Quay (across the Royal Palace), it rained heavily that night, much to our disappointment, and so we stayed at home and watched as the rest of the world welcomed 2009 on television.

A week ago, we (R, Max, and I) drove down to Kep, on the southernmost coastline of Cambodia with the globe-trotting Miss Igorota to spend the Christmas holidays there. It was Miss Igorota’s first road trip to the Cambodian countryside, to Kep, specifically, and she was very excited to see what awaited her.

Kep is a coastal municipality about 180 kilometers away from the capital of Phnom Penh. Kep was, in another era, a favorite getaway for French colonial masters and the wealthy from Phnom Penh, who enjoyed its beaches, seafood, and sea breeze. Now, the municipality as a whole is impoverished and relies on inshore-fishing and small-scale agriculture. Up until recently, Kep has always been our favorite weekend getaway due to its “wild” feel and remoteness.

Kep roadtrip1Day 1.
We were planning to leave early at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 23rd, but for some reason we woke up very late. After getting some cash at a bank in Russian Blvd., we were able to get out of Phnom Penh past 12noon, when the sun was already at its hottest.

We drove out of the city on National Road Number 3 passing Pochentong International Airport. The road was mostly good, but the first 50 or so kilometers after the airport was a long stretch of bumpy and dusty road. Trucks, motos and other vehicles compete for the right of way, swerving, overtaking and cutting lanes. Thankfully, Paige, our trusty, old Pajero, didn’t go boinkers as it maneuvered its way round the monstrous potholes 🙂

After an hour or so, we were already cruising along very good roads – we have JICA and the EU to thank for this. With windows rolled down, we were greeted by the beautiful, flat Cambodian rural landscape.

Kep roadtrip2

At this time of the year, the fields have already turned yellow – from a bright yellow to a brownish shade – as the rice has already ripened, and harvesting begun. Cows freely roam in the rice fields, feeding on the rice stalks left from harvesting.

Kep roadtrip3

R was driving slowly, at 40kph, and as we passed them, the locals looked our way – and saw we had Max and Miss Igorota in the car! They were amused to see a dog and a doll enjoying a road trip! Along the way, we met schoolkids on their bicycles – going to and coming out of school.

Kep roadtrip4

From then on, these are what we saw:

Kep roadtrip5

After the junction…

Kep roadtrip6

We also crossed this bridge, old but not yet rickety…

Kep roadtrip7

The bridge led us here…

Kep roadtrip8

Thirty minutes after, we’re finally in Kep …

Kep roadtrip9

The sun was beating us down and took its toll on us. After checking in at Vanna’s guesthouse – our favorite guesthouse on the hill – we all crashed into bed and fell asleep. We all woke up at 5.30pm, refreshed ourselves and then headed to Kim Ly’s restaurant for the much-anticipated foooooood!

Kep roadtrip10

We were all so tired, I guess because of the heat, but Miss Iggy enjoyed the long drive. We decided to retire early for another big day was in the offing, but not before soaking in the beautiful sunset of Kep.

Kep roadtrip11

– to be continued.

*To know more of her beginnings, please read Miss Igorota’s story.

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