I highly recommend getting bored in a place. Boredom is such a luxury. I can’t remember the last time I was bored, except at work. To be bored means you have time. And time was something I craved so desperately a few weeks ago, before we began our journey of indefinite travel.
We were having a debate over breakfast the other morning as to when we actually arrived in Kampot.
“Was it Wednesday? Or Thursday?”
“Hang on, we got back from Rabbit Island Monday, rented motorbikes Tuesday, then had a lazy day Wednesday, or was is two lazy days?”
We resorted to referring to the dinners we’d had at various eating establishments around town.
“We’ve been to captain Chim’s twice, the rib place once, Frangipani Bar once…”
That made it four nights. We arrived Thursday. Mystery solved.
For the last couple of days, Tyrhone has been doing some work for a client back home. He designs digital art. Of course, if we had our way, he wouldn’t be working so early on in our adventure. But as we are now basically unemployed and living off our savings, we’d be silly to knock back the money.
Money is converted into travel time when you’re on the road.”That’s a whole month of travel”, or “we could live off that for THREE months here!” are common statements heard around our $8-per-night room.
We like to call it our studio apartment. It’s huge, clean, and includes wi-fi and satellite TV. I confess, we have been watching American Idol. It’s a comfortable place for Tyrhone to work, so we decided to stay untill he completes his project. A ‘do-er’ by default, it’s a bit of a challenge for me to stay-put in one place. I thought maybe I was getting bored with Kampot…
Yesterday after breakfast, when Tyrhone returned to the studio, I wandered the around, clicking photos of the picturesque streets (I am a sucker for a door and a bicycle!).
Or a motorbike…
I then perused a bookshop for a while, and picked up a compelling first-person account of a ‘survivor’ of Pol Pot’s genocide. With my paper copy in hand (a real book I tell you!), I settled in a beautiful little french-colonial cafe with a fresh banana shake. I was hooked from the first page. But more on that another time….
I returned ‘home’ in time for lunch. Marty, our friend we are travelling with, is a journalist and is also using this time to do some work. We all needed to eat, so we wandered across the street to an intriguing yet intimidating local food stall.
You know when you want to be adventurous but not at the expense of your lower intestine?
Yeah, well this was one of those times. But, we did it. And we enjoyed it. Relatively so…
The dried, salted fish was surprisingly good.
“Tastes like chicken! KFC-ish…” -Sarah
“Nah, it’s more like bacon.” -Tyrhone
“Chickeny, fishy bacon!” -Sarah
“Glad you guys said that, ’cause I was definitely thinking it.” -Marty
Time for sweets…
Prolonging their procrastination, the guys were keen for dessert. Now that we had mastered the street stall, we would master the sweet stall. But they didn’t begin untill early evening. Bummer.
We strolled past a corner store, complete with faded pool tables. Diversion found! The guys paid for their hour of play (we’re talking severe procrastination) and I settled in at an old wooden table with my new book.
It wasn’t long before the word on the street got out. A skinny teen with spindly arms and a Justin Bieber haircut sauntered over. A few other passers-by gathered, and the teen was soon joined by some pimply mates. One by one, they strolled over to the cigarette stand, pull out a packet, and lit one up from the lighter attached to the stand by string.
After clarifying the rules to the best of their ability (during the warm up match, ‘Bieber’ had systematically sunk just about every ball on the table), they began a game of doubles, ‘locals’ against ‘visitors’.
The ‘visitors’ got killed.
The ‘locals’ were pool sharks. Shame they didn’t put money down, as they would have cleaned up.
Afterwards, Tyrhone showed them how to roll cigarettes. Marty and I looked at each other guiltily, but reassured ourselves with the fact that they were already smoking. Not being able to communicate with words in any way, this was the only common ground they shared.
As the guys puffed on their fags, Mothers led their toddlers into the store for sweet treats. Mini jelly cups were escorted out, clenched by tiny fists.
Restaurant and cafe owners stopped by on scooters to restock their ice supplies. The shop owner sawed the enormous blocks into smaller, more manageable bricks, before they were carted away on the back of a bike, dripping.
Yet more toddlers darted from behind white-washed walls across the street, chanting “Hello! Hello!” choreographed to waving palms and wide, cheeky grins. I waved, smiled and chanted back, obeying the rules of the exchange. I never grow tired of the kids here, eager to practice their English greetings, some as young as one or two, egged on by proud parents.
A man came and sat at down and picked up my book that rested face down on the table. He took his time perusing the pages and sounding out some of the English words. Then, he took Tyrhone’s sunglasses and placing them on his face, put his down on the table. We took a photo of him and showed it to him, and he seemed impressed. He motioned to do a swap, but it wasn’t a very fair one. We laughed it off, nervously.
Yesterday morning, I left the guys to their work, at set off after breakfast on foot. Walking the length of the riverfront, I passed the dilapidated ‘old bridge’ which had previously signalled the end of town for me. There didn’t seem much beyond it, but I walked on, surveying the large barges hauling tonnes of earth up river from the construction of the new port.
I passed the hospital, then turned right, bound for ‘home’. To my left, a bustling, busy part of town presented itself, and I decided to check it out.
“It’s probably just a busy road with nothing to see,” I thought, but curious, I kept walking.
Turning right onto said busy road, I avoided motor-cycles and cars to peruse the stores, bursting with household goods, toys and clothes.
Maybe I’ll find pyjamas here… (Read about them in my last post.)
I saw a familiar face – Sunglass Guy! Though I probably stood out like a sore thumb in that part of town, I pointed to my sunglasses to remind him of our encounter.
“How much?” he asked me, regarding mine.
“Too much, too much,” I replied and excused myself with a smile and a wave. Even though he was trying to extort me of my sunnies, I couldn’t help but be a little thrilled at the prospect of ‘bumping into’ a local.
On my left, what seemed like hundreds of scooters lined up along a dirty brown wall. There were no foreigners here, this was definitely the ‘local’ part of town. No french-colonial cafes here, people!
A Market! My heart leapt with joy as I weaved through traffic to enter the rabbit-warren of the market’s inner sanctum.
The ancient-looking undercover market was in full Monday-morning swing. Huge vats filled with rice noodles and some sort of dough (for bread, maybe?) were perused by busy ladies, eager for a good deal.
Vegetable stalls sat alongside food stalls serving up steaming snacks that were unrecognisable to me. The ground underfoot was uneven, propped up by wooded planks. I followed the road rules and kept to right of the narrow lanes.
I got out my camera, and began snapping the sights around me, knowing I would never be able to fully capture the lively atmosphere.
I came across a quieter part of the market, lined with clothing stores. Pyjamas!!!!!!!!!! I found a pair that looked light and cool, and utterly kitsch. I tried them on over my shorts, and for $6, they were a steal.
After passing rows and rows of bananas, a couple of chickens with their feet tied, and huge mounds of tobacco, I was expelled into the bright mid-morning sun.
I walked back to the guest house with a spring in my step. I’d stumbled upon the heart of Kampot, in all it’s fragrant, steaming glory.
And I got pyjamas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“I should be bored more often”, I thought to myself, as I changed into my new PJs and collapsed onto my newly made bed, glad to be out of the midday heat.