We were staying in Kep National Park, high on a hill with spectacular views of the sea. So it was natural that we’d want to explore the national park on foot. After breakfast, we started our walk at 8.00AM. As our first venture into the park and without a guide, we planned to take the well-marked 8 Km circular route. We started in tropical forest but this frequently gave way to spectacular views of the coast, the jungle and the neatly farmed plains beneath us. All went surprisingly well until Marilyn suggested taking one of the smaller paths to the summit, where the views would be spectacular. We were soon scrambling over rocks and slipping on wet leaves. The ascent just got steeper and steeper. We spoke to a young Englishman and later a German lady both descending – they had turned back saying it was seriously steep with ropes in places. With some trepidation, we continued slowly and steeply upwards. We were only wearing hiking sandals and had no poles. But increasingly worried about the descent, we eventually gave up and went down very carefully. Once we got back to the main circular route, the rest of the hike was like a walk in the park. After we left the national park, we walked to the coast and eventually took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. The rest of the day we chilled out by the pool.[ Open this link for photos of Kep National Park in the public domain.}
The next day we took our favorite tuk-tuk to Kampot for the day, about 45 minutes away from Kep. Kampot is a beautiful town some 5Km from the sea and set on the lovely Praek Tuek Chhu river. It has some excellent examples of French colonial architecture, mainly in the riverside area and we wandered through the pretty streets and viewed the early c.20th century French architecture. Apart from riverside, we visited the new market but found that too claustrophobic for Alf. Kampot is world-famous for its pepper and salt production; it has an expanding fruit growing industry too, especially for durians – these are very smelly fruits that are banned in many hotel rooms in Asia! Tourism is of growing importance too. Mid-afternoon, our tuk-tuk driver took us back to Kep.We took some lovely photos which we’ll share in due course. [Open this link for photos of Kampot in the public domain.]
When we returned to Kep, we went into a travel agent and booked a tour to Bokor Mountain for the next day. It’s in Bokor National Park, about ninety minutes out of Kep. We were in a shared minibus. Generally, the tour was not particularly memorable. Even the views were spoiled by the cloud. Bokor was famous in French colonial times, especially the former Bokor Palace Hotel and old casino – unfortunately, the building’s carcase has been renovated with concrete and lost all of its former 1930s beauty. Nearby is the US$1bn casino development, the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort – it’s completely hideous. If you’re looking for the eerie charm of the abandoned French hill station, you will be very disappointed. At the end of the day, we were glad to return to our base Kep. The best thing about that day was seeing a calf and her mother against the background of the sea – it was taken that morning as we left Kep. [Open this link for photos of Bokor in the public domain].