Of all the places we have been, we really fell in love with this place and the idea behind it. It’s set in the Cardamom mountains which are home to wild elephants ? Once notorious for logging and poaching, it is known an eco tourism spot for trekking, elephant spotting and homestays. We arrived here from Kep, the bus dropped us at a wooden hut in Andoung Teuk which felt like the middle of nowhere! Lucky for us, the girl in the hut served us coffee and showed us the long boat ? People in this region are very friendly and kind. We got on our longtail boat with a couple from England and a local female captain (I love how there is gender equality in the jobs here, we’ve seen female construction workers building the roads and female farmers working with the oxen). As we sailed the open river, we had glimpses of local life by the river, fishermen and the green countryside. Our captain was multitasking as she caught up on her crocheting! We arrived in Chiphat a couple of hours later and our captain brought us to the visitor centre.
The visitor centre is where everything is organised from trekking to accommodation to eating, it is also a handy spot to charge your devices as they’ve a generator which runs when the rest of the town’s power gets cut for most of the day! We chose to do a homestay and chose a two day trek in the jungle ? I was a bit concerned as they rated them from easy to hard with emoticons and ours had a crying face but I really wanted to swim in the huge waterfall and see the burial jars ? We began walking to our homestay when a guy offered me a lift on his scooter, his name was Sena and he would be our guide the next day ? Poor Phil had to walk but it wasn’t so far and still bright out. We were staying on a farm, there were 40 cows, many chickens,friendly dogs and an even friendlier little girl. She was the sweetest, she posed for photos with me and loved to see herself in the photos. She showed off her counting skills in English and I taught her a few words ?
After we dropped our bags off, we headed back to the visitor centre, it’s a great place to hang out and chat to fellow backpackers and get advice on trekking ? We talked to one swiss girl who told us it was freezing in the jungle at night, hard to believe when we were sweating with the heat at five in the morning, but her advice saved our asses as we packed hoodies for our trek and it was perishing out there!
We had a wonderful meal in our homestay and the guy showed us videos of his adventures in the Cardamom mountains. He climbed a super tall tree to get honey and had pictures of exotic birds ? He made us very excited about our trek in the morning.
We woke up early and headed to the visitor centre to pack our bags which they provided for us with hammocks and blankets. After they gave us breakfast of noodles and cold chips (?) and yummy french pressed coffee we set off with Sena and a friend of his who would be our cook ? Our trek was just wonderful, we crossed rapids, trekked through plantations, seen farmers on their mopeds delivering their crops to the town and seen elephant treks and elephant poop (but no elephants ?) and a porcupine. They cooked for us over a fire, it was one of the tastiest meals we have had in Cambodia and piping hot (a novelty in cambodia!) We camped next to a river, Sena set up fishing nets and we bathed in the river. We then set off to see the jars which was a hard trek up a stony, steep path especially after we had already trekked over 20 km that day! We climbed up some dodgy looking bamboo ladders to see the burial jars and coffins. It was good to see them after reading about their history in the visitor centre ? The tribal mountain people buried their family members like this in the 15th century, research has been carried out on the remains, animal remains were also uncovered (it is not known if these were sacrificial or just family pets). We also seen bats flying around the bat cave close by ?
We ate bamboo soup by candlelight, it was delish and warmed our insides. We then went to sleep in our hammocks. I awoke in the middle of the night shivering and in desperate need of the loo. There’s really nothing like having to do your business in the jungle whilst watching out for elephants in the dark! The guys started the fire in the dark as they were cold too. We had some nice hot coffee and breakfast and set off on our trek. The best part of our second day was the stunning waterfall though it was pretty hard to get too. you walk over the top of the waterfall, in the river, slipping on the river weed (I had to hold onto Sena’s bag!), then clamber down to the bottom of it. I went swimming, it was like my own personal giant pool of fun. I swam under the waterfall and was in total bliss. I looked up to see tourists snapping pictures of me (the crazy girl swimming in the ice cold river!) We ate lunch by the waterfall, including fried fish that Sena had caught overnight. We trekked the 20 odd km back to the village and my whole body was aching! We had exhausted our bottled water supply the day before but Sena had boiled us river water and green tea so it was all good (even though all the water tasted like burnt tea!) We met a farmer and sat chatting to him, he was having his lunch after looking at his herd ? I fell asleep and was woken up by the others laughing at me lol! I was so happy when we got back to the village and I could go asleep! We ate in the only real restaurant in town, serving one meal option lol! Things really are very different in Chiphat!
The next day we got moto taxis back to Andoung teuk to get the bus to Bangkok. We got the ferry over the river (which was just a pallet!) and it felt like we would sink at any moment. Well it was a pretty experience, being on the back of a motorbike with no helmet, a crazy driver and the bumpiest dirt track in the world! I was so relieved when we reached our destination as well as filthy (red dust all over me!)
So, we say goodbye to Cambodia with heavy hearts, but we are looking forward to nice Thai food ? The food in Cambodia leaves a lot to be desired,bony meat and lots of grizzle! Our next blog will be about our journey back to good ole Bangkok and stuffing ourselves on good Thai food ?