Cambodia Part 6

The Kbal Chhay Waterfalls

Back on the mainland in Sihanoukville, we munched falafel and hummus. What a treat! Strengthened, we wanted to drop our backpacks in our resort in Otres.

Initially, we had planned to get back to Phnom Penh after the island. Due to our first impressions at our arrival in Cambodia we were not eager to stay a day in the capital city longer than necessary. So we just booked another night in the same resort we previously stayed in. As we had our big backpacks, we couldn’t rent a motorbike and accepted a tuk tuk driver’s offer. Oh, how we missed them.

After a quick dive in the pool, we left the resort and walked down the street where we found a motorbike to rent. The nice lady gave us a better looking, trustworthier bike than we expected. This time both helmets were in impeccable condition so Jessica could actually enjoy the 20 minute ride to our destination: the Kbal Chhay Waterfalls.

Vegan World Explorer Otres Road
our second bike rent in Otres

It was a big letdown. We had hoped for a great waterfall view, but what we saw was an unspectacular river used as a natural swimming pool, overrun by locals, with lots of garbage and littering everywhere. Our visit didn’t even last 10 minutes. Maybe it were also the huge spiders weaving their gigantic webs between the trees and stones along the pathway that convinced us to leave (no worries, we don’t show spider photos on our blog – for obvious reasons).

Vegan World Explorer Otres Road
view on the road to the waterfalls

Off the beaten path

We drove the road back and took a right, direction Sihanoukville. However, we didn’t take the mainroad but followed a smaller, unimposing road that lead us through an urban area we’ll never forget. The following 30 minutes were the highlight of our day! With dark clouds above our heads we rode on stony tracks along sheet metal huts and children greeting and waving at us. Prayers echoing through speakers from far away sounded strange yet somehow fitting the scene.

A few hours before, Jess and I were shocked to find out that we were already used to the poverty in Cambodia by now, but this route showed us yet again how little many people own. So the kindness and smiling faces we came across here were even more remarkable.

The day ended with a ride along the beaches in Sihanoukville (Hawaii Beach, Independence Beach) and a vegan hotdog in yet another western restaurant called Ernie’s.

On the following day we made a last excursion with our rented bike before taking the bus to Phnom Penh. During these 2 hours we didn’t see a single tourist and again our spontaneous choices were the best ones. With a view of the Gulf of Thailand we rode east of Otres to a lonely beach and had a little break. Then at a small crossway in the middle of nowhere we were standing in front of today’s challenge: do we really take that insane, steep road down, not knowing if our weak bike could manage to take us back up again? Do we really risk getting a flat tire and missing our bus? Yes.

Carefully we made our way down, watching the sharp stones and deep holes while balancing the bike. All to be rewarded a few minutes later! An amazing landscape was revealed in front of us. A green forest on the hills to our left, buffaloes on the grass along the road and on the right huge rice paddies made a great appearance. Due to the immense heat and the lack of shadows, we only took quick breaks to get a few shots of the scene.

The fishing village that we were told about at Jin’s Italian Restaurant was still too far away, but we rode through another small, charming village and ended up on the main road we had already taken on our journey to the Ream National Park. That was a relief, as we didn’t need to get up that crazy steep hill again.

Vegan Food in Otres, Sihanoukville

Just like our stay before Koh Rong Samloem, we had breakfast at Jin’s Italian Restaurant in Otres. Scrambled tofu with fresh juices were a good start in the day and for lunch they served us delicious pasta. After our bike tour we had an obligatory coconut at the store we’d rented the scooter.

In the afternoon, the Giant Ibis Bus took us to Phnom Penh, where we only had one night left before our flight home. Funny and worth mentioning was the restroom stop as they were the most luxury, top notch restrooms we’d seen in Cambodia and all that at the side of a dusty road. Cambodia’s full of surprises in every aspect.

Cardamom Hunt

Phnom Penh was at first the same as we had left it. Hot, loud and muggy. We’d almost forgotten during our journey that there were even cars, policemen and hospitals in Cambodia. But that day we were to see the city in a different light. On the lookout for khmer food (we had too many times not eaten local food) we found “the Corn”, a recommended restaurant with vegan options.

phnom penh corn vegan
Delicious jackfruit coconut curry at The Corn

We took the opportunity to ask the owner where we could buy some cardamom. It drove me mad not finding any during our whole two week trip in a country that had a whole mountain range called the “Cardamom Mountains”. To our surprise, the lady didn’t know what it was. She googled the khmer translation and even called a few friends of hers. It turned out that an acquaintance had a stand on the Russian Market and was sure to have seen some cardamom at a Chinese medicine stand. Apparently, the Khmer don’t use it themselves, but if you happen to know more, let us know!

So we continued our cardamom hunt at the Russian Market, a market place like we’d already encountered several times. From the outside it looked quite good with the fresh fruit and vegetables in all colors piled up. Once we entered though we had a flashback to the market in Kampot and didn’t dare to breathe. Seeing Jessica with the same facial expression there was no need to talk, we just rushed through hoping to find a glimpse of said Chinese Medicine Stand or seeing daylight again. Back outside we didn’t see anything similar, however, Jessica took a last chance to buy some souvenirs in the shape of cotton trousers her family was envy about. So since we didn’t get any cardamom, at least we should have some ice cream. According to Happy Cow, there was a place right next to the market with a few vegan choices, but unfortunately the friendly smiling lady didn’t speak English. We handed her our khmer vegan card and she still couldn’t help us, so we skipped ice cream as well.

Vegan World Explorer Phnom Penh
Jessica in Pnhom Penh

A tuk tuk drove us to the Java Café, a place I had saved under vegan food on my phone. As it turned out, that was exactly the café where we’d had breakfast on our first day in Cambodia and it wasn’t really the most vegan-friendly. After a cup of tea we made our way to the International Post Office to send our post cards. It was a longer walk, but we had time and actually enjoyed it until it started raining. It was even more of a bummer when we finally stood in front of the Post Office and it was closed. The last sunlight was gone and Phnom Penh started to brighten up with street lights and shop signs while the rain continued to pour down. After many busy and chaotic crossroads with scooters rushing by from every possible direction, tuk tuks with rain covers and the one or other car honking, we found ourselves in front of the Café Soleil. The comfy vegetarian place has many vegan options and the khmer food was so delicious, even Jessica sheered up after our bad luck.

Vegan Food at the Café Soleil

Back at the hotel, the reception staff took care of our post cards and gave us our backpacks. During our last tuk tuk ride to the airport, we soaked in the city life one last time and actually started to like Phnom Penh. Between the hard rain we saw glimpses of street food stands, markets and neon lights reflecting in puddles.
At the airport our wonderful journey in Cambodia had come to an end.

Jim
Author

Cambodia Travel Log

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