Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Utopia

February 10

The guesthouse people are very nice. Although the room rent is a bit above my budget, it is nice to stay with good people.

I awake by 6AM and out with my camera by 6:30. Market scene is always interesting. The sun rises of Mekong. The riverside reminds me of the old strand in Chandernagore. The same misty river that bends half-moon past the city, boats ferrying people across, barges plying goods up river, buildings painted a tawny yellow that all of Chandernagore used to be painted before whitewashed boxlike buildings began to sprout in every corner.

Here in Phnom Penh a section of the strand has been spared so far. An elephant lumbers down the street, its feet encased in netted sandals, the mahout walks alongside.

I go to a café and take a seat. There is no power, so no coffee. I order coconut juice (milk) and mushroom omlette.

The bus for Kampot leaves at 1:15PM. The same monotonous road, this time going straight south from Phnom Penh. Some three hours later, the landscape begins to become more interesting. The outline of a hill, eerily resembling the silhouette of Angkor Wat at certain angles, rises above the heat haze. We pass through Pet, a small seaside town, and arrive at Kampot taxi stand.

A motodupe takes me and the luggage to an in-town guest house but it is too dingy. Then he takes me some 8 kilometers out of town to a guesthouse named “Utopia” which is in my Lonely Planet guidebook.

A truly utopian setting; thatched roof bungalows with decks that reach over the tranquil waters of a small tidal river. The owner is a German fellow, Max, with white Ho Chi Min beard on his chin. His wife is Cambodian. They have a daughter who is six, completely trilingual in Khmer, English and German, and a 1 year old son.

I get a $8 single room. Low ceiling—the Catholic floor, Max quips. The balconies open on to the river. There is a moored boat, rattan sofas everywhere, a few hammocks. Reflection of luminous cloud and palm trees on deep greenish water that is totally still between tides now. The sunset is out of this world. Bokor Hill is on the left. I so like this place that I contemplate not going much further than this.

I eat mushroom soup for dinner.

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