Le Grand Détour

2016, slow start – Démarrage en douceur

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[1er janvier 2016]

france_french_flag Le réveil *un peu* difficile à 9h30… Mon oreiller a du mal à lâcher prise en me promettant des rêves irrésistibles. Il finit par me laisser partir, inconsolable. Nous prenons notre premier petit déjeuner de 2016 sur la terasse au soleil, avec de tous petits yeux. Le programme de la journée est relativement simple : aller nous affaler sur des fauteuils devant la mer pour comater en écrivant un petit peu. Ce que nous faisons avec l’énergie d’un escargot piqué par la mouche tsétsé jusqu’à 16h30… Nous en profitons au passage pour acheter nos billets de bus pour aller à Kep le lendemain. Petit détail important, le bus est censé passer nous prendre directement à la guesthouse pour 11h30.

Premier goûter de 2016 avec un petite glace aux cookies et au chocolat. Oui, c’est important le goûter, même à 39 ans 😉

Retour à l’hôtel à la vitesse d’une huître au galop et dîner dans un restaurant japonais authentique pour le Cambodge. Nous ne nous lassons pas de nos classiques.

C’est bien 2016 mais ce premier jour n’est pas synonyme de puissance explosive. On se réveillera demain !

[1st December 2016]

english_flag Today’s diary should be easy, we have done extremely little today! After getting up as late as possible to still be able to have breakfast, we wandered into town to go and sit by the sea at a little café/bar called Tranquility. Where, with the background soundtrack of the sea against the shore we worked a little on the blog and stared out to sea a lot saying things like “How lucky are we?”, “Isn’t it beautiful?” and “No, thank you, No. Or Koon” (the latter to the dozens of people trying to sell us sunglasses, massages, threading epilations, etc.).

On the way into town I wanted to get some cash out (as our very expensive hotel only accepts cash…grrrrr!) but, having had my first credit card refused, I attempted the second, one which I hadn’t used since we were in France and therefore, one for which I had forgotten the pin number. Having tried twice without success I decided to abandon the task and let Stéphane take money out this evening instead. We’d have enough for today anyway.

After a few hours (and with no battery left in my computer) we decided that it was time to head home. We walked along the beach for a bit to see the mess that was left after last night…both the people and the previously beautiful scenery, now covered in the remains of the thousands of fireworks and polystyrene food containers (the cans and bottles having been cleared up as people can get money from them)! Walking back to the hotel we happily passed in front of last night’s ice cream parlour and Stéph opted for cookies and chocolate to give him the energy to make it up the hill ^_-.

This evening, still feeling the lack of energy from the late night last night, Pierre recommended a local Japanese restaurant for our dinner and we decided to go and see whether it was any good. It was! And after a plateful of Edamame, I ate my pork katsu and Stéphane his curry rice and we headed back to the hotel (via the cashpoint as we’re leaving tomorrow and need to pay the bill!).

 

[2 janvier 2016]

france_french_flag Une nouvelle matinée tranquille nous attend à la villa d’Artagnan, de petit déjeuner et de discussions sympathiques avec Pierre et Nathalie en attendan que le bus passe nous prendre à 11h30.

11h30, 11h45. Toujours rien. Nous appelons la compagnie de bus. Savent-ils où se trouve la guesthouse ? Sont-ils en retard ? Oui et non.

Patience. Impatience.

12h, 12h20.

Nous appelons encore. A priori le bus est en chemin. Je commence à ne plus y croire.

12h30 le bus arrive enfin avec une heure de retard. Lorsque nous montons à bord, les passagers ne semblent pas très contents… Et nous allons comprendre pourquoi dans l’heure qui suit. Le bus est en effet passé prendre certains d’entre eux il y a déjà 2 heures et il n’a toujours pas fait un seul kilomètre vers sa destination. A la place, il fait le tour de la ville pour prendre un par un chacun des passagers…

Vers 13h15 nous partons enfin pour Kep que nous atteindrons vers 15h30 après un trajet peu agréable. Heureusement que Susie nous a fait changer de place peu de temps après que nous soyons montés sinon nous aurions dérouillé sur les sièges arrières.

Nous arrivons finalement à Kep, une petite ville côtière du sud du Cambodge, réputée pour ses couchers de soleil et son fameux marché aux crabes. Le temps de manger un morceau dans un boui-boui face à la mer puis nous marchons vers notre guesthouse, la Casa Kep. Nous y sommes accueillis très chaleureusement par Ester, une espagnole polyglotte qui nous fournit plein d’informations sur la ville et les possibilités de visite de la région. Sur ses conseils, après avoir posé nos bagages, nous décidons d’aller prendre un petit bain dans la mer pour admirer le coucher du soleil en compagnie de nombreux locaux venus profiter du week-end à la plage. C’est un magnifique coucher que nous tentons d’immortaliser sous toutes ses formes de souvenirs et de pixels.

Alors que les derniers rayons disparaissent derrière l’île vietnamienne de Phu Quoc juste en face de la ville, nous prenons la route du marché aux crabes, l’attraction principale de Kep, pour y déguster la spécialité locale, le crabe grillé au poivre de Kampot. Kampot, souvenez-vous, la ville voisine où nous avons séjourné il y a peu. Comme nous avons un peu sous-estimé la distance à pied, la nuit est largement tombée lorsque nous parvenons enfin au marché. En fait de marché il s’agit surtout d’un ensemble de vendeurs et vendeuses de poissons, de crabes et de tas de fruits de mer grillés sur barbecue. De quoi manger « local-local », quoi.

A côté du marché une bonne quinzaine de restaurants se disputent la clientèle touristique peu nombreuse en proposant tous des menus similaires. Après quelques hésitations nous décidons de nous poser au Kimly, une institution qui a réussi à survivre dans cette petite ville depuis 20 ans. Ce restaurant nous avait par ailleurs été recommandé par un de mes collègues ainsi que le LonelyPlanet. Donc incontournable 😉

Je commande bien sûr THE spécialité, le crabe grillé au poivre de Kampot et Susie choisit l’Amok de poisson, également au poivre de Kampot.

Alors, ce crabe, i goûte bien ou i goûte pas bien ?

Hé bien il est réellement délicieux si ce n’est qu’il est pénible à manger car mise à part le casse-noisette, le restaurant ne fournit pas de pique permettant d’aller chercher la chair dans les pattes… sans compter que le crabe est tout rikiki. Rien à voir avec les tourteaux qu’on trouve chez nous avec leurs énormes pinces. Heureusement qu’il y en a plusieurs pour compenser. Je finis quand même par me régaler, petit à petit, patiemment, avec chaque miette de crabe décortiquée à la fourchette. S’il y a un plat qui représente l’antithèse du fast food, ce doit être celui-là !

A la fin du repas une scène dramatique se déroule sous nos yeux : en voulant balancer son cochon en peluche dans la tête de sa soeur, une petite fille envoie son nounours dans la mer. Gros sanglots. L’une des serveuses finira par envoyer son fils se jeter à l’eau pour sauver l’animal et calmer les pleures.

Le retour à la Casa Kep prend bien une vingtaine de minutes à pied, la plupart du trajet dans le noir total… Heureusement que nous avons pris la une lampe frontale avec nous ! Merci du conseil Ester 😉

[2nd January 2016]

english_flag We’d bought tickets yesterday, on the way back from the beach, for a bus to take us to Kep where we’re planning to stay for the next three nights. The “darling” woman in the agency told us that the pick-up would be at 11:30 in front of our hotel. We checked and she seemed to know where it was. However, stood outside at 12:25 the bus still hadn’t turned up. We’d rung the agency several times and each time was told that it was coming. We started to not believe them anymore when a large, yellow bus turned the corner of the road. There was very little space in the bus, with couples sitting one person in 2 seats and one whole seat containing suitcases (we’d put ours into the trunk of the bus as any, unselfish person would). This left us with space on backseat only and on one side of the backseat because my legs couldn’t fit behind the other side. At the next hotel, one of the selfish couple ran down the bus and started shouting at the driver “Last stop ok?! We’ve been on this bus for two hours. When will we leave Sihanoukville? » The bus driver just looked at her and smiled and said “Yes” and then “Last stop”.

And then we stopped at another hotel!! ^_^

The people who had their bags on one seat got up and started moving them…I seized the moment and ran down the bus to bagsy the seats until two hotels later when the selfish people took their bags off of the two seats and I ran down the bus to bagsy the newly available spaces…result!!

Our guesthouse tonight was called Casa Kep and they’d sent us a detailed email with instructions on how to find them when we arrived because, according to them, “in Kep the streets have no name”…having heard this sentence it was impossible for me not to start singing U2’s Where the streets have no name — obviously!

On arrival at Kep we were pretty hungry, as it was nearly 3pm and we hadn’t had any lunch yet, so we headed into the village centre where we opted for the cheap option of a “local” café in the middle of the car park. After our fried rice and egg (which may later have turned out to be a mistake!) we headed up to Casa Kep where we were met by a small white dog that was barking a lot until Ester, the owner, appeared behind her. Cocolisa, as her name is, stopped barking at us and didn’t do it again throughout our stay (though she did bark quite a lot at anything else that moved in the garden!). ^_^

Ester showed us to our bungalow which had its own private terrace outside complete with hammock and comfy chairs. We settled in and she explained a few things that we could do in the area, starting this evening with a swim in the sea at sunset followed by a visit to the crab market and dinner at one of the many seafood restaurants adjacent to the market.

As it was such a beautiful evening and a long weekend in Cambodia, due to the New Year, the beach was really busy. We had a swim to wash the bus off us, took the obligatory selfie with the sunset photo before heading round the point of land to the crab market. At one point the pavement was in such a state and, as it was now night, we couldn’t see very far in front of us, so we started walking along the road…the road widened from there to the market and was even six lanes at some point…in a tiny seaside town…slight overkill I think!

We stopped at the first restaurant in the row (as it was recommended by the Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor) and reserved a table for in half an hour (to give us the time to go and visit the crab market).

At the end of the row of restaurants we found the market. There were all kinds of barbecue stands going on with fish, prawns, crabs, squid, etc. grilling nicely (if you like that kind of smell…which was slightly overpowering to my nose). Stéphane said that we could have saved some money if we had dinner here instead of at the Kimly. Good point, but I’d already spotted the Fish Amok that I wanted to try at the Kimly and a small bowl of rice and a grilled fish on the market weren’t enough to pull me away from the Amok this evening. I suggested that we come here instead at lunchtime another day and share a fish then…suggestion accepted by Stéphane (who himself wanted to try the town’s speciality of crab in Kampot pepper sauce).

Back at the restaurant and we had requested a table with a sea view — we were not disappointed. We sat next to the hatch and looked out into the darkness. In the distance the fishing boats created a string of glittering green lights on the horizon and the sea breeze blew gently into the restaurant making it nice and cool.

Ester had told us to ask for big crabs when ordering at the restaurant and to repeat the request at least three times…so when Stéphane ordered and made no indication of size I did it for him, but only once! So when his plate arrived it contained about three and a half tiny crabs cut up into thirds or halves or quarters. There were nut crackers to break the shell, but no tiny forks or spikes to pull the meat out of small nooks and crannies…so Stéphane struggled to get any meat at all from all these tiny crabs!

In the meantime, I was happily tucking into my Fish Amok which was absolutely gorgeous…shame we didn’t learn how to make this in the cookery class (though I think that there is a recipe in there, steaming it in banana leaves in France might be tricky…).

The pepper sauce for Stéphane’s dish was gorgeous. Made using fresh green pepper fruit from a nearby farm, it’s another dish that we won’t be able to make back home! Doh!!

As we were finishing off our meal two Russian girls from a larger table of tourists came over and started playing catch using the little girl’s Peppa Pig teddy bear as a ball (I think she must’ve been about 4 or 5 years old). They were giggling and happy and then the little girl suddenly threw it really hard and over her big sister’s head. I saw the Peppa Pig disappear through the hatch that lead out to the sea…I gasped and leapt up to look out of the hatch and see if there was anything that I could do…it was too late. Peppa Pig was now floating around in the briny!! The little girl who had been laughing really hard about the fact that her sister hadn’t been able to catch it suddenly realised that she wasn’t going to see Peppa Pig anymore and the tears started to fall. Time for us to leave! We headed to the counter to pay and just then a local lady arrived with her son in his pyjamas. He took one look outside and ran off out of the restaurant to head to the beach and come around to rescue the pig. A hero in blue pyjamas with some kind of little known cartoon character all over it. We left before the screaming blond child was reunited with Peppa, but with a warm feeling in my heart about the understanding between children all around the world of how important a teddy is to a child!

We walked back along the main road to the hotel, having been warned off trying to take the shorter route by Ester…she says at night there is very little lighting and also there are groups of dogs so it’s best to avoid it. The long way only took us about twenty minutes anyway and gave us time to digest our dinner before bed!