Kampot, a charming riverside town in Southern Cambodia is a spot I wished we had longer to explore. Realising back in Sihanoukville that we would be limited on time for Kampot due to our visa for Vietnam starting imminently, my travel buddies and I decided to make a quick beeline for the quaint little city. We had one full day to make the most of our visit – here’s what we got up to.
Battambang, a city a couple of hours’ drive away from Siem Reap is a spot that is often left out from a typical traveller’s itinerary of Cambodia, overshadowed by the spotlight of the temples of Angkor and the bustle of Phnom Penh. However, after reading up about it in my trusty lonely planet guide, I was pretty keen to at least spend one full day there to explore the town’s surroundings.
We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day (only $18 between 6 of us!) and we did indeed have a great day out. There was certainly lots to do. We spent the day journeying on a bamboo train, exploring various different temples, wandering through a vineyard and visiting a former interrogation centre and ‘killing caves’. These were used by the Khmer Rouge back in the 70s and although it was sad to see and learn about, it was also very interesting.
But it was something else that really for the first time during our trip honestly left me open-mouthed. Bats leaving their cave for the night. Literally millions and millions of them!
We had been told about the legendary Laos Motorbiking Loop from friends we had made back in Pai, but for some reason had brushed the idea aside. However when we met a group of like-minded travellers whilst tubing in Vang Vieng, we were very easily persuaded to shake up our original plans and embark on a 5-day detour partaking in ‘the loop’. The famous round trip lasts approximately 500km, and most riders tend to visit many of the sights along the way and stop off at tiny local villages overnight. We were a large group with a couple of less experienced drivers so had decided to spend a leisurely 5 days journeying the loop, although many finish it in 4 or even 3 days.
I wasn’t driving myself and instead was lucky enough to be able to hop on the back of my best friend Sophie’s bike. For that reason, my expertise on how difficult or extreme the actual driving route is quite limited, but I’ll give my thoughts on the ride and will mention some of the lovely sights we saw on our trip. Below I’ve included a copy of the map we were given of our route when renting our bikes.
When I’d previously mentioned that I’d be travelling Laos to people of a similar age group, the first thing they would tend to ask was if I’d be going tubing in Vang Vieng. Tubing in Vang Vieng basically involves floating down the Nam Song river during the day, surrounded by gorgeous scenery whilst stopping off at various bars drinking yourself into utter oblivion.
Over the years, I had read news stories and heard some rather interesting tales of the day-drinking phenomenon. Previously there had been a lot more bars open and tubing-related deaths were not uncommon. However the Laotian government made some huge changes in 2012, making tubing much safer and more controlled. With these recent changes, I was keen to check it out myself, despite the negativity surrounding it in the press. And as a Brit who enjoys the occasional (ahem) day drinking session, there was no denying that a day spent on a river stopping off at bamboo bars for frozen vodka slushies sounded tempting to say the least.