We returned to the hotel via tuk-tuk and still had time to shower, finish all of my photo tasks, and pack for our 1130 checkout. Dan and Vy were there on time and the checkout was painless and quick. Again, for $39 per person per night, including breakfast, the Plantation is a steal in any country.
We loaded up our larger bags in one of the vans, but our driver had to go back to get another driver and van for the trip. We used the free minutes to run across the street to an ATM to get a little more cash since we were told that there would be no ATMs in Kep—the nearest being in Kampot where we might visit next weekend. The ATM was funny because (and it said this as you went through the menus) ifyou asked for $100, it gave you a single $100 bill. If, however, you asked for less than $100, it gave you smaller denominations. I asked for $90 and got ten $10 bills. Luke and Annie got $100 bills—tough to break in most places in Cambodia where almost nothing we’d encountered so far in terms of a daily expense costs more than $10. I suggested that they ask the hotel lobby for help and each of them were able to break one large bill into $20s and $10s.
We went to lunch at the Magnolia Vietnamese Restaurant which looked very good. The Pho was only $3.25 per bowl and there were some other good looking options as well. Angkor beer was only $2.20 for a large 640ml bottle, too—the best price we’d seen so far. I have to admit, though, that I was a liitle disappointed in the Pho Tai. The beef was good, as was the broth, but the noodles were flat and larger that I’d prefer. They didn’t provide bean sprouts, but we did get a plate with fresh basil, fresh green cumin stalks, some other unidentified green, and some diced red chiles. The fish sauce was good and they also had Hoisin and a local Sriracha equivalent that was passable. The bowl was the size of a small at Pho 75 in Northern Virginia or Pho-Nomenal in Colorado Springs. Winston was finally pleased to find some very small, hot, pickled green peppers on the table that he could add to his stir-fried pho noodles. They also served unsweetened ice tea which was good—for free—to everyone. All in all a good meal. I’m hoping to try more Pho in the Kep area since we’ll only be about 20 km from the border with Vietnam.
Before leaving, we visited “happy room” and were surprised to find an alternative to the American tradition of putting a chemical “mint” in the urinal—the restaurant had put the equivalent of about two sliced limes in there to freshen the air. (Insert Margarita joke punchline here—citing Cuervo Gold, of course)
The drive to Kep was the usual Death Race 2000 in a rickety van devoid of seatbelts along marginal roads lined with pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, cars, large freight-hauling trucks, farm vehicles, tuk-tuks, and ox carts. The number of near-death experiences for us and those around us was somewhere in the low double digits. I tried to take a calm, meditative approach to the whole thing, accepting my fate in the finest Buddhist traditions, seeking enlightenment at some point before impact with an oncoming vehicle or multiple rolls into a flooded rice field. It is just an exercise in inner peace and tranquility. Additionally, I used the opportunity to type this missive as we barreled along at about 110 kph (70 mph) on roads designed for 80 kph, unlined, unregulated, with neither guard rail nor stable shoulder. Yes, I’m at peace now…
We arrived in Kep and checked into the hotel that overlooks the beach. The rooms are simple, but comfortable with a/c and wifi,plus breakfast is included, so we're good to go. We start at 0700 tomorrow morning and will be building/digging latrines! More on that later!