M Y O B

The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

MY FIRST TRIP IN CAMBODIA: KEP

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09.September.68

Mon Chers~

I recall dashing off a short note at the bottom of my last letter that may have left you suspended a bit. To recount: last Saturday AM I returned to the Australian Embassy, where they prepared for me a letter to the Pochentong (airport) Customs authorities. I’m not sure what the letter said, but in any event it was the magic touch necessary, and after a whole lot of filling in of forms, books, etc., the Chef explained that I was free to depart “avec moto”, and to proceed to tour Cambodia entirely as I pleased. He gave me a warm “Welcome to Cambodia” (even If 2 days late) and hoped I would enjoy my stay.

So, having gotten beforehand a bottle of petrol (the bike had to be flown “dry”), and having on-the-spot re-attached the silencers, I got under way. Now, since having had the engine re-built in the Honda [before leaving Saigon], I’d never really gotten it broken in, & never had the chance to take a “shake-down” run. I’d intended to go to Vung Tao, but by the time I had time for that, the VC were making trouble out that way again. Just driving around Saigon, I had experienced an assortment of minor ills & had (I hoped) corrected them all. Re-attaching the silencers (besides making the machine quiet) seemed to improve its performance.

I visited the Palais Royale the same morning. It is lovely. Curiously, amid the splendor of the various buildings (most of them built around 1915) is a small 2-story building “a la style francaise”, a building built by Napoleon much earlier. But there it sits, all ginger-bread and bric-a-brac; it looks so out of place! After lunch I went through the National Museé (much of it currently being reconstructed). As Todd said, they have a large collection of statues of various Khmer Kings—but not a great deal else.

Saturday night I was poking around the city & stopped for a Pepsi at a small restaurant. The owner—to my surprise—spoke flawless english and welcomed me so warmly it was almost overwhelming. It turned out this man is an expatriate Vietnamese, and he was eager for news: I wish I could have been more encouraging. Of course, this episode lasted through several Pepsis, a large dish of Cambodian-style beef-steak (rather like Korean bool-goggie, but not cooked at the table [and served over water-cress] and so forth: it was after 1 am before I got back to the hotel for sleep! And by prearrangement Mr. Thang-Ny showed up promptly at 8:30 to take me sight-seeing. After petit-dejeunez, where we were joined by another friend, we took the bike in for a battery-charge (too much stop & go driving) and while that was in progress we walked to the phnom for relaxation and photos. It was a gorgeous day. Following completion of the battery charge, all 3 of us drove out [Highway 2] into the country-side (to and somewhat beyond Takhmau), had refreshments, then returned to to PPenh. I lolligagged most of the rest of the day, having not gotten enough sleep the nite before. Did some souvenir shopping—and am happy to say found local items. A good dinner, an evening walking tour, and then to bed to rest up for the trip to Kep.

BACKSTORY: Mr. Ny had introduced himself to me in the hotel lobby: he spoke passable english, and was eager to try it out. I was eager to try him out, so we had a nice afternoon romp right there in the Mondial, and arranged to meet the next morning for sight-seeing. His friend wasn’t bad, either!

Temples Like this One Near Takhmau) are Everywhere!

I got on the road about 8:30 am. Another beautiful day, perfect for touring. First stop was Takeo [via Highways 3 and 25] where I had breakfast of sorts about 10:15. Traffic is, indeed, light, but autos and busses (especially) go like mad and one has to give them a wide berth! Had a pleasant chat with the elder Takeo police Chief, who introduced himself warmly. I understood about half of what he said (in French), and hope he understood as much of my rejoinders (in fractured French).

New Police Meeting Hall

The Chief of Police in Takeo proudly showed off their new meeting-hall, recently completed. Not an automobile in sight!

Once the initial shock of seeing an American wears off, the people respond with warm & spontaneous affection that is both heart-warming and encouraging. But I am a rarity here, so that I get lots of unabashed stares, especially in the countryside. But a smile & a wave (a choumreap sour is pretty hard to execute with one hand on the throttle) brings instant response in kind.

It began to rain very lightly as I approached Kampot, so I stopped there for a bowl of “Soup Chinois” and sat out a typical tropical rain for about an hour. (Chinese soup—besides being very good, is one of the safest foods here; there’s likely to be anything & everything in it, but it is kept at a boil all day long.) After the rain stopped I shopped in the central market for Kampot Pepper, and bought a hand of “ananas” to eat later on. The little boy who sold them to me was so taken aback by it all—I’m sure it’s been a while since he sold his fruit to an american—but his charming smile would win any heart. 4 riels (about 8¢) for the bananas.

BACKSTORY: There was a group of stalls all selling bananas, but I chose the one being tended-to by the youngster, chicken-queen that I am. (His mother had gone on an errand). I guessed his age at ten, but you never know. He was all smiles and all business as he interpreted my proffered hand to mean I wanted a hand of bananas, and he held up four fingers to tell me it would cost 4 riels. I was tempted to swoop him up, put him behind me on the bike, and ride off into the sunset. But I didn’t: and now he’s over 50 years old, if he survived the K-R massacre. I wonder if he remembers that tall american with the big motorcycle.

As I proceeded to Kep [Highways 3 and 16], I was on the heels of a storm, so from time to time stopped under a tree for refuge—and bananas! And about 2:30 I came around a corner and there was the seashore, a lovely beach, lovely sunshine, and no more than half-a-dozen people to be seen!

Banana Break Near Kep

I stopped under this tree for a ciggie and banana: that yellow spot on the right side of the bike is the hand of bananas I bought earlier.Just over that rise is a spectacular view of the Gulf of Tonkin and Kep.

Happily, the machine is preforming flawlessly. The valve-gear in a Honda sounds like a thrashing machine, but they do run well, & as mine is still “running in”, I’ve taken it fairly easy. Tomorrow! A day on the beach. Have lotion, so I hope to avoid further burn (my face & arms burned slightly this morning before I realized it). As usual, will close this but add more anon~

Luv~
Bruce

A Rural Road, Somewhere Near Phnom Penh

The next day: Bokor and Sihanoukville. Stay tuned!

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Written by Bruce

December 14th, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Cambodia

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