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Kampot, Caves and Kep Crabs

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 14 November 2012 | Views [811]

We hired the bikes for a second day and drove out of Kampot. The roads were much harder to drive on than the day before as they were dirt tracks, rutted and full of pot holes.
Whilst tring to find the Phnom Ch'nork Caves we neglected to turn and instead drove along a path winding through villages and rice fields, ending up at the secret lake (known in kampot as the not so secret lake)- a lake sheltered between two mountains with a flooded road at one end.  Having not brought any swimming stuff we turned back for the caves. Stopping at a corner a local store holder pointed us in the right direction and we found the caves easily enough. We parked our bike and a local guide showed us around the caves. We needed him! We had to climb, crawl and jump to get around the caves. He showed us the shrines, broken in the 70s when discovered by the Khmer Rouge and new cave paintings of Buddha made after their fall. Crawling or climbing from cave to cave we saw stalactite rock formations that looked like elephants and a huge stalactite that hung from the cave ceiling and nearly touched the stalagmite below it.
When the tour was over our guide directed us along the road to a second cave we could visit. We missed that turning and instead drove past more houses and rice fields. Children ran out from the shade to shout hello when they saw us and many of the adults we passed also smiled and nodded. Every house seemed to have at least one cow- often attached to a rope, either pegged to the ground or held by a child- several chickens and a few dogs. We past a squealing pig tied to a plank of wood and strapped horizontally to the back of a motorbike. We ended up in a monastery, gave a guy there a lift to the lake (on the back of Meg's bike while I took her bag) and then, realising how late it was headed to Kep. 
Once in Kep we followed the road straight down to the seafront and came to the infamous Kep Crab Market. Once we asked for crab serval excited women led us over to the sea, where one of them waded in, pulled out a basket from the water and dragged  it back to shore. The women then crowded round and plucked the crabs from the basket and threw them into a plastic bag. One kilo of crabs turned out to be about 7 crabs- so they weren't big. From the bag they were thrown into a cooking pot and a few minuted later the bag, now containing bright pink crabs, was plonked in front of us.
How to Eat a Crab
1. Twist the pincers where they join the body. Crack the upper and lower parts of the arm and the shell will open exposing the brown meat. This meat is soft and almost sweet.
2. To get at the white meat turn the crab over and pull at the pointed section on its belly. This will peel back and so you can get your fingers under the shell. Pull and this will come away in one piece. Pull away the grey-blue feathery bits (dead mans fingers) and crack the remaining in half. Chunks of white meat will now be exposed. These parts are juicy and lighter in taste. 
The sunset as we sat by the sea eating our crabs. The best Asian sunset I've seen so far, changing from lilac to pink to deep orange as the sun fell from view. Witnessing this beauty however meant riding back in the dark, squinting against the dust, avoiding to pot holes and transporter trucks. It was a sketchy drive but we arrived safe and sound in Kampot, in time to grab a dinner of shrimp fried with fresh green Kampot Pepper. 

Tags: cambodia, caves, crabs, kampot, kep, motorbikes

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