Saturday, December 2, 2017

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 7th CHAPTER - Couth on Thansur Bokor

It's almost spooky: In my last post I've complained about too many options, too little time - and today I got stuck since noon at a wonderful place in a luxurious hotel room with oodles of time to get a lot of pleasurable things done.

Wat Sampov Pram - golden Buddha
The golden Buddha at Wat Sampov Pram. One of the many sights we were not able to see on the first day in the mist.

Again, the day started out quite active, but was clipped by the weather.

Someone up there must have read my last post where I was complaining about not having time to get everything done.
 So they sent heavy clouds and lots of mist.


Yin


But let me start from the beginning: Besides the pepper farms and salt fields a trip to the Thansur Bokor mountain is the tourists' favorite activity. Up the mountain there are ruins of King Sihanouk's summer residence, there used to be a casino for the French colonialists that today is in ruins, but being renovated. The French used to come to Thansur Bokor for the cooler climate, just like they did in Viet Nam in Đà Lạt.

It sure is high on Thansur Bokor.

There are the remnants of an old Catholic church, there is the beautiful Wat Sampov Pram and the 'ghost town', a settlement destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. And there is the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, a huge hotel with an adjacent casino.

This is what it looks like when you can't see...


....and that's the next day.


This is what it looks like in heavy mist....


...and here with clear skies. The first day we didn't even anticipate that there might be a fantastic view behind the building.

And the building itself deserves a little sunshine to present all its pretty red mold and moss.

Before I came to Cambodia, I had booked a room at the resort since it has five stars and I got it at an unbeatable price. But as everybody goes only on day trips, it's either complicated or expensive to get there. They offer a really good deal including transportation, but we'll get to that later. Anyway, I had to arrange my own transportation. At Kampot they offered me transportation for 12 Dollars, but a guided tour including all the above mentioned sights is only one Dollar more, so I obviously chose that. Plus it's more fun to be with people from time to time and actually I met a nice German couple, a nice French couple and a cool Dutch single lady.

Cool is key, the higher we got, the colder it was. There was an ice-cold wind blowing and a damp mist came down on our lot - mostly dressed in shorts and little T-shirts. The mist did not cover only us, it covered actually everything and obstructed the view at things that were farther away than six feet max. That's not so good when you go up a mountain for the views. Or to take pictures of picturesque ruins. Or both. The poor guide was so apologetic, I almost pitied him.

Since we couldn't see anything, the trip that is advertised as an all-day-excursion (which is a teeny swindle, anyway) was over by 11:40 a. m.
To me, it didn't matter since I had booked it as my mean of transportation, so I happily checked in at the hotel while the rest of the group headed downhill.

I was welcomed by the very nice Mr. Nam Sambath, the front office manager. He took his time to explain all the facilities, escorted me to my room and made sure I'd be perfectly comfortable here. Unfortunately the swimming pool and the Spa are undergoing renovation, but therefore I finally had the opportunity of limited choices: I couldn't go out in the mist and williwaw again, it was far too cold. I couldn't hang out at the Spa. Perfect, finally time to read my book, to write my blog, to share a thing or two on my social media channels, to take a bath, to enjoy an oil-cream-peeling, to book my flight to Brazil (yes, guys, I'm joining another language course - two weeks Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro - you'll be the first to learn how that's going). I've spent about eight hours in a bathrobe in bed (evidently apart from the bit when I took the bath) and was still so productive.

Since I had eaten only some fruits from the platter Mr. Nam Sambath had sent for me, at eight at night I decided to get dressed and have dinner. Of course they have a 24 hours room service and it's even at the same price like the restaurant (which by the way is surprisingly reasonably priced), but I needed to leave the room for a bit.

Where is everybody? Having dinner bye:myself - at 8 p. m., the perfect dinner time.

The hotel is impressively big: long hallways between vast sitting areas. Super high ceilings over a huge reception and the adjacent bar. Waitresses and Maître D' at every turn, all dressed in sleek uniforms. Everything seems to be prepared for large crowds from the high society. Instead they have me here, walking around in my sensible travel skirt and matching sensible sandals and a striped T-shirt. Then there are some scattered guests, but basically the staff have the joint to themselves.
The very nice guy at the bar told me that during Cambodian public holidays they are fully booked. Well, this is definitely not the Cambodian holiday season, I can tell you that.

Thansur Bokor Highland Resort - Room
This is where I've spent my day. You can even see the bathrobe I was wearing.

While everything is so perfect and nice, there is one thing that they have to improve: I mentioned above the really good deal they have. They pick you up at Sihanoukville at their other hotel (Sokha is a chain), take you to Thansur Bokor, give you a room with breakfast and dinner included, you get a 10$ voucher for the casino (I got that, too, but I cannot go in a bathrobe to the casino, neither in my sensible travel skirt and my matching sandals since I would freeze my but off) and a free 30 minutes tour on the lake (there must be a lake here, but since it's misty, I can't see it, the view is actually nil. Nil! I'm not exaggerating). Eventually they cart you back to Sihanoukville.

The Chinese Pagoda - located right next to the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort is another beautiful building not to be missed.

The whole package costs about 75 bucks per person, which is a great price. I inquired for this option before I came to Cambodia and they wrote me back that it's based on two people and if I wanted to do it, I had to pay for two. Ok, I felt a bit discriminated and was a bit affronted, but now that I see that there's nobody here, there are probably no groups to join. Understandable.
But today as I got here, I saw on the menu that they are offering high tea in the afternoon - for two people. I asked Mr. Nam about it and he told me, that the price is calculated for two and I had to pay the same price even so I am just one person.
After I've met i. a. the gentleman from Turkey - travelling by himself, the lady from Kyrgyzstan - travelling by herself, Vincent from Singapore - being here by himself, the cool woman from the Netherlands....just to mention a few. All people in my age and probably with an ok income who could easily afford this hotel - they definitely should adjust their policy to this apparently growing group of travelling people.

All in all, this forced break from all the wonderful travelling activities was so relaxing that I might make this part of my travel routine!

Yang


Same place, next morning: Gloriously blue sky - bright sunlight over the mountains. Aaaah, this is what this place looks like; beautiful!

Blue skies where there was a big white nothing just the day before.

After a generous breakfast I hop on a posh mountain bike with eight gears, they even put a complimentary bottle of water in the holder, and off I go exploring what our group missed in yesterday's mist (pun intended).

They sure have a wide range of hot dishes like rice, noodles, veggies and meats already for breakfast.
Yes, it's my reflection in the pot with French toast.

One of my favorite Asian breakfasts: steamed pork dumplings.

Well...'off I go' is downhill, uphill it's a drag, no matter how many gears. But that doesn't matter, I'm so thrilled to see this majestic landscape, revisiting many of the spots we've been to. It's amazing, yesterday there wasn't even the slightest hint that there are these fantastic views all over Kampot and the ocean.

Old Catholic church on Thansur Bokor
My favorite building on Thansur Bokor: The old Catholic church - now almost in ruins.

Old Catholic church on Thansur Bokor
I love the morbid charm of the weathered facade covered with red mildew.

at the old Catholic church on Thansur Bokor
There are obviously still faithful going to the church - there are pictures of Jesus, crosses and flowers.
In this demolished building it deems almost like a cult.

I'm so thrilled that I forget to put on sun protection and in the evening - now back to Sihanoukville, I have not only a fire red nose, I also have red arms with light 'sleeves' where my shirt's sleeves protected the arms against the sun.

Wat Sampov Pram
A last look back at wonderful Wat Sampov Pram.

However, Thansur Bokor was a great experience and I'll make sure to let you know in the in below mentioned travel guide to Cambodia which will be published on December 23 how to get there and back and have a great time no matter how far you can see.

Sidenote


Interesting encounter on my way back to Sihanoukville: A lady and two teenage kids, a girl of maybe 14 and a gorgeous boy of about 12 - if I needed a 12 year old male model, him I would pick in a blink of an eye, speaking Russian to each other. Tourist, I thought, whereby I was puzzled when the lady asked the dispatcher if the bus was fully booked in Khmer. And the kids exchanged pleasantries with the other passengers in perfect American English. Turns out they are from Ukraine and have been living here for six years. The father is a medical doctor at the international clinic in Sihanoukville and the kids are going to the international school, hence the great command of English. The lady told me that live was so miserable in Ukraine that they needed to leave and picked Cambodia more or less by incident, he was not sent over by the red cross or an NGO or something alike. Interesting that for a group of people things seem to be worse in Ukraine than in Cambodia.

Wanna know what happened before? Here are the previous chapters of my Cambodian Diary:


CAMBODIAN DIARY - 1st CHAPTER - Commotion in Phnom Penh

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 2nd CHAPTER - Confusion in Sihanoukville

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 3rd CHAPTER - Calmness in Koh Rong

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 4th CHAPTER - Complete Chaos in Koh Rong Samloem

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 5th CHAPTER - Connecting in Kep

CAMBODIAN DIARY - 6th CHAPTER - Charming Kampot


Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my trip to Colombia earlier this year, in this Cambodian Diary I'm posting one chapter from every stop. At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant travel information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy my narratives and reflections.


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going up!

18 comments:

  1. So strange to think of Khmer Rouge, French Colonial, and indigenous sites all coexisting. But what a lovely trip it sounds like you've had so far! Weather delays can be a blessing sometimes - having some down time in your hotel room can be a nice break on a long trip :) Once you got out and about, it looks like the area is stunning.

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    1. Yes, but I was really lucky that I had booked the room up there so that I was able to see the scenery the next day. The others had a couple of hours seeing...nothing and then they went back. 😣😪
      And yes, I think that I'll include one day in bed / bath / SPA in all my future travels. After that one 'lost' day I felt so refreshed and inspired.

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  2. Cambodia is so rich in history, much of it ancient, but obviously because of its most recent tragic events. We only visited Angkor Wat as part of our trip in Vietnam, but would love to go back and explore the other parts of the country.

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    1. I'm in Siem Reap / Angkor right now and must say that I've liked other parts better. Of course the temples are fantastic and not to be missed, but the mass tourism doesn't do the place and its people good. I think it's one of the places I like least in Cambodia.

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  3. A pity of the heavy fog when you got up there, but it does add to the mystery of the place!

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    1. You're absolutely right - the old temples looked very cool in the fog. But I do understand that some of the other people were really annoyed: They wanted nice pictures and no mystery 🤔

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  4. We have been planning for a long time now to visit Cambodia. I hope it will happen soon! I am going to take my own time to read through your Cambodia diaries, such much information, so much to discover! I also go crazy for these kind of almost ruin buildings, they take my mind into another time. :)

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    1. I'm glad to read that, Helene. If you're planning to go, don't miss my résumé that will be published on December 23 including many information, practical suggestions, tips and links. Happy travel - and a merry holiday season!

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  5. I love the old church too! There's something so pretty about it and the countryside around it. Mist is nice for ambience, but it's great you got out on a clear day too:)

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    1. Hear, hear, Jennifer! The old buildings were fantastic - and somehow I have a thing for mold, mildew, fungus....on buildings that is 😏 😉

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  6. Nice job here, especially with the large amount of photos that you've included to bring us along for the ride. I've always preferred more narrative style posts.

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    1. Thanks, Christopher, for the feedback - I'm never sure whether readers want rather stories or information, therefore I'm writing these 'snapshots' while travelling and the complete info post after my trip (for Cambodia on Dec 23).

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  7. I know it the mist was disappointing, but the pictures you took were amazing. What a great opportunity to unwind and get some stuff done in a relaxing setting. Happy to hear that the next morning cleared up for you to take some more sensational pictures.

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    1. Thanx, Lance. Yes, it even inspired me to include a 'stay-in-the-room-day' to my travel routine (is there a routine when travelling?!?).

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  8. I love the look of the temple on top of the mountain! Cambodia is one of my bucket list destinations. Thanks for the informative post 🙂

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    1. You're very welcome, Mary, my pleasure. There'll be a résumé of my trip including information, tips and helpful links published on Dec 23 - hope this will help you with your planning. Until then - have a merry holiday season 🎄

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  9. Sometimes I like those rainy, misty days while traveling as it gives you time to just hang and give your mind a mental break. I often travel alone, and I agree with you, I'd also be put off that they wouldn't give a different price for the tea time for one. Love seeing all your photos. Gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you, Lara, glad you like it. Yes, I didn't get why they could not put a couple of sandwiches and pies less on the stupid etagère and make tea for one person - especially at a super-posh place like this. Anyway, yes, a day in a bathrobe was very rebooting! Happy (solo) travel and a merry holiday season!

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