I’ve been in Asia for 4 months and 13 days now, starting in Japan for just over a week, and then Korea for two-and-a-half months.
Right now I’m on a minibus in Cambodia. Outside of my window the countryside flies by. Some features which have become familiar to me now include houses on stilts, food carts selling baguettes, skinny cows and, of course, motorbikes. So, so many motorbikes.
I’m heading to Kampot, a small town in southern Cambodia, near to the up-and-coming beach resort town of Sihanoukville, named after a former king of Cambodia. I won’t be going to the beach, though. My purpose in Kampot is to climb: “Climbodia”, a company based in the area, proudly claims to present Cambodia’s first climbing site. With a great record on TripAdvisor, and a few important words about safety, I’m pretty confident this is a good idea.
I’ve gone on two climbing excursions since I started travelling. As I’ve said in previous posts, in Korea I was bouldering indoors quite a lot, but once I got to Taiwan I took a one day course in top rope and belaying, then another day dedicated to a guided climb in the same area, Long Dong. That was great. I was a little nervous, since I hadn’t climbed with ropes since I lived in Chamonix (and there I didn’t go very high), but these two days really helped me to deal with the nerves and understand the important trust-based relationship between climber and belayer.
The next time I climbed was in Vietnam, in a bay called Lon Ha just off of Cat Ba island (which is itself part of Ha Long Bay). There I joined a group climb on the beautiful and well-hidden “Moody’s Beach”. This was nice, the routes weren’t as difficult as in Taiwan but the views were far more spectacular at the top, and I climbed much more confidently.
Two days later, with the same company (Asia Outdoors), I did some deep-water soloing. It’s like bouldering—no ropes—but you do it higher up and above areas of deep water into which you fall when you’re done. It sounds harder and scarier than it is. I got used to the idea of falling very quickly, and I got used to the idea of my shoes getting wet very quickly too.
Cat Ba was a wonderful place to stay and a wonderful place to do these activities. They both also involved taking a junk boat out to the climbing sites, and on the first day we also did some kayaking, so I managed to do the thing which most people go to Cat Ba or Ha Long Bay for: the cruises!
It’s also a great place to rent a motorbike. Miles and miles of road with nobody to be seen mean it’s really nice for a beginner like me, and lots of winding, or cliffside, or waterside roads too. Beautiful views. It’s almost enough to make me consider getting a scooter in London. It’s a nice way to get around.
So now I’m in Cambodia. After a whistle-stop tour through Siem Reap (the home of Angkor Wat) and Phnom Penh (the country’s capital) it’s time to go somewhere quieter and more serene. I wasn’t planning to spend so long in Cambodia, but when a country lets you in without requiring a flight out, it’s alarmingly easy to forget about plans and just enjoy the places that you end up.
In fact, I didn’t even intend to come to Cambodia this early in the trip. It was going to be my penultimate stop, and I’d fly from Phnom Penh to Singapore then home. I realised that if I skipped Laos (I’ll pop by next time) I could go straight to Cambodia, then fly to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand then take trains and buses all the way down to Singapore with relative comfort and ease. This is important, because I’m getting a little tired of planes.
So I have a plan for my route but I’m not stuck to it and the timings are flexible.
Nevertheless, I also have to face the reality that I have a flight booked for one month and 4 days from now, from Singapore to London. I most certainly want to go diving off some Thai island, and I’d like to do at least one more climbing trip after the one in Kampot, but apart from that I remain feeling fairly open-minded about what comes next. If Kampot traps me for a few days, so be it. I have over a month to get to Singapore and do all those things!
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