Serendipity. Fate. Good luck. Coincidence. However you label it, chance encounters setting off a chain of positive events are a wonderful part of travel. Some examples:
- I met Sophie, in my hostel in Hue, Vietnam. Two days later, we happened to take the same tour from Hue to Hoi An, Vietnam. A day after arriving in Hoi An and staying in different hostels, we ran into each other at night on the street where Sophie was out with new friends from her hostel. She introduced me to the group and I joined for dinner. Sophie’s new friends live in Phnom Penh. I enjoyed meals, conversation and workouts with them when I was in that city a few weeks ago. Plus, Sophie was in town too so she and I were able to spend time together.
- I made friends with Will in Yangshou, China a few months back. Unexpectedly, we saw each other in Hanoi, Vietnam in mid-September. A few days ago we knew we would be in the same city so we made an effort to catch each other for 20 minutes before each heading in a different direction. And, for a bonus, Will bussed from China to Vietnam with Ruben. I met Ruben at a hostel in Chengdu, China. On the bus they realized they both knew me when Will was showing Ruben travel photos. For the last three nights in my hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I have been one bed away from Ruben.
Me and Will. Me and Ruben.
- After visiting the islands (blog post to come!) I was in need of people. At a cafe eating breakfast I spotted a woman who looked like me (Kindle, Birkenstocks). Her name is Julia. I asked her if she had plans for the day because I was looking for people. Julia invited me on an afternoon bike journey and later that night we enjoyed dinner. At dinner Julia brought two friends from her hostel. One of the friends, Kate, and I traveled to Siem Reap together and have enjoyed each others’ company for the last three days.
Living with less structure and more time, being in public more than in private, and having the open mindset that seems to come easier with travel, makes opportunities for serendipity more frequent. These fortunate happenstances are a few of the moments and people I am grateful for.
The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Kampot passed through low lying areas. It is the end of the rainy season in Cambodia so road flooding is common. This “puddle” must have been a foot or more deep.
Kampot is a smaller, traditional Cambodian town. In 3-5 years I think it will pop and become a big tourist destination. For now, it has the cafes and other perks for tourists but locals still live a life that does not rely on tourism as the primary income source. This bench on the town’s river boardwalk was my first introduction to the large presence of NGOs and other organizations in Cambodia seeking to fill holes in government services. A price list is an example of life with two currencies.
Architecture in Kampot has French colonial influences
Kep, 40km from Kampot and a former beach resort for rich Khmer people, is known for crab. Local people fish and sell crab as well as other seafood at the market next to the docks.
Fruit was also sold at the Kep market. The market is for tourists so I finally felt comfortable photographing someone’s business. The big, spiky, yellow/orange fruit is durian. The small, spiky red fruit is rambutan. The white, round fruit is longan. The beautiful pink fruit is dragonfruit.
After visiting the Kep crab market, the group hiked/motor biked the 8km loop in the Kep National Park. William, Iris and I choose to walk the loop. The scenery and sounds were stunning.
William took these photos, including of some of the monkeys we saw along the walk.
The day after motorbiking to Kep and hiking, William, Iris and I rented bikes to visit a pepper farm and see the countryside. This photo is our celebratory meal and drinks post the 20km of biking.
Kampot is best known for producing pepper. They say French chefs use only pepper from this region. We had a free, 30-minute visit and learning session at Farmlink, a cooperative that buys from local farmers and then dries, cleans, sorts, packages, stores and sells the pepper. If you are in need of spices and without budget constraints, the pepper smelled incredible! This pepper chocolate chip cookie was fabulous.
There are four kinds of pepper – red, white, green and black. The different colors and tastes relate to when the pepper is harvested.
The bike along countryside roads was lovely. Seeing daily life is a travel highlight for me.