Les Manguieres is a resort I found on the internet . . .”one of Cambodia’s best kept secrets”. And indeed it is. The resort is on the Kampot River about four miles out of the town of Kampot and about 15 miles from the ocean. It is best known for its red, green, white, and black peppers that grow on nearby plantations in the foothills of the mountains.
The assistant manager of the resort, a Cambodian woman who looks about 16, helped us arrange a biking and kayaking excursion on our first day there. Our plan was that we would ride their bikes about 3-4 miles through the local village; then meet the resort’s boatman who would ferry a kayak up river to us. The bicycles were rusted, one gear Chinese specimens probably manufactured during the Ming Dynasty, but they worked.
With her carefully drawn map in hand, we rode through the village accompanied by curious young boys pointing the way to the confused looking “farangs” or foreigners. We arrived at the local school just as the kindergartners were getting out. It looked much like our schools, but parents waited on motorbikes squeezing up to three little ones on for a ride home. “Hello!” Hello!” they called; little hands waving. It was my movie star moment as the gappy toothed kindergartners gathered around my bike to see themselves in the pictures I took. Their innocence and unadulterated joy was worth the price of the plane ticket.
We rode on to the third bridge where our boatman was waiting. With a chorus of birds to accompany us, we paddled first into the mangrove backwaters that the locals call the Green Cathedral; then out into the open river for a much needed dip. A smiling, toothless grandmother came out to wave at us, and other local children splashed into the water as well. I know I sound a little spoiled but the Cambodian version of a kayak is more like a small bathtub which works if quick turns aren’t required.
The main diet here is fish as well as rice, watermelon, mango, pineapple, and bananas and of course, pepper. The broad, salt water river is teeming with fish of various kinds unlike our own. It is so hopeful to see a river that actually feeds its community.