Oct. 26-28, 2014
Arcadia Backpackers - Into the Heart of Backpacker Culture
GPS waypoint: 10°39.868'N 104°08.659'E
Location: Kampot, Cambodia
I've never heard of Kampot until I got to Cambodia. But everything I heard was pleasant. That put it on my list. Instead of heading straight to Phnom Penh from Sihanoukville, I took a mini-bus ($6 if direct, $8 if through the agents) for the 1 hour 45 mins to Kampot.
Every backpacker who's been to Kampot talk about Arcadia Backpackers as the place to be in. Hooking up with some 3 guys from the minivan, we split the cost of the tuk-tuk ride ($4/trip). I thought Arcadia would be one of the guesthouses lined up along the river in the main part of town, together with most of the backpacker hostels. But we rode far into the interior. I was thinking, "this is going to be isolated from the main drag...this can't be good." Upon arrival, it didn't look that bad - Arcadia is right smack along the river with cottages and chill zones perched on the river. Dorm rates are cheap, starting at $3, but food can be pricey.
Yes, it is isolated, but that worked-out well into the scheme of things. Arcadia is not just a guesthouse. It's a backpacker community center - booze, partying, hiking tours, water activities, just chilling. Because of its isolation, it was cool to just 'be in' to soak-in all the good vibe from everyone else. Sunday night had live music where everyone gathered around for drinks, interaction and bonding. It looked like a school of fish simply having its own flow, moving in unison. The whole scene was simply fabulous.
Pagoda Hike (10°39.222'N 104°06.323'E)
There are a few offerings (waterfall hike, blob, et.) and the timely one for me was the hike to the Pagoda. I went with Mike and Page, two fit Canadians who did a brisk pace that nearly winded me out. We reached a decent elevation and on the summit was a small village constructing Buddha statues and temples. Amazing how much devotion they have to Buddha.
Matt is perhaps the most interesting person I've met since I left the Philippines. He's not at all your 'get trashed to the bone' backpacker - but he can be if he wants to. He's well-read and for the better part, according to him, he can weave together bits of information from different disciplines to make something unique come out of it. I believe him as I have seen glimpses of that genius - particularly the template he made to take pictures of his beard growth on a daily basis. He reminds me of Veer, my yoga teacher from Cebu - intelligent, and knows how to apply intelligence in the day-to-day. I consider myself well-informed about many things and can articulate about these things. He's a level-up. He's competent in origami, a blog writer (mostlynonfiction.com), a good story teller and methodical in this thinking and ways. Just from our leisurely conversation, I learned a lot.
After the heavy backpacker immersion in Sihanoukville, then Koh Rong, and now Arcadia, I've seen enough 'getting trashed' episodes - mind you, I say that in a good way. It was time to move out of Arcadia without tagging along the backpacker bandwagon. I'll move to Kampot and see what it has in store for me.
Even though I had been backpacking for years, I've done it alone with little interaction from fellow backpackers - at least in the Philippines. I've developed my own set ways of doing things. Now that I'm along the backpacker trail of Southeast Asia and moving with the herd, sleeping in backpacker lodges and interacting with backpackers on a daily basis, I realized they have their own culture I'm not familiar with. They're like a school of fish that move in unison. Even if I try to blend in, the school would move and I'm the odd guy left out. At some point, I just appreciated them from a distance. I'm good with one-on-one talks, but if I find myself in a backpacker group, I'm lost. The talk is usually centered on getting trashed, hammered and smashed. There's a lot of booze, smoking and late night partying. Sex takes on a new spin. At around 3am in Koh Rong, an obviously drunk couple entered their room adjacent to mine, and in the guy's loud voice that could be heard in the entire guesthouse, I heard, "Ok, I'm gonna fuck you now....are you up to it? Put your legs here and I'll fuck you." Oh well, these are things I'm not. But if this is your thing, I don't think you'll settle for anything less - good for you. I'm happy to be an outsider looking in.
- if you want to save up on food, you can cross the main highway and eat at Bidget's (?). He's an enterprising Khmer who serves cheap good meals, motorcycle rentals, tours to the denizens of Arcadia Backpackers
- no need to convert your dollars into riel. All establishments in Cambodia accepts US dollars
- while you are in Arcadia, you might as well take advantage of nearby attractions - the pagoda, zoo, rapids, etc. Arcadia organizes tours to these attractions (for the zoo, just walk it)
- take a tuk-tuk $4/trip, 20 min. Best to share the ride and split the cost
- you can book your bus trips through Arcadia as well
Oct. 26, 2014
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