Koh Kong in Lonely Planet

Thursday, 03 December 2009

Got back from a meeting between our organization and the provincial authorities in Koh Kong town. It was an auspicious meeting that could result in a strong collaboration to implement a new biodiversity conservation project in this part of the Cardamom.

Setting aside Angkor Wat, Koh Kong is the up-and-coming top travel destination in Cambodia. It is part of the whole Cardamom mountain range that boasts of an extensive forest cover, the largest in Southeast Asia next to Burma. Some conservation NGOs operate in the area to protect the rainforest, wildlife, and coastal ecosystems from degradation and commercial interests. Because of this strong work of the conservationists and the launching of some ecotourism activities in recent years that has been attracting attention from the adventurous tourists and backpackers, this part of the region was picked by Lonely Planet as among the Top 10 Regions in its Best in Travel 2010, along with 1) Alsace, France; 2)Bali, Indonesia; 3) Fernando de Noronha, Brazil; 4) Goa, India; 6) Lake Baikal, Russia; 7) Oaxaca, Mexico; 8) Southern Africa; and 9) The Lake District, England.

This piece of news was music to the ears of one expat bar owner in the town when I told him about this, and even showed him the book which I got from the Monument Books in Phnom Penh last Monday. I was at his place with an Israeli colleague around noontime after driving about two hours from our project homebase. We ate lunch on a special menu item- sphagetti with bolognese, toasted baguette with garlic, and a glass of white wine, all for $5.5- before moving to our meeting place.

The old guy (he must be British or Aussie) who at first I observed to be conducting his business in a rather laidback manner, a bit sluggish and all, suddenly perked up as we chatted about the Koh Kong of old days and now this wonderful promotion in the Lonely Planet. He’s been staying there for seven years, running a commonplace barang bar along a dusty road, living the strange quirky life of an expat with a local wife and a small daughter.

A couple of Western tourists came and sat at the table and we had to drop what were blabbering on. I went to the counter to pay my bill. The old guy went over to the customers with a pumped-up sense of cheerfulness.

Koh Kong, Cambodia

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