By 7:00 a.m. we had docked at Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This is not a pretty place but does give us access to the countryside, forest and coastline.
We participated in a town and village exploration which enabled us to visit a pepper plantation. We saw how the young trees matured to produce green peppers for up to 20 years and how black and red pepper is produced.
Our exploration continued at the foot of a mountain range to Kampot Town. This is a riverside town with streets lined with modern and French colonial architecture which in many ways is like small town France as well as New Orleans. We walked through a covered market used by the local population which was started by Chinese merchants. We had lunch by the river and close to the old French bridge and the modern durian fruit roundabout.
Whilst returning to the ship we were fortunate to be able to walk through the Roman Ropov fishing village where we witnessed traditional trawl net fishing which is on a very small scale compared to that in the North Atlantic.
The first Europeans in this part of the world were looking for spices. This was the catalyst for discovery and the shaping of the world that followed. Colonial expansion in Southeast Asia developed via the quest for cinnamon, cloves, pepper, nutmeg and mace. A trade in these commodities had however been practised for many centuries before this.
About 1511 the Portuguese seized the port of Malacca (near Singapore) which allowed them to dominate the flow of trade between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. This made Malacca the richest port in the east by becoming an entrepôt port as we saw in Singapore and continue to see each day when we dock. At this time we witness the ‘to and fro’ of loaded and empty containers being delivered or taken away by barges fed by the bigger ships.