07.05.2010 - 21.05.2010 36 °C
Via a few quick Facebook messages and emails we had more or less agreed to meet Michaela and Lindsay at a guesthouse and bar in Sihanoukville named Monkey Republic. We arrived there knackered, hungry and very sweaty hoping that the girls had received our email agreeing to meet there and hoping we could get to a room quickly for a much needed shower! We had literally just sat down in some comfy chairs out front when we heard deafening squeals and quickly got crushed by a big Michaela hug. We all squealed a bit more (Richard included) before trying to find a cheap but decent guesthouse – sadly Monkey Republic was booked out.
After much faffing we settled on the Sea Horse guesthouse not far from Serendipity Beach which was cheap but by no means decent. We were all too excited to care so we had quick showers and headed out for food and booze. We made a rather large night of it and ended up at the Nap House on the beach drinking buckets of vodka and mixer – Joy going so far as allowing the bar staff to paint her in UV much to the others’ disapproval. After a swim in the hot, soupy sea we headed back to the delightful Seahorse to get eaten to death by mosquitoes.
The next morning we awoke to find that Michaela and Lindsay had packed up their stuff and gone to book in at a guesthouse further along the road called Cool Banana. It was $7 per night but was much cleaner and more acceptable for a prolonged stay! We went to relax on the beach in the morning but got swamped by children selling bracelets and women selling fruit and manuicures. Usually we wouldn't complain - they are just trying to make a living, but we were not in the mood to spend the day saying no thankyou and feeling bad! Also one 9 year old boy did look like he was going to kill Richard, it seems that was his sales technique - looking angrily at someone about 2 inches from their face! It turned into a staring match for about 5 minutes before the kid just started giggling and walked away.
After Michaela had purchased an armful of bracelets we decided to call it a day and moved to Utopia - a guesthouse and bar across the road from our lodgings with a pool - free to use! In the evening we met up with some friends Michaela and Lindsay had met in Vietnam - George, Alex and Laura. We had another big night as it was Alex’s Birthday, again ending up at the Nap House and again winding up swimming in the sea at some ridiculous hour of the morning.
We spent the next day lounging around the pool once more and that evening we stumbled upon our favourite (albeit rather lame and uncultured) place in Sihanoukville – Top Cat cinemas! For $4 we could watch a film in a private room with comfy sofas and AIR CONDITIONING. Any film we liked! (All illegal copies we assume.) We opted for Sunshine Cleaning followed by Sherlock Holmes. It was blissful to get out of the heat! It also is a very good diversion from the cheap beer... We enjoyed some chai tea instead.
The next day we booked onto a boat to Koh Ru – a beach on Bamboo Island with 10 bungalows and one bar and restaurant. The boat took just over an hour and the sea was very calm. As the island came into view we kept pinching ourselves to make sure we were really there! The beach was virtually deserted – about 3 or 4 western staff at any one time, around 6 Khmer staff and about 10-12 guests milling about including us. We spent 4 blissful days there, snorkelling, playing volleyball, cards and connect four (a Cambodian staple game it seems), swimming, lazing around in hammocks, poi, reading and crafts. The craftwork involved making our own ‘Milky Joe’ out of a coconut, some red nail varnish and whatever flotsam we could find. Our tribute to Mighty Boosh unfortunately had to be left behind but the bar staffs were looking after him on the counter so hopefully he will live a long and happy life on the island.
In the evenings we tended to go for a swim once the power went out in the bar (at around midnight) to see the phosphorescence – little glimmers of gold in the sea caused by algae. When you swam they would light up in the wake of the sea as you moved it and the further out you went the brighter they got. It was pretty much the most amazing thing any of us had ever seen which we decided to keep repeating over and over and over (although we had been drinking it was an amazing sight).
On our last day we decided to walk through the jungle to the other beach – Koh Russei. It was a bit more built up there with more guesthouses, bungalows and people, plus sadly noticeably more rubbish. We had lunch there with chickens, chicks and cats wandering around all over the tables and a few zillion flies diving at our meals. The icing on the cake was when Joy found a fly cooked into her stir fry. We hotfooted it back to ‘our’ beach as soon as possible!
We were sad to leave Koh Ru but we felt we should move on as we’d already stayed two more nights than we had intended! As soon as we got back to the mainland we decided to book to go to another island, Koh Rong Saloem to a place called Lazy Beach. We had to wait another couple of days before we went so we had another trip to Top Cat cinemas to detox and watch Invictus and District 9 – a South African themed cinema trip! While we were there a massive thunderstorm broke out right above us! It was quite terrifying as we could see the lightning striking about 100 metres from the cinema when we looked out of the window and the rain was absolutely driving down! It also caused two power cuts while we were in the cinema which was annoying but all part of the fun at the same time.
After the cinema Michaela, Joy and Hussey headed down to the beach to see the amazing fire show by 'T' at Sessions Bar. It was awesome, we have never seen anyone so talented! At one point he had a fire staff in one hand and a fire poi in the other! Astonishing. Joy was taking videos when a gentleman came to sit next to her and chat - Michaela came over to see if there was any trouble brewing but swiftly returned to her seat, telling Hussey - 'No problems here, he's just a harmless stoner!' She was very right - if you see our videos of T and you can hear words such as 'Man that is deep!', 'Oh my days!' and 'That is sick, man!' then that will be Joy's friend Kai.
The boat to Koh Rong Saloem was bigger than the one to Koh Ru but for some reason it had a serious lean to the left! As they turned the boat round to set off it almost toppled over! Joy legged it to the right hand side of the boat and stayed there, arms clasped round the seat for the duration of the trip. Joy and Michaela also played the celebrity name game for about an hour – a desperate ploy to forget they were on a boat miles out to sea which seemed to have some serious buoyancy issues. Frequently when a big wave threatened to knock the boat over one of them would squeal “Peter Andre” or the like in an extremely high pitched, terrified voice.
On arrival at Lazy Beach we were all greeted by the owners and staff – Chris, Rich, Carrie and Jake and their two dogs Spoon and Boyce. It was a very warm and friendly welcome and we realised as much as we loved Koh Ru we had potentially found an even more amazing and beautiful place! The bungalows were slightly more expensive but they had private bathrooms, more space and best of all, super thick mattresses! We had some food as soon as we got there which was more expensive at around $5 a meal but the quality was probably the highest any of us have had in Asia.
We spent our days on Lazy Beach doing much the same as the last island – snorkelling, swimming, lazing and playing games. The array of games at Lazy Beach was also of a better standard and we must have played about fifty games of Jenga – realising in our more pissed and infantile states that it is hard not to come out with many rude innuendos when playing this game, our favourite being – “You’ve touched it now, you have to take it!” We also enjoyed the array of crap magazines they had at the island so hangovers there were great – hammock? Check. Mango Shake? Check. Sunday supplements from the past 2 years? Check. View which looks like a photo-shopped screensaver? Check! (We apologise for rubbing it in but it was AMAZING. That’s the last time we’ll say it.)
On the last night on the island we went to bed early to be good. The rain started driving down just as we were drifting off so we all got up to sort our possessions out. Joy grabbed her towel to hang over the mosquito net to catch most of the rain which was coming in through the thatched roof. Simultaneously she got bitten by some unknown creature and spotted a large, red spider on her towel leading to a rather large hissy fit. Richard came to the rescue and tried to kill it – at first however he told a barefaced lie in saying it was dealt with as when Joy tried to climb back in the mosquito net it was still there on the net! The second time she stood around to make sure it was disposed of before she would get in. We never did find out what bit Joy but at least she lives to tell the tale.
On the way back from the island we had a bigger boat which was seemingly chartered just for us as they were getting their other boat fixed! They offered us a free nights stay on the island instead but we had spent a lot of money and I think the thought of a new, fully functioning boat was very tempting for us all after the hell of the journey over there. That plus a couple of underwater attempted hand-holding and leg-stroking incidents between Chris and Michaela had soured relations somewhat.
The journey back was literally plain sailing, it was only us four on it apart from the crew, the sea was as still as a lake and Lindsay and Joy decided we were essentially on the Duran Duran ‘Rio’ video. When we were returned to the mainland we realised they were taking us about 5km from the beach we set of from and became rather concerned. We landed at the boat drivers stilt-house and spent 20 minutes sitting in silence due to the language barrier (luckily a cute baby and stupid faces were all we needed), eventually figuring out they were sending a tuk-tuk to take us back to Serendipity Beach.
It was our last night in Sihanoukville together which was very sad as we had shared such an amazing time but to keep up tradition we decided to go to Top Cat once more for some aircon goodness! We watched Precious and a really crap George Clooney film. In the morning we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, promising to meet again in Laos to do some tubing down the Mekong! It was a brilliant last few days in Cambodia but Vietnam was calling! We got a bus to Phnom Penh and stayed once more at Number 9, setting off the next morning at 7am for the slow-boat down the Mekong River to the Vietnamese border town, Chao Doc....