The province of Sihanoukville had popped up in my searches, often described as a ‘party town’ but with a little less of the tourist swarming that has occurred to many parts of Thailand. We figured we may as well make our way there and check it out before heading to Vietnam. Doing a little more reading revealed the province was also home to a couple of islands, notably Koh Rong. After spending the last wee while inland, sea water would be a nice change.
$7 and a bus ride later, we found ourselves in S’ville. I think the first thing I noticed were how many tourists were walking around the place. There weren’t an excessive amount, but I think the contrast in numbers compared to the rest of my time in Cambodia was apparent. We took a short walk up the main stretch towards the beach and found a room in a place called The Big Easy. There were heaps of backpackers around the place and they had a pool table. Sorted.
S’ville beach below. I sat down in this seat and was promptly visited by a female tout, who presented me with an offer of a service I hadn’t yet come across; the removal of the black hairs on my back using a couple pieces of thread for the sum of $1. I have no problem admitting I took her up on the offer, too. Stranger things have happened.
There are loads of travel agencies around the place; we promptly used one to book a return ferry to Koh Rong the next day, with our bus tickets to the Vietnamese border included in the negotiated package.
A couple of brews that afternoon led to a night of rather epic proportions. Looking through my photos later prompted me to recall taking a picture of a kid who certainly isn’t of age hanging around in a beach front night club, asking for money or beers. Hmm.
I woke up the next afternoon, about 4 hours after the ferry had left. Luckily I was able to still take a later ferry to Koh Rong, and meet up with Phillip, who had apparently tried several times to wake me up with no success. Lesson to be learned here: Don’t partake in a drinking game which bans you from saying the number ten or the word ‘mine.’ It’s harder than it sounds.
The high speed ferry to Koh Rong. There’s an option of a slower one also, but the difference in cost was very minor.
Approaching the island. There are no roads or anything on it.
This place is beautiful, and has a chilled out vibe to it. There are definitely less people than other south east Asian islands I’ve been to. Prices are higher as you’d expect from an island, and it comes with other remote-place commodities, like mosquito nets above the beds, indicating an obvious presence mosquito-born disease. It’s filled with bars, restaurants and massage parlours but the whole place shuts down at midnight, so it’s not an ‘all nighter’ sort of place.
I’d definitely recommend coming here if you visit Cambodia. If I were less hungover and caught my planned ferry, I would have trekked through the bush to a rarely-visited beach on the other side. You can then catch a boat round to the other side of the island.
We spent one (very chilled out) night at Koh Rong before taking the ferry back to Sihanoukville to make our way to Vietnam. On the pier I noticed a sign telling everyone to book an earlier ferry than anticipated if you have other bookings in your itinerary. I would recommend doing this, because had our late ferry been 30 seconds slower, we would have missed the bus that we ended up sprinting several hundred metres to catch.
Oh, yes.. buses in Cambodia. Vans, or as they call them, mini-buses, are a popular way of getting around. However, be aware that spacial awareness isn’t really a major concern of any Cambodian mini-bus company. This means that you’ll often be crammed in between a mixture of tourists, locals and luggage. I wouldn’t count on stretching your legs, just count it as a blessing if you can. If you’re looking to get over your claustrophobia, you’ve found the right place.
People will often overtake others. In fact, most drivers spend more time on the wrong side of the road than the side they should be on. I’ve seen more than the odd cyclist have to scramble over on to the shoulder to avoid being taken out by someone overtaking on a blind corner.
We were lucky to be the only ones going to the border that day, so we had the whole van to ourselves. It cost us $13 to get us to Vietnam from Sihanoukville. So cheap.
The land closer to the Vietnamese border is covered in rice paddies, and locals with huge loads on their bikes.
This border is also home to several casinos, much like the border to Thailand. It was very quiet, nothing like when we entered Cambodia! The whole process took around 5 minutes. You can’t obtain a Visa on Arrival in Vietnam. I had bought mine in Siem Reap; a 3 month visa set me back $60 USD. Several European countries get 15 days free in Vietnam, also.
There were a couple of Vietnamese locals who picked up where our previous driver left off and took us to the border town of Ha Tien on their motorbikes (they’re scooters, but everyone calls them motor cycles).
Anyway, the last couple of updates sums up most of my time in Cambodia. I do like the place, but it isn’t my favourite country so far.
Next up I’ll cover off my first few days in Vietnam, including my time in Ho Chi Minh! Thanks for reading.