After Phnom Penh, we decided it was time to get back to the beach! It had been almost a month since the beaches of Thailand and we were desperately missing them. So after hearing about the South of Cambodia, we thought we should see it for ourselves.
We headed down to Shinoukville to an area called Otres Beach. It was a chill little area that had beaches as far as the eye could see and little pubs and guesthouses along the beach.
Pam and I found a brand new guesthouse, Nice Dream Bungalows, where we stayed for the next three nights. The guesthouse was beautiful – had the best shower I had experienced in months! And the food was literally to die for! The owner was a chef who trained in Paris and just thinking about his meals right now makes me want to go back. From shrimp risotto to lamb bourguignons to the best bacon sandwich of my life, we indulged big time during our stay.
The beaches were great as well with the warmest water we have ever been in around 28 degrees Celsius. You know when people say the lakes at home are like bath water? This was literally warm like bath water. There was very little refreshment from going into the ocean except that it was so frickin’ hot outside, so it was still water to cool off in.
We hung out on the beach for a couple of days, meeting up with our friends Stacey, John and Nicole from our yoga and meditation retreat before heading to Koh Rong.
This was an island we had heard had awesome beaches and was totally worth visiting. The most recent Survivor is actually being filmed on Koh Rong right now!
The problem was – it was not at all what we expected. I am sure that there are very nice beaches and places to stay on Koh Rong, but they definitely were not on the main strip when you get dropped off where we stayed.
Now, I refuse to call myself high maintenance because I am not. I barely wear makeup travelling, I did not bring my blow dryer, I am fine wearing the same thing for a week and so on. But, Pam and I will admit that we are flash-packers. And frankly, proud of it.
Like I have said before, I do not care to save money by staying in a $5 bed in a hostel. I want a comfortable bed with my own bathroom and wifi! I like to think this is what travelling in your 30’s is all about. The compromise between a 20 year old backpacker and an adult traveller who stays in hotels. I can rough it but, frankly, I do not want to. I am happy to shell out $10-$20 a night. Has it put me over budget? Absolutely! Have I had good night sleeps – you better believe it!… Totally worth it.
But while I am comfortable paying a little extra for a good room – I have a real problem paying extra for a shitty one. On Koh Rong, the best place we could find was a partially opened-air bungalow with tons of bugs far from the beach for $40/night (which is INSANELY expensive by Cambodian standards). There were less expensive places but they were even crappier and on the part of the strip which blasted music until 6am every night. It was a lose – lose.
But we tried to approach it with a good attitude and a smile on our face. This smile quickly faded when I came down with the tropical flu (which I have no doubts came from that island). I could handle the bungalow but the bathroom had a cobblestone floor that was wet and covered in ants. “I just want to kneel on the floor when I puke, Pam! Is that so much to ask for?”
The place was called Paradise Bungalows. How ironic.
After two nights – we had enough – and got the hell off of that island. If you want to party until 6am every morning, this would have been an awesome place but it wasn’t what we were looking for. We also learned afterwards, that there is a 45 minute trek to long beach, which is apparently incredible! But having the flu, I could not have survived a 45 minute trek to the beach even if I wanted to.
So back to a beautiful, air-conditioned bungalow on the beach at Otres we went. I was giddy when I opened the door to our room at Mary Beach Bungalow! Call me high maintenance, call me a flash-packer but this is way I want to roll!
After a couple of wonderful nights, it was time to make our way back north. We were running out of time in Southeast Asia and had a couple more quick stops before Bangkok.
We spent a couple of nights in a town called Kampot which was a pretty sweet, chill little town. We booked in at an awesome guesthouse, Raksmey Kampuchea, where the manager Jimmy is the amazing and helpful person you will ever meet! In Kampot, we met up with our buddy, John, who we adopted making our duo a trio on and off for a couple of weeks. We liked to refer to ourselves as 3’s Company during that time.
A couple of highlights:
First – we killed it at games night at the hostel. We would have gotten first but these history buffs beside us came out of no where on some questions. Retired guys – no surprise there. What was surprising was that there were retired guys at the hostel…
Second – we paid for a tuk tuk driver, one of Jimmy’s friends, all day one day to tour us around taking us to the pepper farm, the salt flats, some caves and another little beach town called Kep. The best part was, however, he took us to his parent’s house where we hung out for a bit and drove through his village meeting some of his friends. His dad also tried to convince Pam to take his grandson back to Canada. “He looks like you!” he kept saying. Needless to say – Pam did not take the child.
Lastly – I had my first major misunderstanding about being a racist. You heard that right. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so we headed to the Irish pub as any normal person that likes to drink would do. We met up with John and we were sitting around having some beers. When we needed another round, I headed to the bar to put in our order. I was trying to describe to the owner where Pam and John were sitting. “Over there” I pointed. “There is a girl and two guys… under a hanging a light.” He looked at me in confusion. I tried more descriptions with no success. Finally, I said, “Right there – two guys and a brown girl.” Immediately, not only did he know the table I was talking about it but he looked at me with total disgust and astonishment. “What did you just say?” he asked me back… clearly this was not something I should have said. I quickly went into clarification mode, “no, no, no … it’s okay! She refers to herself as brown. She’s one of my best friends, we are travelling together, it’s okay!” He shook his head with disgust and walked away. I realized afterwards, his wife was Cambodian. Needless to say, it was all a misunderstanding. Jokes between Pam and I on colour perhaps should stay between us from now on. Lesson learned. Next time, maybe I’ll say .. very tanned girl with the afro?
After Kampot, we went back to Phomn Penh, where we hired another tuk tuk driver to take us around for the day to get our shopping done. It was very successful and we spent lots of money! In our defence, we purchased from good-cause stores mapped out by Lonely Planet which sold hand-made products by former sex trade workers, Cambodian’s with polio or disabilities, and former street kids. We got some amazing stuff for ourselves and gifts for others. In fact, we shipped home 12 kg of stuff! Also, supported a cooking school for at risk youth used called Friends… mmmm.. so good!
Can’t do this huge trip and not have something cool to show for it? Right?
I am just trying to do my part to support the country 😉 It is actually quite selfless! You are welcome, Cambodia!