CURRENT LOCATION: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
We finally did it - two back to back successful bus trips. Battambang to Phnom Penh was a hassle free ride, with the bus only departing 15 minutes late - practically early by Cambodian standards, and certainly more promptly than any other bus we've taken. On arrival in Phnom Penh, we were greeted by a literal punch up between two tuk-tuk drivers. Awesome. After finding one who wasn't on his day off from the boxing ring, we got dropped off at our hotel. Yes, you read that right, hotel. We treated ourselves and splashed out $30 for a night in a 4-star hotel. MASSIVE bed, air conditioning, mini bar, bath, cable TV, bath robes, a swimming pool - the works. Not that we've been staying in hovels (far from it - our accommodation has been great), but it was nice to feel a little spoilt for a night, especially after a 7 hour day on the bus, and knowing we had another 5 to go the following day.
An early start had us on the 8am bus to Sihanoukville. Naturally, it left closer to 9. It was a pretty straightforward bus ride though, and we made it to Sihanoukville on time, despite the late start. Then it was one more tuk-tuk ride to our beach front accommodation!
We've been in contact with a friend of ours from the U.S., Lisi, who we met when she was playing ultimate in NZ. She's over in SE Asia for 6 months with her brother, and their friend, who is a hot air balloon pilot. Together, they've been travelling round attending frisbee tournaments and hot air balloon festivals. Now this was no coincidence, because we'd planned to meet up with them, but who was the first person we saw while we were checking in? Lisi!!! Not only were they staying on the same beach as us, they were staying literally next door!
Our accommodation is pretty amazing, and we'll put some photos up on Flickr. It's a series of huts right in the beach, with sun loungers etc outside, right on the water. So we checked in, put on our togs (swimsuits for our non-NZ audience), and headed out to say hello. We spent the afternoon catching up with Lisi, and meeting her brother, Ben, and their friends Eli and Chris. They are such a nice group of people - really friendly and welcoming, and happy to adopt a couple of stray kiwis for a few days at the beach. Our first beach dinner was a BBQ, literally on the beach, while the sun set in front of us.
The next day was a serious beach slug out day - we alternated between swimming, throwing a frisbee in the water, and lying on the sun loungers. We did venture out for lunch, and ended up at a 'restaurant' that sold magic mushroom and/or weed "happy shakes". Their big selling point was that they each came with a free joint! Even though we gave those a miss, our meal still took 45 minutes to come. I can't think why...
That night, there was a pretty impressive thunderstorm, which woke us up. It was pouring, and the thunder was shaking our little house. Zev got up to go to the bathroom, and got a hell of a fright when he basically walked into a guy with a scarf pulled up over his face and a bag over his shoulder. The guy darted between two of the building and took off. Needless to say we locked the door. To give you some perspective, the doors lock with padlocks, either from the inside or the outside depending on whether you're in them or not. The windows latch shut from the inside, and each room has a valuables drawer with a different padlock for your passports etc. The next day when we informed the owner, she told us that the room next door to ours had been broken into. Apparently the local criminal element hang out in bars looking for particularly drunk people, then follow them back to their beach bungalows. Then they wait a while until they're sure they're sleeping in a good drunken stupor, and try the door - which is usually unlocked since they're such a pain to lock, even when you're not wasted. Then they steal your stuff while you sleep. We're pretty vigilant anyway, but this certainly made us more wary, and more security conscious.
The following day, we also decided to go on a 3 Island boat tour. Lisi et al had organised it, so Zev and I had no idea what to expect. To be honest, I don't think they did either! It was $10USD, and included breakfast, lunch, drinks, snorkelling, cliff jumping, fishing... You name it, we were getting it! We arrived for breakfast, and were given our options: omelettes, fried eggs, or toast and jam; tea or coffee; and pineapple or orange juice. We were then told to ignore those, because we were having omelettes because they're the fastest to eat. Also we couldn't have coffee because the machine was broken, so we were getting orange juice. Excellent. We piled on the boat. And I mean piled - this thing was packed!! We motored off to our first island stop.
We pulled up vaguely near an island. And we were told to get out and snorkel! So snorkel we did. We're pretty spoilt coming from NZ, so the snorkelling wasn't mind blowing, but we got to see some coral, zebra fish, and massive sea urchins. We sardined back on the boat.
Our next island stop actually had us on an island, and it was stunning! "Be back in the boat to leave by 2" - sure thing boat captain! We parked ourselves on the sand, swum and threw a frisbee, before enjoying some lunch. After lunch, one of the boat guides walked up and said "cliff jumping? Follow me!!". Lisi, Ben and Eli went with him, and Zev, Chris and I stayed behind to look after our gear, and maybe have a little snooze. We woke to the sound of an outboard motor fading into the distance. Hmmmmmm.... We looked around - Chris was still there, and Lisi, Ben and Eli's stuff was still there, so they obviously hadn't been back, and weren't on the boat... After some detective work on our part, we figured the boat must have gone to pick them up. So we probably should have been on it.... At about 2.45, the boat reappeared. We re-boarded to a round of sarcastic applause from the other passengers. Luckily, some of the others who had gone cliff jumping had left their stuff on the beach, so they had to come back - otherwise it was a long swim for the three of us!
One more snorkelling stop brought us back to shore in time for happy hour - excellent! We enjoyed a final dinner with our old and new friends, who were leaving on an early bus the following day, and bid them a sad farewell.
We've spent the last three days relaxing on the beach, frantically uploading wedding photos to both Facebook, and for those that don't have Facebook, Flickr (the link to our account is at the top of the page in the blog blurb), playing endless games of chess and pool (so far I've won 1 game of chess and no games of pool. I'm demanding that we buy a deck of cards.), and eating. I'm writing this at 1am, because the owners of the hostel have friends staying, and have decided that this is the best time to show their love for Barry White by playing it so loud that my teeth are bleeding.
Speaking of music, this particular beach is pretty interesting. Every single place is accommodation in a pretty similar style to ours (by which I mean the rooms are really close to the bar, and the rooms are not in any way soundproof). Every bar plays music at a volume that rearranges your internal organs, despite the fact that no one is dancing, and they all have people who are undoubtedly trying to sleep. It also seems like the whole area share the same 3 CDs - one that I would call 'shitty house music' (the bonus with this one is that all the individual songs sound the same), one reggae, and one smooth jazz. Our accommodation has a bonus CD: smooth jazz covers in French. There's Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, the Ramones - you name it. French female vocals, smooth jazz background. If you're lucky enough to sit down on the beach, you can usually get a nice crosswind between the place you are, and the two places on either side, like some sort of musical battle to the death. "But Sam!" you might say, "It's a hostel, surely the noise ends at some point so the guests can sleep!". You're right, it does of course. Sometimes it's at 10pm, sometimes it's at 2am. It's a fun game, not knowing. But don't worry, because once the music stops, the dogs start barking. Once an hour, every hour - they don't want you getting too comfortable, and they've got a lot to talk about.
All that aside, we actually have had a great time here. It's completely stunning, and I'm lying in bed listening to the waves (now that Barry has stopped - yippee!). The sunsets are beautiful, and the water is like bath water. I'll miss this when we head back to the city tomorrow.
It was also really nice to hang out with other people. Zev and I get on really well - far better than we probably should, it's kind of ridiculous. But it's nice to see other people, and it was great to catch up with Lisi. She's going to put us in contact with some other frisbee folks around SE Asia too, so that will be nice.
Tomorrow morning has us on another bus, back to Phnom Penh. We have splashed out a little again for a nice place with a pool to try to beat the heat. The shower facilities here have been a little 'rustic' too (2 bathrooms for 8 huts plus the guests at the restaurant/bar/beach, each containing a toilet and a shower - usually filled with sand, and not terribly clean), so I'm looking forward to a nice, long ensuite shower, and to doing some laundry!!! We also need to sort out Vietnamese visas while in Phnom Penh, as you can't get them at the border. After Phnom Penh, its border crossing number 2, and off to Ho Chi Minh City we go!
Fear not, we'll post another update about Phnom Penh.
Lots of love,
S & Z
(Original post date: 11th March 2015)