Cambodia 4: Koh Rong Samloem

So my journey from Kampot to Koh Rong Samloem wasn’t quite as I expected it to be. I knew I wanted to go to this island as opposed to Koh Rong – which I had heard was busier, more developed and with more of a party vibe – so, after speaking to my hostel in Kampot about transport, I booked the 8am bus to Sihanoukville followed by boat to KRS, arriving at around 1pm.

However I then booked my accommodation on the island – a wooden-hut style hostel called Dragonfly on a remote section of the island called M’Pai Bay, which I didn’t realise requires a different boat/process to get to it than the main part of KRS, meaning my boat from Sihanoukville wouldn’t actually leave until 3pm. I didn’t find this out until I had already woken up and packed my bags to leave, so I decided to stick with the 8am bus instead of switching to 11am and check out Sihanoukville (aka sit in a coffee shop by the water) before getting my boat across.

The journey to Sihanoukville via minivan was only about 2.5 hours but an eventful one nonetheless. After picking up all the tourist travellers and embarking on the journey, about 15 minutes in we stopped on the side of the road to pick up an entire Khmer family, squeezing 5 people and a giant cardboard box filled with God-knows-what into the back seat designed for 2-3 people max. The boot had to be tied down with rope as they couldn’t shut it properly with these extra people and our luggage. You hear about this sort of thing happening a lot in Cambodia, but it was quite hilarious and baffling to experience it yourself.

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We arrived at the bus terminal in Sihanoukville at around 10:30am and, as I already had my boat ticket purchased, I walked the 10 minutes, with all my luggage, to the speed ferry waiting lounge by the water. I dumped my heavy bag and took a sit in the cafe where I remained until 3pm, slurping coffee shakes and updating my blog online. We were called to the boat just before 3pm where we had to practically climb onboard, luggage and all, before setting off in a very fast and very choppy 45 minute journey to KRS, where the passengers sat on the back of the boat got soaked (I had learnt from my Koh Tonsay experience and sat well inside). I couldn’t get off here as I wouldn’t be able to get to M’Pai Bay so I had to wait for passengers to get off and new passengers to get on before we then continued to Koh Rong. Here, we all had to get off as I now needed to change to a smaller boat to take me to M’Pai bay – still a slightly bumpy ride but nowhere near as choppy or as wet as the speedy ferry, so it was a great opportunity to take in the views with the wind in my hair and start to relax into the peaceful pace. The boat arrived at the pier at around 5pm – the journey taking a good 2.5 hours in total – and I then allied the 10 minutes to my hostel with bags in tow.

Like Koh Tonsay, M’Pai Bay is very undeveloped, with slightly precarious makeshift wooden/bamboo platforms to aid you walking across various holes or unsteady bits of land, and there are some parts littered with rubbish. But, again, they live with the very basics – there is no wifi and electricity runs only during the evenings. Not only do they make do with what they have, but they seem happy in that carefree way. Don’t get me wrong, poverty does exist and witnessing it can be really tough, but there is no sense of resentment or anything really negative – the children are all friendly and adorable and excitable, and the adults so warm and hospitable. It is incredibly humbling and certainly makes you reconsider what you really need.

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Once I had checked into my hostel and dumped my bags in the room -which was open plan at the top of the hut, complete with power socket, fan and mosquito net for each bed – I went out to the decking that overlooks the sea and spent some time just taking it all in, listening to the waves crash against the rocks below me. This became my favourite spot during my time on the island – it was so incredibly peaceful and raw.

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I then walked down to the sea front to grab some dinner at Kiki – a family run restaurant that serves local Khmer dishes from $2 and where I had an amazing fish Tom yum soup with rice, washed down with a ridiculously tasty lemon ice tea. I was served by the kids, all of whom spoke impressive English and were so, so sweet.

After a stroll along the beachfront, passing the dozen or so restaurants and hostels that reside here, I walked back to Dragonfly to catch some sleep. Although, of course, I ended up getting into conversation with the two girls in my dorm room – both also from England – about our love of Cambodia and where we had been. I didn’t find out their names until the next day – weirdly names suddenly become irrelevant when you are traveling and I have had some of my best conversations without knowing name of whom I am speaking to, but Molly and Maddie were so lovely and seemed after a similar, cultural experience to me that they are totally worth a mention!

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The next morning, after a nigh of pouring rain, I headed down to the water to walk along the shore and find a nice stretch of sand. After walking for about 15 minutes, navigating some rocks and trees, I discovered an open stretch of white sand that was completely deserted, save for a fishing boat out at sea. I plonked on the sand, opened my book and didn’t move for about 2 hours, only deciding to leave when it started to rain. I headed back towards Kiki for a lunch of Ginger Chicken (another Khmer dish) just in time for the heavens to open. When it rains here, it really rains.

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Afterwards I walked directly across the sand to Lady Cooking – another family run restaurant serving local Khmer dishes from $2 – to join Maddie and Molly. I chose this moment to finally try an avocado shake, something that seems totally wrong but had to be tasted nonetheless, and boy am I glad I did;not at all the mashed-up-avocado texture I was expecting, this was creamy and refreshing and, once I had got my head around the idea and altered my way of thinking about it, was completely delicious. I would totally recommend.

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Again I was served by one of their children – a boy who told me his name was DJ Joe and delighted in engaging in English conversation with the 3 of us and playing Rock/Paper/Scissors. It literally amazes me how well they speak another language at such a young age and how much they want to engage and communicate with you. They are literally inspiring.

I spent the afternoon at my favourite spot overlooking the sea opposite dragonfly whilst listening to music, writing my blog and reading my book until the sun started to set, and then made my way back to Lady Cooking for some dinner before heading to the Chill Inn, where they had movie night and were showing Pineapple Express for free at 8pm. It wasn’t necessarily my type of film but funny enough, and after3 months on the road without being able to curl up on the sofa and watch a film, this was exactly what I needed – a total, relaxing escape.

I woke up quite early the next morning so I packed my bags and checked out before heading to my favourite spot for some early morning yoga. I’m not a yoga person at all and have only attended 2 classes in my life it it felt like the perfect time and location to attempt the few moves I could remember, and doing so overlooking the sea with the Dragonfly dog as my audience was pure bliss.

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I then headed to the pier for 9am to get my boats (note the plural!) back to Sihanoukville – this time it was a slightly bigger boat for M’Pai bay to Koh Rong, followed by one slow boat from Koh Rong to Sihanoukville that was filled with hungover passengers from Koh Rong and took almost 2 hours. I made it to Sihanoukville at around 11:45, walked the 10 minutes to the Giant Ibis office to book my bus to Siem Reap (including a change at Phnom Penh onto a night bus) for 3:30 that afternoon, and then went for lunch at Olive & Olive for the largest pizza of my life (a Quattro Stagioni, as I know you are interested) for a mere $5. I could only manage half so I asked to take away the rest to eat it for dinner (aka as a snack on my bus ride that afternoon). Satisfied from my down time in KRS and my huge lunch, I embarked on my 18 hour journey to Siem Reap…

LS.

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