« Previous: | »

Cambodia pt 1.

February 6th, 2011 by and

When we finally hopped on a bus to cross the border, we were expecting lots of scamming and hassle. But since we had our e-visas in hand, we had already paid… The only thing we had to pay was for a medical “check-up” where we paid an official 30 baht to point a little temperature reader at our heads and get a form saying we weren’t sick. After that, besides the monopoly-style prices at the border it was pretty easy. We did encounter an Indian couple who had apparently fallen prey to one of those scams we heard about in Bangkok: you buy a ticket for someone to take you all the way from Bangkok to somewhere in Cambodia, and when you arrive at the border, they have you cross through and after that they disappear, leaving you less some cash and still needing a ride. Instead of getting on another bus Cambodia’s sole beach resort, Sihanoukville, we decided to stay for a day in Koh Kong, a formerly seedy border town that is apparently trying to get some eco-tourism going since they are located near a virtually uninhabited island, several waterfalls and an endangered mangrove forest. You wouldn’t be able to tell any of that, unfortunately, from the state of the town and the fact that the information. Cambodia is most definitely one of those place where all business is tied together; you will be taken to your taxi driver’s friend’s hotel, your hotels will sell bus tickets and tours from companies they’re tied into, so you only know what is available by how many different people you talk to.
Anyways… eventually we arrive in Sihanoukville, which is right now in full boom-town mode…. Everywhere you look there is a new hotel going up, and even in our guesthouse they are adding a whole new section of rooms. Just on the street we were staying on there must have been six places under construction.IMG_0549
Once we arrived at the main tourist beach, Serendipity, I wanted to leave. Like Koh Samet, there was nothing but restaurant after restaurant down 3km of the beach, filled with bronzed Europeans shooing away souvenir toting children and land-mine wounded amputees.

….Oh, hey guys! This is a tag team post, since Ryan is now working hard at his real job that keeps us afloat and what the hell am *I* doing anyway? (Reading books, updating Facebook, hammock-ing….don’t hate.)IMG_0633

So yes, Sihanoukville appeared to be a total hole. It’s difficult for me to tolerate a town that seemingly only exists for me and other white tourists. I mean, there were giant floating rubber waterslides, trampolines anchored out in the ocean and jetskis whizzing by. It’s loud and people are out to get drunk and high on “happy shakes” and wobble around like they are 17 and just arrived on Bourbon Street. (Yes, I’m ranting like an old fart.) My point I guess is it’s pretty disrespectful to behave this way, especially in a conservative country. Alas, S-ville had some wonderful attributes.

We had to break the habit of being stubbornly independent travelers and realize that buying tickets for a tour not only helps small local businesses, but also, in the case of Ream National Park, our money would (ideally) help keep the park running.  For only $20 a piece, we were fed breakfast and lunch and had two rangers guide us by boat and trail around a segment of the park. We took a small wooden boat  for about an hour and half through gorgeous mangroves. IMG_0481 It very much reminded us of the Everglades in Florida. IMG_0490 We were in open ocean for about 10 minutes (where sometimes dolphins are spotted…no such luck that day) before arriving at a nearly deserted beach. After an hour of swimming and lounging, we trekked through the forest to a small fishing village where we saw lots of chickens, cows, locals lounging in hammocks, wooden shacks and kids shouting “Hellllooo!”. When we arrived at the boat dock, one of the rangers had cooked up some barracuda on an open fire and we feasted on that plus salad, baguette and fresh fruit! Delicious.

We took the boat back to the “ranger station”, which consisted of a crumbling boat dock, small wooden shack, and a sign indicating that we were indeed in Ream National Park. Along the way we stopped at a old ass rickety tower that we climbed to look out over the park. We strongly suspect that there is not much money being funneled to the park itself…there are  new hotels and other structures being developed on supposedly protected land. Our rangers started to talk a little shit on the government, saying they are very money driven, but they didn’t elaborate.

That was probably the first completely satisfying day we’d had in Cambodia.

The following day we rented our first moto!IMG_0584 (Or..scooter, or…motorbike. Whatever ya’ll wanna call it.) I won’t lie, initially I was a little sketched out. As a passenger, you have no control over where you go, how fast the bike is moving, or whether or not you avoid the crazy traffic. But Ryan was a pro and we weaved in and out all over the city that day. Motos are such a fabulous way to travel. You get where you want to go quickly, and it’s insta-air conditioning on a hot day. (Read: every day here.) Not to mention, it’s how almost all the locals in this part of the world travel.  However, the passengers here barely hang on or sit side-saddle and carry babies or multiple children, whereas I basically grasped onto Ryan’s stomach all day.

The highlight of our moto journey was Otres Beach which, especially compared to Serendipity, is a dream.

Next up….we head east to Kampot and Kep.

One Response to “Cambodia pt 1.”

  1. Lil Babie says:

    Whoa, those S-Ville dbags sound annoying. Really, people?? You’re not on spring break. Ridiculous! Ream national park sounds UNREAL. So sad that it’s being sort of neglected by the government. It’s nice that your money will go to helping it out. Plus you were treated so nicely and got a really good tour, probably better than you could have managed braving it alone. Aughh I want to go sooo baaad. I love that photo of you guys on the moto! Can’t wait to hear moreeee.


Leave a Reply