After Siem Reap and the surrounding areas we decided to head South to Sihanoukville, a Cambodian beach destination on the Gulf of Thailand. Scarred from our 14-hour bus ride to Siem Reap, we decided to fly (short one hour flight). The flight with “Cambodia Angkor Air”was pretty bumpy as it was stormy but we made it safely and on arrival found the bus to get downtown where we had booked a simple hotel named Coolabah.
We spent a couple of days hanging out in Sihanoukville itself and chilling at Otres beach, the better of the public beaches, although we found several giant jelly fish washing up on shore which made swimming a bit uncomfortable as we were always on the lookout.
Above: Did you see the size of that jelly fish?
Below: Getting our scooter’s gas tank filled at a local gas stationWhile relaxing and getting some beach time in, we read some poignant books by the Cambodian author Loung Ung namely “First They Killed My Father”which chronicles the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the author’s eventual separation with her family. It was a very emotional book for both of us to read, but it also taught us about the history of this great country and what the khmer people went through, up until very recently.
Above: reading our books, below: sunset on Otres beachOur goal while in the area was to get away to an island called Koh Rong Sanloem, 25 kms off the coast of Sihanoukville. We had heard the island was beautiful and still relatively untouched by asian standards. This getaway did not disappoint. The island’s terrain was hilly with a few mountains and its interior almost entirely covered in dense jungle. We saw beautiful birds, monkeys and black and white squirrels. And of course, the beaches! Beautiful coastline with white or gold sand in between rock formations.
We stayed at a place called Lazy Beach playing Robinson Crusoe for 3 nights in a very simple wooden bungalow with no fan, no A/C and limited electricity but facing a beautiful beach. The bungalow design was fairly open (loosely built with cracks and gaps in the planks) and so we had visitors, including a huge gecko that showed-up on some nights to get a drink while we were showering.
Below: our gecko shower friendFor the first couple of days, we relaxed reading books, playing ping-pong, swimming, snorkeling off our beach to the rock formations on our right, and we took a hike to the beautiful Saracen Bay.
On the last day, we wanted to be a bit more adventurous and explore. We had heard from a young Australian couple that there was great snorkeling on the other side of the rocky head at the end of the beach. All we had to do was hike over the rocky shoreline, following it till we reached some rocks just off shore in the next bay over. Seemed easy enough!
The weather had looked a little threatening that morning, but this was the normal pattern with windows of sunshine. By the time we reached the halfway point, a full-on storm was brewing, so we sat on the rocks waiting for it to pass. We checked our watch and realized we didn’t have much time to try to make it to the beach on the other side, given the time it had already taken us to scramble to our current location, and given we were not going to backtrack the way we’d come (we had a boat to catch back to Sihanoukville that afternoon). Foregoing the snorkeling, we got up and started scrambling again towards the beach across the now very wet & slippery rocks. The going was very slow with both of us very aware that if we slipped, fell, or wrenched our legs in the rocks, it would be a very long wait for any kind of help (especially medical). When we came to an especially difficult portion where giant boulders met up with thick prickly jungle, Sylvie really started to freak out, so we decided the only way out of our predicament would be to make our way down to the ocean and swim the rest of the way despite the day pack we were carrying (full of our clothes, towels, and other personal effects). It was a treacherous entry and long swim: it took us 30 minutes to reach the shore and then another 1.5 hours to hike the slippery wet trail back to our bungalow. We had just enough time to grab a quick shower, lunch, and hike back across the island to catch our boat back to the mainland. Phew, we were so exhausted!
Silly us thinking we were like those 2 young aussies! At any rate, we were happy to wrap up our Robinson Crusoe chapter and get back to civilization to an air-conditioned sealed room with no critters or mosquitoes!