One of my most recent trips was to Cambodia, which is one of my favourite destinations in SE Asia – the trip was short, sweet and very sunny! I’ve been to Cambodia numerous times, usually as a side trip on the way back from Australia and it’s usually been about seeing as much as possible in the time allowed…. Not this time… this time was all about taking it easy and relaxing. An island called Koh Rong Samloem off the coast was chosen for this activity and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
After a 2.5hr taxi ride from Kep to Sihanoukville we arrived at the port to catch our boat. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sihanoukville, it looked like a bit of a dive but I can honestly say the port is organised chaos – as is usual in this region you get where you need to go somehow. After picking up our tickets that we had booked we were dropped off and left to our own devices to find our boat. This involves going to one ticket counter, to be told to go over the road to another ticket counter, being checked in and given a lanyard to hang round your neck, then trundling down to the jetty with all your bags trying to guess which is your boat, dodging out of the way of all the other people who are doing the same thing, or who have just disembarked from one.
We hung around expectantly until eventually a Buva Sea boat turned up, so of course everyone waiting piled towards that boat only to be told that it’s the boat that we were all standing next to in the first place. Again, organised chaos as the staff take the bags and people clamour to be the first on….somehow it happens! We find seats and as soon as everyone is settled we move off…..I don’t know what I’ve let myself in for, even as my partner points out the TWO HUGE outboard motors at the back of the boat….then as we head into open sea, they kick in….and boy did they kick in!!! There are numerous companies to choose from to get to the islands, all promise to get there you quickly and our company sure did that….it was one hell of a ride……although it was nothing compared to the journey back as I would discover in 4 days time!
We made it in one piece though and without getting wet so that was a bonus….and as we drew up to the island we were more than happy! It really was white sand and blue seas….beautiful.
After hopping off the boat and onto the sand we waited for our ‘transfer’ haha….this was a little boat to take us a few minutes down the beach to our bungalows – saved us walking with our backpacks though so I’m all for that!
So this was our home for 5 nights:
Fab beach bungalows with everything you need and right on the beach…. They did have weird beds though, I’ve never slept in a round bed before:
We spent a very relaxed few days doing, well, nothing at all really. We got up, lazed by the beach, dipping in and out of the water, ate food, and then repeated in the afternoon.
We did wander over to Lazy Beach a couple of times, which I have to say took my breath away and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s beautiful yes, but not in the classical way the other side of the island is, but it had a wonderful feel about it which hit me as soon as I took off my flip flops and settled down to watch the sun set. It was perfect.
If you go to Koh Rong Samloem make sure you go to Lazy Beach – it’s accessible via a path from Saracen Bay which is an easy ½ hour walk, if that.
Beware the mozzies though! On our first wander, we stopped to try to see the monkeys (yes there is quite a lot of wildlife there!) and I swear the mozzies were on us before we could even look up!! Thank goodness for deet otherwise I would have been eaten alive, I don’t react well to mozzie bites at all!!
Talking of the monkeys, we were lucky enough to come across this young troupe in the trees next to the path, they were so cute.
Other than Lazy Beach there are other beaches on the island too but we never managed to drag ourselves away from Saracen Bay, it was just too damn relaxing there! We could have gone for a few more walks, or a boat trip, or kayaking but this trip was about doing as little as possible – and not feeling guilty about it! Something that I am too prone to do! I find it difficult not to try to see everything there is to see when we arrive somewhere….. it can get quite exhausting.
After 5 days (yes a whole 5 days, it was such a treat!) on the island we started our journey back to Phnom Penh. This consisted of being ferried back down the beach to the pier to catch our speed boat back to the mainland. We had to wait about an hour for it to turn up – but that’s not such a hardship in a place like this!
The boat finally arrived and we all piled on…. Everyone…. Really, all those people as well…?!! Yes! It was standing room only on this small boat and as we set off with a roar of those engines again I was slightly apprehensive. As they turned left instead of right I knew this was going to be a long trip back – we stopped at another of the beaches where they took MORE people on…. One overflowing boat! We then jetted off again in the direction of Sihanoukville. It was much windier than when we arrived which meant that it was quite a rough ride to say the least…..rollercoaster….and I don’t like rollercoasters! I must have been pulling all sorts of strange facial expressions as we dipped and rose and were generally tossed about a bit because one of the local men spent the whole trip laughing at me, as did my partner….. in a nice way of course I’m sure!! I can’t say it was my favourite boat trip I’ve ever taken but we did make it back to the port in one piece.
From here we were supposed to be getting a taxi back to Phnom Penh. We hauled our bags up to the main street and looked for the sign that said ‘Mr Paul’ ….. and there it was, appearing from behind some parked cars! Excellent we thought, it’s all working out well so far! The car was a shiny new looking Lexus – again, nice we thought, will be a comfortable ride back to Phnom Penh. We swapped introductions with the driver, got in and set off…..the driver then proceeded to tell us that the main road to Phnom Penh was very busy with lorries, accidents, closed….. go the long way through Kep and Kampot….will be much longer…but you pay me more…… errrr, no!! My heart sank, I knew this wasn’t true and I couldn’t face a 7-8 hour trip back to PP. We insisted we weren’t going to pay him more, at which point the car sank into silence and we set off wondering which route we were going to take! I kept my eyes peeled for any signposts to Kep that we might pass, but low and behold at the junction, he turned left onto the main road to PP and not right to Kep….thank goodness!! All good in the end and we made up over a can of Coke at a roadside stall later on in the journey.
It was a long old journey though, about 6 hours in the end. The main holdup was getting into Phnom Penh – it has become incredibly busy since our last trip 4 years ago, we couldn’t believe it. But made it we did and we were dispatched to our last hotel of the trip – which was amazing! It was a bit of a treat at $98 for the night, but great value for what you got.
We thoroughly enjoyed our last day in Phnom Penh – we did spend it wandering around trying to find a restaurant that we ate at the last time we were there….. we failed miserably on the first attempt and I have to admit I was getting very tired and grumpy! However, after looking on the internet (why didn’t we do that first?!!) we tracked it down and went there for dinner and it was worth the pain. As busy as Phnom Penh is I still really like it, there is still a very relaxed atmosphere in the city and even though around every corner is someone shouting ‘tuk tuk?’ at you, for some reason it doesn’t get annoying!
We jetted off the next morning to spend a night at Changi (the best airport ever! More to follow about that!) before boarding the long flight home. It was a fabulous holiday, very relaxing, yet I feel like we covered a lot of ground….and I had a tan by the time I got home!! That almost never happens!
Phew, this was a long post! Thank you for sticking with it if you made it this far!!!
8 thoughts on “Cambodia – beach time”
Brought back many memories of when I visited Sihanoukville in 2004 – doesn’t look as if it’s changed much apart from the flash accommodation.
I returned to Cambodia in 2014 (not Sihanoukville) and was surprised at how this country changed…not for the better either. I believe that over 25 years of aid, NGOs, and INGOs have taken a toll on this country.
I was getting anxious just READING about your boat trips. I’m glad you survived.
The beach photos are breathtaking.
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Aah, thanks, that has to be up there as my favourite beach so far! Haha, it definitely wasn’t a journey I particular enjoyed 🙂
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