Heart of Darkness


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April 26th 2015
Published: April 26th 2015
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I ended up viewing the Dolphins and cycling around the nearby island in Kratie. I was taken out on the river by boat and I was able to see rare Irrawaddy Dolphins diving in and out of the water. It was a beautiful sight. Every time the driver and I heard a watery blowhole sound - phssssssht - we'd snap our heads around and see the Dolphins in their element just above the surface.

On arrival back in town I thought I still had a bit of time to explore the sand bar Island so I got a boat there. On the boat was a French lady called elodie who I had met the night before in the communal area of our guesthouse. We cycled around the island together for a while, and it was a stunning island, full of lush unspoiled nature and featuring rural Cambodian life. The only thing was that the last boat from the island was 5.30pm. This turned out to be a bit of a ticking time bomb and we had to cycle frantically - much to my calves' displeasure - so I could make it back in time. Elodie stayed on the Island to experience a homestay. That evening I had a couple of drinks with this cool French duo who I had also met the night before.

From Kratie I travelled to mondulkiri. Here I went on a brilliant tour, which started with a trek through a local ethnic village and was followed by elephant-feeding, elephant-stroking and elephant-washing. I deliberately chose not to do a tour which involved elephant riding - but goddamn, I really wanted to wash the elephants. It was great. At one point one of the elephants defecated in the pool that we were washing it in, which was fun. The turd floated past me.

After that the tour guides took us to a coffee plantation. We sampled fresh, thick coffee and it was delicious. The tour guides, who had seemed to take a shine to me, played a 'magic trick' on me which resulted in black smears on my face and forehead, and this was immediately received with pure glee by all of the Cambodian staff in the coffeehouse. We were then guided around the plantation. It wasn't just coffee being grown there: yellow and red pineapples, jackfruits and other kinds of fruits also made an appearance. One of our tour guides - Heng - occasionally plucked random fruits and offered them to us. Most were pretty sour and I feared liquid toilet troubles later on. Heng also asked me and this other guy if we fancied trying red ants. After a little hesitation I was like yeah. So she plucked these crawling red ants off a tree and shoved one in my mouth. It tasted lemony and bitter. It was actually alright though.

From mondulkiri I got a bus back to Phnom Penh, with the intention of going further south. I was tired when I arrived at the hostel but I met this vibrant and charismatic girl called Hagar in our dorm room and she convinced me to go out. We formed a small group of four then went for a few bar drinks before hitting a Cambodian gay club (Heart of Darkness) and then this pulsing super-club with different music-rooms (Pontoon), and I ended up having one of my best nights out ever. In the former club locals taught me some traditional Khmer dancing as they celebrated Khmer New Year. I also got quite a bit of attention and left with a slightly inflated ego.

Due to the fact that it was Khmer new year, buses were infrequent and filled quickly so I could not get to kampot the following day. I spent the day in the hostel lounging by the pool and chatting to these awesome american girls about stuff like sex and politics.

The next day I - eventually - managed to get to kampot. Kampot is a lazy riverside town. I spent my time chilling on a bench enjoying the mountain views over the river with a stephen king book in-hand, drinking beer, enjoying the BEST Turkish falafel wrap of my LIFE, and watching Sharknado 2 in the hostel bar (one of best/worst movies I've seen). On my last evening I went on this cheap boat trip and I was able to enjoy a breathtaking sunset and see glowing fireflies in some riverside bushes after dark. Later on in the evening I went to this bar and enjoyed some live music.

From kampot I travelled to sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is a high-octane party beach resort, and it is far from shy about it. I heard a lot of negative things about sihanoukville from other travellers before I arrived ('it's ugly'; 'it's dirty'; 'it's stuffed with annoying loud party backpackers') and while some of it was true - in particular the littering in the sea and visual pollution - I loved the place. I chilled by the sea but only dared go in the water once as I wasn't fond of wading past plastic bags (which eerily resembled jellyfish). On my first night in the hostel bar I introduced myself to a couple of girls who sported friendly faces and we ended up getting drunk on cocktails and hitting the seafront for bar-crawl party action. We danced and drank more and things escalated quickly and I enjoyed a homestay.

I stayed one more night, keeping it chilled on the beach, and then got the backpacker ferry to an island called koh rong. It took a couple of hours to get there. The first things that impressed as we approached the island on the ferry were how blue the water was, how green the island was, and how white the sand was. It was stunning. After alighting the ferry I found a guesthouse and then lazed on the beach, occasionally going for a swim in the refreshing, warm sea. The sand is so fine and powdery that it squeaks under your feet. Whilst I was taking a dip, a large fish, bouncing on the surface of the water in the direction of the shore, bounded directly towards my face - which I and some nearby swimmers found rather amusing. Had I not managed to dodge the thing it would have been a definite black eye.

That night I joined an organised island bar crawl and met tonnes of people. Had the best night. I sucked at flip cup that night. I serendipitously met Lauren, who was one of the first people I had met travelling. I had met Lauren in Chiang Mai in Thailand and she had been with her friend Kate. Kate was the first person to recommend koh rong to me on my travels and I remember having my first discussion about the island with Kate and Lauren. I remember being so excited about how amazing the island sounded. So it was weirdly intense and emotional and awesome to see Lauren in koh rong of all places. It almost felt like things had come full circle somehow. That things have gone really very okay for me and I've achieved really quite a lot on this trip. It brought into focus how long I've been on this journey so far and the fact that I've managed to be an adult and look after myself on my own and achieve some self-realisation. It was also just fantastic to see Lauren; she is such a wonderful human being.

Things escalated quickly that night, much like all the other nights on my travels. Before bumping into Lauren a hilarious 6 foot girl jumped on my back causing both me and her to smack the ground. *Sigh*. We celebrated our grazes in a selfie. Later that night I threw up in the sea and then went back to my guesthouse. A random Australian guy pretty much tried to sit on my lap and eat my face so I went to bed.

The next day I trekked through the jungle to a pristine beach on the opposite side of the island. The trek was long and arduous - you pretty much had to rock climb at points (ps. no kidding) - and it was maddeningly hot (my t shirt was soaked with sweat). The beach really was postcard perfect - utterly stunning. Turquoise blue water, powder-white sand. Much quieter than the front beach, no bars or guesthouses to attract litter or noise. The only problem was that there was literally no shade as this was the side of the island which faced the sun. So I stayed for a couple of hours, had a dip in the shallow sea a couple of times then made my way back.

That night I went out with a few guys I had met in sihanoukville/on the bar crawl/in my dorm room and we had a few drinks in this place called sky bar. It wasn't as crazy as the previous night but somehow I managed to stay out until after 5am. We played ring of fire. I had a nice panini.

The following day I visited a beach further along the island called Police beach with will (a guy in my dorm room) and another guy in our room. Swam in the sea for a while. That night I, will and the other guy went for a few drinks in a bar. It was a quiet one. From the open-air bar upstairs we could see virtually silent lightning illuminating the dark clouds and the sea and creating a mysterious silhouette out of the neighbouring island. It was beautiful.

I returned to sihanoukville the next day. On the ferry I bumped into some guys I had met on the bar crawl. I ended up sharing a room with two of them. That night we had dinner together and then drinks in this bar called Utopia, which boasted a fire show and cheap beer. After that we all went to the Jungle Party. We had to get a tuk tuk there as it was pretty far away and then we had to use a raft (!!!!!) to cross the river to reach the clearing in the jungle where the party was. Lo and behold, will was there too. Drinks were cheap and the music was trancey and absorbing. There was randomly a mini-Ferris wheel which created more laughs than white-knuckle excitement. It was a surreal night, and I was in my UV element, drunk-dancing without a care in the world until it was past 5 in the morning. I got a tuk tuk back with these guys and it was light when we arrived at the guesthouse. At one point the tuk tuk made a dubious stop in the sweet middle of nowhere in pitch dark but it was only to refill petrol.

I stayed for one more night in sihanoukville and then made my way to Phnom Penh. Spent a pit-stop night there. Now I'm on my way to Battambang.

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