Gatecrashing the honeymoon

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January 31st 2007
Published: February 16th 2007
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River crossing on the way to SihanoukvilleRiver crossing on the way to SihanoukvilleRiver crossing on the way to Sihanoukville

The minibus just coming off the ferry onto the road...

Khao San Road: The Return

So we spent a couple of nights on the Khao San Road in Bangkok, not doing much of note. Oh, except that we bumped into Marc, who we first met on the elephant project and then again in Pai. He was just sat in a bar on the Khao San Road as we walked past, so it was cool to catch up with him again. By the way, if you're reading this Marc - sorry we stood you up when we arranged to meet the following night! We decided to head for Cambodia (see below!) and didn't know how to contact you. E-mail us and we'll see if there's any chance of hooking up before you leave Thailand!

Strange border crossings

While we were there we got some emails from our friends Paul and Sonia who had just got married and were on honeymoon in Cambodia. Paul used to work at Liverpool University with Kris when we were there and we had got to know him and his girlfriend Sonia quite well. We had been invited to the wedding and associated festivities but couldnt attend cos we were away, so they encouraged us to
Stunning sceneryStunning sceneryStunning scenery

on the way to Sikhanouville
join them for part of their honeymoon.

So after 3 nights in Bangkok we packed up our stuff and jumped on a bus to the Cambodian border. After a bus from Bangkok to Trat, and a minibus from Trat, we arrived at the Hat Lek border point at around 7.30pm, in the dark. We passed through the Thai side with no trouble, their office was all smart, the immigration officers were in smart uniforms and smiled at us as we left. We then walked across no mans land as small children asked us for money, to the Cambodian Immigration. Cambodian immigration have a reputation for being abit dodgy, so we werent surprised when we went to buy our visa and the officers smartly dressed in dirty tshirts, smoking fags, told us they were closed. No, we pointed out, it says on the door you close at 8pm, its only 7.30. Ok, so foiled at that one they asked us for 1,300 baht for the visa, which is meant to be $20 or no more than 1000 baht. Luckily we didnt have baht so we insisted we paid in dollars. After a discruntled conversation amongst themselves while we stood waiting, they agreed to $25 each for the visas. I think they just wanted to go home.

Visas completed and passports stamped, we got into a share taxi to Ko Kong, the nearest town, with three Cambodian blokes. About 5 minutes down the road they had to stop at a police checkpoint. Apparantly the police would need to see our passports. But it seemed the police had gone home, which was lucky because we suspect they would have found some excuse to fine us, probably for coming through too late or something.

The share taxi took us to get some riel changed (you cant buy Cambodian money outside the country, but they do also take dollars and baht) and to a guesthouse.

Kris: Changing money was weird. It resulted in a small crowd of people gathering round Kate to marvel at her face. They smiled a lot and prodded her nose and laughed. We were later told by the driver that they thought Kate had a very friendly face but a funny nose. There's a bit of an obsession here about European noses. I've never really thought about it but apparently we have really pronounced nose bridges whereas many SE Asians don't. Odd but true....
Anyway, while all this was going on I was sat in the car protecting our bags watching it all out the window. It's a good job I didn't get out because I may have scared them as some kind of hairy beastman (European body hair also seems to attract a lot of attention...).

Fun with Friends

The next day we took a minibus to Sikhanoukville on the South coast of Cambodia where Paul and Sonia were finishing their honeymoon. We were told the minibus would take 4 hours. It probably will in a year or so, but the road is only just being built, its made of sand for quite alot of it, and there are 4 river crossings along the route. They are building bridges over the river, but none of them are finished so when you get to a river, we all had to get out of the minibus, get onto a small raft to take us and the minibus over the river, and then get back in and drive to the next one. There was quite abit of traffic so this took a while each time. Beside each crossing small communities have set up with toilet facilities and stalls selling food and cold drinks. I cant help thinking some people might not have such a good livelihood once the bridges are finished.

The total journey actually took nearly 8 hours, although the scenery on the way was stunning. We finally got to Sihanoukville and checking into a nearby hotel to drop off our bags before going to meet Paul and Sonia. The hotel was clean and for $7 we got a room with en suite, hot shower, soap and towels, cable tv and bottled water in the room. It was on the third floor above a bar, which appeared to be full of middle aged western men being served by young Cambodian women. There was a dancing bar on the next floor that advertised "lay dancing" and there were signs all over warning people that sex with children was illegal. Hum....we didnt really need it pointing out that it was locally known to be abit of a brothel. But it was cheap, quiet and the staff were nice!!

Kris: Having said that, I did kill a cockroach in our room at one point. I dunno where it came from but I guess it picked the wrong guests to mess with....

Kate: Paul and Sonia had a slightly better standard of accommodation. They were staying in the 5 star Sokha resort that had a private beach, big pool complex, gym, several restaurants.....We met them in the cavanous hotel reception and went up to their beautiful room to have a drink on the balcony that overlooked the pool and where you could watch the sunset. Whats really weird is that because of the cheap prices in Cambodia, their hotel was probably less per night than the Travel Lodge in the UK. And you dont get free fruit and a new toothbrush each day in the Travel Lodge!

It was really cool to spend a couple of days with friends - it is great to have conversations with people you know well and get on with, rather than getting to know you conversations all the time. The closest thing we have to conversations with friends is when we meet up with Marc! We all went out a couple of times for food and drinks, and spent a day enjoying their private beach.

Kris: We also used their shower at one point! Thanks guys! I realise this sounds awful - like we gatecrashed their luxury honeymoon - but they did insist! And we only used their shower because it was convenient after using their beach!! Oh well! Anyway, after spending all too short a time with Paul and Son they had to jet off back to icy cold England. The last we saw of them was when we jumped on the back of a motorbike taxi outside a bar. They'll be pleased to hear that we made it back to our hotel without falling off...

The Beach

After Paul and Sonia's departure we decided to leave the friendly clean brothel an move nearer the beach - so we headed out to find a place on Serendipity Beach. Totally different to Paul and Sonia's, this beach is really busy! It's kind of an odd place. It's lined with bungalows and beach bars and sun loungers and crammed with westerners reclining in the sunshine sipping ice cold beer. Then, crawling in between them is the occasional man without any legs begging for money. It's pretty disturbing. They're landmine victims from Cambodia's infamous minefields. Apparently they get no support
Drinks in Monkey Republic barDrinks in Monkey Republic barDrinks in Monkey Republic bar

Again Kate has managed to avoid being in any group rumours that Kris has killed her now...Paul and Sonia will confirm she was actually there.
from the government so this is how a lot of them have to make their money.

There are also a lot of people selling stuff - some of which won't take no for an answer. People were constantly stopping to tell us we both have minging feet and should let them give us some exfoliation. Plus, one girl tried to sell Kate bracelets for about 15 minutes despite repeated "no thank yous, sorry". This girl had some good lines and then switched to "Sorry can't make me happy". Plus "Why?". When Kate said "Because I don't want one", she replied "You can buy two!", which I thought was actually quite clever.

Anyway, we moved into a lovely room right by the sea for $10 a night. It was attached to a quiet little beach bar during the day. Which was nice. I dunno, we don't learn from our mistakes...
Obviously, at night it was a 24 hour party bar. A very loud one. And our room was right next to the party. As I said, we never learn. We came back from having dinner up the road to find the quiet little beach bar full of very drunk
Serendipidy BeachSerendipidy BeachSerendipidy Beach

All along the beach are bars in bamboo huts that rent out sun loungers. If you choose the wrong one you get surrounded by kids trying to sell you bracelets, people selling fruit, prawns, crisps and other snacks and women trying to give you a massage or a pedicure. Once again a woman told Kate her feet were minging and Kris his toenails are too long....
ravers. We gave up on the idea of sleeping and ended up joining them. However, the next day we packed up again and found another place about 200m from the beach but far enough away from the bars to be quiet enough to sleep. Third time lucky, and cheaper at only $6 a night.

The rest of our time in Sikhanoukville was spent looking around and chilling out on the beach. A couple of days after Paul and Sonia left we decided that we had done enough lazing around and it was time to get down to some work. So we caught the boat back to Ko Kong (4 hours this time, a preferered form of transport) and crossed the border back into Thailand. In daylight the border looked alot different, less sinester but with more people trying to sell us cigarettes. We stayed overnight in Trat, which seemed like a sweet little place that we would like to go back to. The next morning we got the bus to Pattaya to the base of Ecoexplorer, who we will be volunteering with from now on.

I bet you are all pleased that we have stopped bumming about
Sunset from Serendipidy BeachSunset from Serendipidy BeachSunset from Serendipidy Beach

Looks alot more peaceful like this...
and got around to doing some real work!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Cart that pulled up outside our hotel while we were eating breakfast one morningCart that pulled up outside our hotel while we were eating breakfast one morning
Cart that pulled up outside our hotel while we were eating breakfast one morning

They use cows alot like horses here, and only eat them when they cant work, so the beef can be abit roppy.
Enjoying a jug of beer for 1.50 Enjoying a jug of beer for 1.50
Enjoying a jug of beer for 1.50

after the 5 quid jugs in Malaysia
Around the world in 80 British pubs #5Around the world in 80 British pubs #5
Around the world in 80 British pubs #5

The Angkor Arms, Skihanoukville. Pretty realistic, lots of wood pannelling and booths.
Happy beer. Does exactly what it says on the tinHappy beer. Does exactly what it says on the tin
Happy beer. Does exactly what it says on the tin

They have another brand called "Sad" in case your mood changes...
View towards the beach from our final guesthouseView towards the beach from our final guesthouse
View towards the beach from our final guesthouse

In the foreground you can see the motorbike taxi drivers who transport tourists around Sikhanouville. Basically you hop on the back. Its terrifying.
A picture of Kate in the restaurant near our final guesthouseA picture of Kate in the restaurant near our final guesthouse
A picture of Kate in the restaurant near our final guesthouse

just to show she does have her picture taken sometimes

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