So we got the bus down to Sihanoukville (which we have just mastered the pronounciation of - having left days ago!) determined to get some beach action come rain or snow (although the later would probably freak us out). Arrived around mid-day and straight away popped in to a few places offering island accomodation, although all the ones we had called had been full. Went in to one place which takes bookings for Lazy Beach, a very popular place on an island. This was full but they did let us know about another pace called Sok San Beach Bungalows on Koh Rung Island - we knew nothing about it but were desperate so booked, then headed off down Serendipity Beach for a lovely warm swim - had to walk quite far down the beach to get away from the beach side cafes and bars - very chilled wooden and bamboo places with palm roofs, and big whicker chairs, lots of very relaxed (and often red) tourists. Had a few drinks in one later on in front of a lovely sunset. The beach is incredibly narrow, and it turns out that it was much wider until the November cyclone which removed the
Arriving on the island
majority of the beach! Wonder if that will hit tourism - must be ridiculous on busy days with only about 1 - 2m of sand between the huts and high tide line.
So the next morning, we got picked up by a tuk tuk and taken to the port. We were lead through some small, ramshackle wooden shacks and down a rickety wooden jetty towards a small passenger boat in fairly good condition......before we veered off and got loaded on to an old, wooden fishing boat, along with a few Cambodians and some supplies. Was kind of reassuring that there were some other passenges on the otherwise un-passenger looking boat, and off we headed. It was a fairly rough journey (probably pretty flat for the Cambodians!) with the little boat rocking all over the place through the swell and us and the bags sliding about. The three hours took quite a while!! But finally we draw closer to the island, the swell slackens and we glide through the blue seas towards what looks like a small fishing village, a few wooden shacks and then a band of white sand runing south for about 4-5km, backed up by the dark
Sok San Beach Bungalows
green forests of the island interior. This was going to be good! We got met off the boat, led through the village with some of the scrufiest, smiliest kids yet, to Sok San - a series of about nine little wooden bungalows, with bark walls and palm roofs, and a little corrugated iron toilet on the back complete with large bucket of water with a scoop for flushing and 'showers'. There was one hut with a kitchen, and a few small shelters, umbrellas and comfy seats...although no hammocks! They were also building a little jetty (although would be a shame not to walk through the village) and a couple more bungalows. While we were there (three nights) there were between 2 - 3 other couples, everyone keeping fairly to themselves with the occasional friendly chat, as everyone sought there little stint of beach peace.
The place was absolutely idilic. We swam, read, wandered down the beach, snorkled, read, swam, ate, swam, slept. The colours were just beautiful, with the white sand strip between the perfectly blue sea, deep blue sky and rich greens of the forest. A favourite past time was watching the busy little crabs race around the
View from our bungalow
white sands and dig their tunnels, rushing out with armfuls of excavated sand to be dumped outside the entrance. It was very funny watching the chickens chasing the crabs without a hope in the world of catching them, and if not the chickens, then the kids, dogs or the crabs chasing themselves. Classic entertainment....and then back for some reading and a swim! Each night they had a fire to relax in front of, with electricity only on between 6 - 9, and then only dim lights.....by 9 after the hectic day we were exhausted and usually didn't make it much later! And always, the main sounds being the waves, the chickens, and the occasional chug from a fishing boat (most were rowed) and clunk from village life or a wee stint of very relaxed building work.
Unfortunately, all this is to change - the whole island has been sold and there is a Masterplan including luxury hotels, a golf course and even polo pitches! At the moment this is being held at bay by the economic situation, although there were vague building plots visible as large areas of recently grown scrub where the forest must have been cleared. But
Reading some more!
this is the fate of these islands, which can bring in so much tourist money to Cambodia (or at least some large company - think in this case its Cambodia's largest petrol company) - there are a loads of islands, each at a different stage of development, from those with only villages, ones like Koh Rung with basic facilities only, up to the luxury resorts.
After three days and nights of bliss, it was time to go. We had had a great relax and loved it, but in the end the lack of much shade got to me a bit, the lack of much veggie food got to Rach (only so much veggie noodles one can eat), and the sand flies got to us both (with a delayed reaction to the bites). So off we popped on the days fishing boat for a much smoother and quicker journey back, and one night more in Sihanoukville (and a Mexican restaurant - its was so nice to have a variety of food to choose from again!).
From here, we decided to head straight to Battambang and arranged a bus for the next day. We had been planning a stint of
wilderness in the Cardamom Mountains which would have been amazing, but didn't want to run out of time to see Eastern Cambodia. Every now and then there is a real internal conflict, but just have to remind ourselves that there is no way we can see everything!
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