After a surprisingly comfortable journey involving 15 people and 15 backpacks in a mini bus, we arrived in Sihanoukville, the beach capital of Cambodia. It has a bit of a rep as a trashy, touristy resort and, while I can see where that comes from, it was actually an interesting change. Plus, with a bit of wandering around, you can find some cute shops!
The main reason we headed to Sihanoukville was to head to the islands, Koh Rong in particular. Nearly everyone we had met had urged us to stay on the island, saying it was one of the best things they’d done. Yes, the island was beautiful with its white powder sand beaches and crystal clear water but the main beach was beyond touristy and, therefore, pretty dirty too. I know you can’t expect a popular backpacker destination to be squeaky clean but it’s really upsetting when you look at all the natural beauty and then next to you, some chain-smoking girls are tossing their butt-ends into the sand.
We’d heard that Long Beach, on the other side of the island was pretty deserted and just as beautiful so we hired a pair of hammocks, packed our bags and trekked through the jungle. It was such an amazing experience! The island is so green and leafy, we soon found ourselves climbing over logs, scaling rock walls and feeling a bit like Indiana Jones. After a very invigorating (and pretty sweaty) trek, we emerged into paradise.
Long Beach was stunning and peaceful. At one end was a beach cafe and at the other end (about 7km away), was a resort. The rest? Just white sand, clear water and the odd camp of travellers. Some of the people we met had been there for weeks and, to be honest, I don’t blame them. We spent a few days sleeping under the stars, swimming, sun-bathing and feeling a bit like we were in Castaway.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and for us, the end was pretty abrupt. On the third morning, I woke up feeling pretty ropey and then was, to put it politely, very, very sick. Turns out that THE worst place to get food poisoning is on a remote beach, with little shade and no toilets. Luckily, my boyfriend turned into an action hero, packed up our camp, found a boat to take us back to the main beach and then spent ages walking around finding us somewhere to stay for the night. Needless to say, we were finally even after I’d looked after him in Vietnam!
We took a few days out (mainly because I needed some time to be introduced to solids again!) and then we were off on our next trip. No time to rest! We hired a motorbike and headed further west to Koh Kong, a province which borders with Thailand. A bit off the beaten track and arguably a more ‘authentic’ representation of Cambodia, we happily spent a few days exploring the nearby islands, haggling at the local market and hanging with the locals.
With only a few days left, we headed up to Siem Reap where we met up with a lovely group from The Flashpack who were also travelling around Vietnam and Cambodia. It was nice to swap stories and compare our trips over some $1 beers with the various noises of Pub Street in the background. It was even better to share the amazing experience of watching the sun rise at Angkor Wat the next morning (at 5am no less!). After weeks of being on the go and feeling like we were constantly moving, it was so nice to sit for an hour, watch the sky change and reflect on the past two months.
We bid farewell to our flashpacking chums and headed to Battambang, the final stop on our trip. A very down-to-earth kind of town, we ate well, walked up lots of steps, went on a Bamboo Train (more on that later) and won an Easter Egg hunt! We also saw millions and millions of bats fly out of cave and make the coolest shapes in the sky. All in all, it was a pretty good few days!
How better to round off our trip than two days by the pool? After weeks of hostel rooms, shared bathrooms and soggy eggs for brekkie, we decided to pay more than $10 and booked ourselves into a hotel in Siem Reap. Pure luxury!