Exfiltrated from Nam / R&R in Cambodia

Trip Start Nov 22, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Monkey republic

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So after we made our narrow escape from Vietnam (that sound exciting enough?) and with 5 hours left on our visa Josh and I got to Cambodia, glad that we had gotten rid of our bikes and ready for some downtime. No more driving myself, worrying about the bikes or fighting mean mechanics... We managed to get to Phnom Penh that same night at 10 PM and got stuck there as there were no connecting buses to anywhere else around this time, so we found a hostel and celebrated our first night out of Vietnam. The next morning we managed to get a bus to Sihanoukville, the main coastal town of Cambodia. The weather wasn't the greatest here however, so we had a good excuse to relax in the hostel. I also noticed how much cheaper Cambodia is then any other country I had been this far: a dorm bed for $3, a draft beer for $0.50 and on the beach (sitting in a lounge chair 10 meter from the waves) I got a big plate of freshly barbequed meat with veggies and fries for $3... not bad!

That first night in Sihanoukville night we managed to get out to some of the nightclubs in town, here we saw some of the fire-jugglers for the first time. These fire-jugglers are guys that perform tricks with either a stick that is burning on both ends or with 2 chains that both have a burning pot at the end. Pretty impressive to see how fast they move around and do all of their tricks - without burning themselves! I've attached a little movie to this blog posting so you can get an idea of what it looks like, although it's obviously never as good on video as it is in real life... (just click on the picture on the left hand side and let the movie play in a separate screen...) The next morning the weather still wasn't the greatest however, so Josh and I decided to take a boat to Koh Rong Island. The hostel we were staying at, Monkey Republic, has a sister-hostel on this Island which we heard a lot of people raving about. In the hostel we met up 6 other people whom we had previously met in Vietnam and all-together we embarked on the 2.5 hour boat journey.

The sea looked really calm when we left, but halfway into the trip we found out that this was an error of judgement... We literately saw a grey curtain coming towards us and after that everything changed: waves the size of our boat (which was made of wood and didn't seem to sturdy), the engine didn't seem to cope to well either and the boat was getting thrown in all different directions. Luckily I didn't feel seasick, so together with Josh, Jan and Matt we started ordering beers from the boat attendant and had a great time. It's a bit cruel, but the most fun was watching other people being miserable; more then half of the 50 people on board were feeding the fish during the trip. So when we finally got to the island after 4 hours (it took way longer due to the storm) the boat looked like a battleship that just came back from the front-line with casualties sprawled everywhere instead of a group of people holidaying in Cambodia. And yes, we were that group of guys that just laughs loudly and cracks open another beer - but hey, we had a good time! :)

Koh Rong is an island that is owned by a property development group and which has less then 1000 inhabitants. At the moment there is no electricity, no internet, no phone network, no TV, no sewage system, water system, etc. Next to the locals that live in a few different villages and sustain themselves with fishing and logging, there are 3 "resorts". All of them are pretty basic with reed huts and a big common-room building where they serve food. So not a resort as you usually see it, just some basic buildings on the beach... The owners of the island, royal group, are working on developing this Island into one of the most expensive and high key resort islands in the world. Although the complete development will probably take another 10 to 20 years, they are already building an international airport on the island. This also means that the hostel-resorts as they exist now will be gone by the time the island gets more developed and only 5* facilities will be build...

We were staying in Monkey Island, the resort for backpackers; they offer bungalows and dorms (we stayed in a bungalow with 2 other people from our group) and have some good parties at night. All resorts have a generator which they run at night to keep the lights going and let people recharge their electrical equipment; the other resorts run the generator till 10 PM (which means everyone is going to bed after that) but Monkey Republic kept them going a few hours longer most of the time, which is pretty nice. Another good thing about Monkey Republic is their Chef: she's from Thailand and the food was just GREAT. They have a delicious daily special curry and loads of other good Western and Asian dishes and the prices are the same as on the mainland (where we expected that we would have to pay an 'island-premium') so no reason not to stay a bit longer on the Island!

When we had gotten on the boat we got told to just look for 'Beast' when getting on the island; we were curious how anyone could be called Beast but we found the man soon enough when we got on the island. A massive long haired Estonian was waiting for us and nobody had any doubt why he had earned his nickname... We found out that he was a backpacker working at Monkey Island and together with Shea and Paddy from England he worked the bar; the rest of the staff was made up of local workers. The first day we had great fun and the weather was beautiful; we were staying a mere 50 meters from the waves so everyone was chilling on the beach, playing volleyball, drinking a beer or going for a swim. On the second day Josh and I went for a big swim: there is a small Island off the coast of Koh Rong with a temple on it and we decided to swim there. I don't know how far it was, but it was a pretty long swim. It took us 1 1/2 hours to swim there, then we rested for 30 minutes and then swam back to Koh Rong for another hour. But due to the currents we had to aim for a beach 7 KM away from the hostel, so all in all we were away for almost 5 hours. We had planned to do the swim as some pre-breakfast exercise but ended up eating lunch by the time we came back!

Originally I was planning to stay for 3 or 4 days, but that quickly turned into a week. The weather wasn't always the greatest, but even when it rained the island is still very relaxed and I just chilled in a hammock all day with a good book on those days. At night we mostly had some good parties going, we made up some great themes / games and had a great time. When I wanted to leave after 8 days, the weather had turned so bad that the boat didn't go... Which also meant that the supplies were running thin (ice and supplies are brought in from the mainland every day), so we were drinking lukewarm beer and eating seafood (from the local fishermen) in the end. The next day the boat did go, but the weather turned extremely nasty in about 6 minutes, so the boat turned around. When we were finally able to moor back on the island pier, everyone was drenched, scared and back right where we had started an hour early. So another day of delicious seafood and warm beer. I guess if you have to chose a place to get stuck, Monkey Island is a pretty good choice! The next day the weather had all cleared up however and the boat went as scheduled. Since Josh was on the same time-schedule as I was we left the island together (the rest of the group had already left) and took a bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh... All rested up and ready for some more sightseeing!

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