Since my last post it is fair to say we have been a few places, done a few things, and done a lot of nothing. So to save time and get around my terrible memory, here are the bullet points with additions where I remember them.
Kampot, Cambodia – An old french haunt with the crumbling facades to prove it, at first it doesn’t seem like there is much here, but spending a week gave us time to find it’s hidden charms, one of which was a palatial room for a pittance where I could work for a few days. We also biked up Bokor mountain, and made it to the top this time. There was a heavy fog which covered most of the view, but we could still stand at the edge of a cliff and view the forest canopy a thousand feet below.. Hey look, no guard rails!
Sihanoukville, Cambodia – From Kampot it was a 4 hour bus ride to “Snooky”. Whereupon alighting from the vehicle we were assaulted by tuk tuk drivers vying for our business. Just wanting to get to a hostel and drop off our bags, we quickly chose someone with the request that we go somewhere for around $5-$10 a night, he then showed us guesthouses for $15+ a night, with cries of “I forgot it was high season!”. After making it clear we weren’t willing to pay those prices, and watching his face fall at the realization of no commission, he took us somewhere more reasonably priced.
Snooky may be for some, but it was not for me, although the beach was nice, being constantly harassed by locals offering their services (which included mani pedis, back shaving, and in the sun all day lobster) becomes a serious hurdle in being able to relax. The most notable event for myself was ordering a pizza with extra chilli, which amounted to about 20 of the fiery little red toilet triggers being set down in front of me. Never one to balk from a challenge, I devoured the pizza with gales of laughter from the small crowd of onlookers, as well as torrents of sweat from my overworked cooling system. The following few days were hell on my stomach, but conquering the beast had been worth every dash to the commode.
Koh Kong, Cambodia – From Snooky it was another 4-5 hours by bus to the border town of Koh Kong, this time there was a toilet on the bus, which although sounds good at first, means no stops, which means no feeding my nicotine habit, and using a toilet clearly not designed for those of even average height, it required hunching drastically, and as Marty found out, rolling around in urine while the bus’s crying shocks laboured over pothole strewn roads. I, having emptied my bladder before the journey, sat back and enjoyed the spectacle of his unfortunate misadventures.
Our first port of call in Koh Kong was Paddy’s, a little guesthouse just away from the main drag. The guesthouse itself reflected the personality of the owner to a tee, friendly, warm, and full of half forgotten projects. Although one of the cheaper guesthouses, and comfortable enough, my being a target for mosquitoes made my stay there a bit uncomfortable, if it wasn’t for this though, Paddy’s has to be the coolest place in Koh Kong to stay, things work on an honor system, possibly because no one really knows or cares what’s going on. Add a pool table, the constant waft of happy baccie, numerous free meals and This place has all the hallmarks of Hippie Heaven.
It was through Paddy’s That we did our jungle trek, staying in his mate Jays house, located a short boat ride up the river and through the mangroves to the base of the jungle. We dropped off our stuff, and began hacking our way through the jungle and numerous insects under a canopy of moist heat, trekking would only have amounted to a few hours each day, but it was enough, and stopping at the natural rock pool in the jungle was most welcome. Aside from being an amazingly beautiful and refreshing place to take a break, it also provided a great way to pee without alerting the group to this most egregious bodily function, ahhh… nature.
Add to this boating in the mangroves at night with fireflies and phosphorescent plankton, sleeping in a “treehouse”, and swimming/chilling on the half built floating house, and I could not have asked for anything more… Paddy’s, you gotta go there to know what I am saying.
The last few days were spent in a more comfortable but less character imbued guesthouse while I worked. We scootered to a waterfall where Marty lost a toenail, and Sarah got thrown off the back of my bike, visited the “Crabshack” for the best fried fish ever, and just watched life go by.
Noteable characters – Paddy the Cambodian Hippie, The Argentinian Stoner and his Greek missus – they liked to eat dirt and thought a lot of things were “wuunderful”, the Turk- who was actually German and blanked us constantly, the Cambodian old/young woman who no one knows what the hell she was doing there, and Jay, who gave up a possible career as a lawyer for the allure of the jungle, and his half built floating house. Cambodia left some awesome memories.
Trat – We then crossed the border into Trat, Thailand. A fairly simple affair involving a tuk tuk, a $10 bribe and a walk across the border, before jumping onto a minibus bound for Trat. This is where my taste buds came alive, cheap food that tastes fantastic, I could eat all day, and almost did. Our guesthouse here was basic, with 2 single beds, a fan and a shared toilet with paper thin walls next door to the owners son, add to that Marty, then my, then Sarah’s weak stomachs, and you gotta feel for the guy.
The notable here was the lady Cambodian owner, who was very honest about her misadventures with farang, the first of which she married in a kind of financially beneficial way, who apparently was mad and drank himself to death, for her aches in putting up with this she got a million or so baht to pump into the guesthouse, and the current help around the house, John, who wants to marry her but is too cheap to put in the 40 000 baht dowry. She told us about his misadventures, wherein he purchased a dud car, blamed her, stole her car with the threat of burning it, and then cried an apology, to which she replied “Are you a man or a baby”. A headstrong woman you cant help but respect.
Koh Chang – from Trat we headed to Koh Chang, one of Thailands largest Islands, with dreams of beaches and hammocks drifting through our heads. A short taxi ride, a slightly longer bus ride, and then once on the island the craziest roads I have ever had the displeasure of being on, and we were there! We had an amazing view over the ocean, a comfortable bungalow (but shocking beds, seemingly normal in Asia) and our own toilet/shower! Days have been spent relaxing at our guesthouse, swimming in the urine warm water (which isn’t as bad as it sounds) and eating.
Yesterday we kayaked miles out into the ocean to some small islands, the furthest of which was deserted, and despite aching hands and salt burning my eyes, we had a great time snorkeling and basking in the ambiance of our own private beach. Just before dusk we headed back to shore and an hour later sat pondering the loss of our 1000 baht note and how to get home without it.
Having Koh Chang’ed as much as we could, it was time to move on, Chiang Mai and a cheap serviced apartment with rooftop pool and gym was calling. The decision had been made that we needed time out from moving around, so we booked a bus to Bangkok, from where we would move on to Laos, Vientiane, to do a border run, and then on to Chiang Mai.
It’s a hard life, but someones gotta do it…