Vegas it aint
Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
25Trip End May 01, 2010
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Not much to report really, got in a cab, drove for four hours, got bundled out and into another cab (a little like Lebanese hostages) where we sat until we arrived at around five thirty. I could waffle on about how notable again the change in the backdrop was from barren land to lush green vegetation as we neared Phnom Penh.
I could also carry on about the road from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong, how beautiful the views were with wide open plains surrendering to rolling hills and mountains, desert like areas, followed by rain forest and jungle as you travel on, all the animals wandering aimlessly in front of the vehicles, cattle, oxen, dogs, pigs water buffalo, how amazing it is to come up behind a massive cart loaded with just about everything, only two find it's powered by a couple of Oxen
I guess I could even mention how good the road was to start with, long smooth straight sections, before we got just over half way when it started to twist and turn, like a.... like a, twisty turny thing. How at times complete sections of it seemed to have washed away in storms leaving us to bounce our way across whatever was left. but I wont, I'm sure all that is assumed.
What I will say is that this place is a bit weird, it's only a few hundred meters from the Thai boarder and because of that (we guess) they use Thai currency. Just what we needed, another currency to juggle with. After much confusion we think we have it sussed now, 50 baht to the pound.
This is a really miles from anywhere place, and there's this massive brand new casino / hotel just dumped here. Apparently it's because you can't gamble in Thailand (how about that, any vice you like, but no gambling), so they can now just pop over the boarder and do it.
We escaped from the compound and found some local bars and restaurants to keep us entertained within budget
Koh Kong day 2 Sunny and hot, hot, hot
Breakfast buffet which was good, then off to explore town, no obvious way to get there, taxi was expensive so we stood around scratching our heads (it's 9KM to town) when a couple of locals on motorbikes turned up an gave us a cheap alternative.
About a mile down the road we come to passport control, totally confused now as we've not left Cambodia yet for some reason we need passports I get my driver to take me back to the hotel, pick up the passports and return to check point Charlie. No idea what country the hotel is in or if it's in no mans land.
(Later we think we know what it's all about, as they encourage the Thais to come across to gamble, they've kind of unofficially moved the boarder, so you can get to the hotel from Thailand without a passport, but you can't continue into Cambodia).
We decide being in town would be better, so punt round a few hotels, they're all full, then we find one that seems to be completely empty
A few drinks around town, the money continues to baffle, you ask to pay in dollar, it doesn't work out exact so they ask for some Riel as well, and then give you some change in Bhat. We then head back to the hotel pool on a Tuk Tuk, agreed with the driver that he's picking us up at 07:15 in the morning to change hotels and go on a trek in the jungle. Let's hope the temperature is only thirty something!!
Back at the hotel and this pool is even hotter than before, it really is like a bath. It is lovely though and the best way I've found to keep cool is to make good use of the swim up bar. Maybe I should have had more water as it feels like a freight trains running through my head. A short break in the room and some water, I'm back to normal.
This hotel is really nice, a really good, big pool, several bars and restaurants, large bedrooms with fridge, big en-suite, but for some reason, it just doesn't feel right
Koh Kong Day 3 Hot and Sunny +++
The start of the day went like clockwork, checkout 06:50, breakfast 07:00, on Tuk Tuk at 07:15, checked in at 07:35, we got to the shop where we are to be picked up for our jungle trek at 08:00. The guide turns up and we're all (Deb, me, an Aussie lady, the guide and two crew) on board and chugging up river by 08:30. It's a two hour trip to the falls, all the way up, the river winds it's way through stunning scenery, untouched jungle and rocky back drops. It's all very Indiana Jones.
One of the reasons this part of the world is so untouched is the wars, nobody could operate in the unexplored areas, including loggers, hunters and poachers. I guess it's an ill wind that blows no good. On route, we chat to the guide, she's a local, about thirty but you'd think she was around twenty. We get to talking (no idea how) about how white people spend their money trying to go brown, whilst the Asians are trying to go white.
She tells us how they all try to cover up and stay out of the sun, and recalls how her friend spent hundreds of dollars on cream to make her whiter, she also didn't like her flat nose so had surgery where they slit it just above the top lip and put in an implant. She tells me 'now she has a big nose like yours'. Oi, who you calling big nose!!
We travel as far up river as the boat can go, before we start our trek, I cant remember how I described the Sapa trek, but it was a doddle compared to this. For those in the know, three times harder than lake Louise, twice as hot and probably much longer. Some of it was jungle trails, but mostly it was bouldering (now we know what that means). Just massive boulders (up to the size of a car), that had been generously sprinkled where the jungle meets the river.
I looked at Deb a couple of times and feared her head may explode. It must have been forty something in the shade and it was just really hard work, hauling ourselves up boulders, and trying to balance is some really treacherous places. Sweat was running freely (sorry) when you jumped to a boulder, as you landed, a spurt of liquid left your body and landed at your feet. We had asked about about how difficult this trek would be and we were told it was just a stroll by the river.
After about an hour, we got to where we were heading, it's the Koh Pow and Lost falls an amazing river junction deep in the jungle. Within a minute or two we were all in swimming, it was really great and the trials and tribulations were soon forgotten. We just hung around there for a few hours, swimming between the waterfalls and enjoying the views.
We had lunch there (oh yeah, girl carried a hamper with her!!), we shared a fried noodles and a club sandwich, both of which was very tasty. Then of course it happened, the moment we'd been dreading, time to get out, get dressed and head back the way we came. Then our guide says to Deb and I, why don't you swim back, I'll carry your stuff for you. Brilliant, a nice relaxing swim down stream, then meet her at the bottom with our clothes.
It may sound strange, but due to the rigors of the journey there, we hadn't really noticed what the river was like between the two and had no idea what we had let ourselves in for ..................... to be continued, I will just say we're back at HQ alive and uninjured.
Well mostly uninjured, we have a few scrapes and bruises, but on the whole, OK. The plan was to swim across the main pool, get out and and walk back with the others, but then we thought we'd go a bit further to save the ordeal of the trek. It's hard to put into words what happened for the next mile or so, but it was littered with events such as, "I can hear rushing water, I'll just pop my head around this rock and see whats there" Before we know it we're of down the rapids at break neck speed, bouncing off boulders and rocks as we go. There is no control what so ever, but we eventually manage to stop in another pool.
Now would be a good time to call it a day and get out and walk while we still can. Unfortunately it seems we are now alone, you cant walk on the rocks in bare feet as they're so hot they will blister your feet. Mrs Australia tried earlier and that's what happened. So now we have the choice, carry on, or wait and hope somebody comes back with our shoes.
"Right, here's the plan, we'll head over to that big rock and make a decision from there". It looks a bit dodgy. I tell Deb to wait there while I look for another route, "OK" she said, followed shortly by "Oh no! I can't" and off she goes, like a cork out of a bottle, down the rapids, bouncing off the boulders as she goes. I have no idea what to do at this point,
I decide to stay put, at least then I can see which way her body travels. With every twist and bounce, I just wish she would stop, after what seems like an eternity, she does and I assume her waving is a good sign. I cant think of a better plan, so I let myself be dragged into the current and it's my turn in the washing machine. I have to say it's pretty scary, every now and then a limb will get caught in a crevice before coming free, or a large boulder will make an acquaintance in an area you'd really rather it didn't.
So, to cut a long story short, we end up at the bottom, a little battered and bruised, but still breathing, with all our limbs pointing in the right direction. Was it a stupid thing to do, yes, of course it was, but we didn't have the information to make the right decision at the time. There's a diving saying that goes any experience you survive is a good one". Just nobody tell my parents!!
Back on the boat, I sleep most of the way, Deb reads her book. We get back to town around five. It may sound like we're glad to get today over with, but to be honest, we both really enjoyed it. So much so, we're off with 'girl' on an island tour tomorrow, we have her assurance that it's all about flopping around in a tropical paradise, so that will be nice.
As we'd not been on line for a few days, we found a bar with wireless tonight, big party going on as it's new years day (yeah, may have got that wrong a couple of days ago), get the blog updated and then have a shared tea (not hungry for some reason) next door to our hotel. The Chicken dish is so hot, it feels like our lips are going to peel off of our faces. Oh well, it's been one of those days.
Koh Kong day four Hot, mostly sunny, a little cloud PM
Easy day today, need to be at the pick up for 08:40, so set an alarm for 07:30. No need, around 06:00 the kids awoke, they sounded like they were wearing diving fins and running up and down the tiled corridors shrieking at each other. No big deal, we put up with it for a while and then got up.
Breakfast at the restaurant next door, Omelet, bread, butter and jam before heading for the pickup point. Today there's the three of us from yesterday, plus a couple from the US with there three children, one appears to be Chinese, one African, and one is the palest of pale, blond hair and blue eyes. Yes they are all one family as the Oz lady from yesterday asked them. Deb wondered if we may be traveling with Madonna.
Speed boat to Koh Kong island takes a couple of hours, it's longer than we thought but a lot of it through mangrove swamps, so quite scenic. We stop at a small beach on the island, again very idyllic, nobody or nothing around and no development anywhere. We do lots of swimming and snorkeling (not Deb) and generally sit around doing nothing much. It's completely untouched, I decide to go for a walk but you can't. There's the fairly small beach, and then the jungle, I thought I'd have a stroll into the jungle, but it's like a jungle out there, you just can't get in it.
Around two, we're aboard for a trip back. En route we stop at a small fishing village called Coco village (we think, it may be Koh Kong village), we've seen similar but it's well worth a look around, there's no route to this village other than by boat. The guide tells us he first came here in October last year and he was the first non local these people had ever seen. All of the children ran away crying.
Just over a year on it's all very different, many, many children gathered around us and followed us around, the nice thing was, they did it for no reason at all, they couldn't talk to us, they didn't beg and they had nothing to sell, they just surrounded us, and walked with us for the best part of an hour.
Back to the main land for drinks in the sunset bar, then walked back to HQ for much needed showers. The beard growing experiment has now ended as I was starting to look like a contestant in the Uncle Albert look alike competition, if anybody would like to see a photo...... there aren't any.
We have booked tickets on the 07:40 (may as well go early as we don't think we'll be getting a lay in due to the children in the Hotel) bus to Sihanouk Ville. We should be there in time for a late lunch, we've no firm plans on where we're stopping yet, but there's loads of choice so we can do it on the hoof if need be.
If there's one thing the town is famous for, it's being virtually kidnapped by Tuk Tuk drivers who take you to a hotel of their choice, (i.e. where they get a big commission) so should be a bit of fun.
Wandered back to a restaurant near our hotel, Deb had sea food salad, I had a burger. It's all a lot more westernized here than most places we've been. back to HQ in readiness for going on holiday in the morning.