Amazingly we still arrived more than an hour early and realised that we might make it in time for the morning boat to Koh Rong island
. Originally we didn’t think we would make the boat so had planned to spend that day and night in Sihanoukville, which on first appearances didn’t look like a particularly nice place. We went to the Dive Shop Cambodia offices (they operate the boat and the Paradise Bungalows resort on Koh Rong) and asked them if we could come a day early. Luckily they said yes and so within an hour of arriving in Sihanoukville we found ourselves on a boat out to the island!
Koh Rong is pure paradise and everything we hoped for. We have a large stilt bungalow looking out over a turquoise sea. The island is wild and densely forested with very little development and the beaches are made of powdery white sand so fine that it squeaks when you walk on it. Unfortunately there is talk of various developments being planned for the next few years so we are thankful that we came here when we did. Paradise Bungalows is a small collection of bungalows with a large open-aired restaurant made of wood and thatch with low tables and comfy cushions everywhere. The staff are friendly, the food is excellent and the German owner has a very cool selection of down-tempo tunes for a chilled vibe. On New Year’s Eve the restaurant did a delicious BBQ for everyone and included a bottle of Champagne in the very reasonable $7 price!
We have been here for a week now and unfortunately we leave this afternoon
. Most days we walk for about an hour to a beautiful beach with a backdrop of rainforest and mangrove and a coral reef for great snorkelling. On a number of occasions we have seen cuttlefish here and were very lucky to see them courting and then actually mating! They are beautiful creatures that change colour dramatically depending on their mood and show a surprisingly high level of intelligence. We also saw a large number of colourful fish, anemones, and on one occasion a blue spotted stingray. From our bungalow veranda we were also lucky to see a pair of hornbills flying overhead. The only negative thing about the island are the large numbers of sandflies which have been feasting on us! Tom has 50 bites on just one leg and they itch like crazy!
Something that we will never forget from this place was the night time swim we took last night. The water is full of millions of tiny phosphorescent plankton which each emit a green glow as you move past them. Waving our arms and legs about set off a series of miniature explosions of light. And on the sea floor larger balls of light like glowing golf balls would mysteriously appear and then fade. It was an absolutely incredible experience like swimming in a galaxy of stars.
From Siem Reap we journeyed south to the coastal city of Sihanoukville. We took a night bus that was supposed to be VIP but when we got on board they told us that the VIP bus was broken and so we had to make do with a really pants bus that had no legroom whatsoever so that reclining your seat would mean breaking the legs of the person behind you! We were also positioned near to the toilet which smelt like it had never been cleaned in its life. And to top it off the drivers were using the luggage hold to transport loads of boxes and planks of wood and other bits which were unloaded off the bus at about 3am, taking a total of one hour to do so! We managed to get some sleep but were woken at 5am by a rooster that was also being transported on the bus! I don’t know if all buses in south-east Asia are crap or whether we are just unlucky!