Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cambodian Beaches!

OMG, the southern tip of Cambodia is amazing.  Everyone told me that the islands of Cambodia are what Thailand was like 10 years ago before they were overrun with tourists and I am so glad I went.

Cambodia has the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen.  Rivaled only by that of Corsica.  The pinks, the blues, the oranges….stunning!

On the bus to Sihanoukville, I met a guy named Johannes (joki, pronounced yo-key) from Germany.  After a 90-minute ride full of conversation in both German and English, we realized that we were traveling to the same beach. We decided to hunt for lodging together in Oetres Beach.

Meet Johannes, "Joki"
At the beaches, you don’t really pre-book, you just hop in a tuk-tuk and drop in on hostels and hotels to take a look at the room and the rates and then just pick one.  Every room we looked at had a single queen sized bed and were $20.  Ouch, that was heftier than my $3 per night bungalow and $2.50 per night mattress on the floor.  We decided to share a bungalow at White Sands.  In general, I wouldn’t normally do this, but he seemed nice enough and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be inappropriate.

White Sands bungalow
 We spent the first day at Oetres beach just hanging out on the beach.  Joki did a little watercolor painting and I tried to read my book, Middlesex.  After hanging out on the beach a while a guy came over and talked us into a 3-island snorkeling trip.  It was relatively cheap, but offered us an opportunity to see 3 different islands and have an excursion, so we negotiated the price down 20% and elected it for the following morning.  That night, we had drinks over sunset and headed out to a live music venue for street food.  There really weren’t places to sit, so we left and got Italian food (weird, I know).  I was super tired so I went back to the bungalow and Joki went back to the venue.

The next morning we woke up and headed out on our snorkeling excursion.  We had some really funny Germans named Kevin and Robin on our boat that made it super fun.

I stole this amazing picture of them from their FB page since I didn't have one :)

They were loud and funny – actually jovial is a better adjective to describe them. They took turns clowning around for the benefit of the group and everyone really enjoyed it.  (I was absolutely fascinated watching them. At one point, Rob was trying to be dramatic and funny by applying sunscreen using a squirt bottle spaced a meter away from his palm and squeezed and the wind caught it and it flew all over the person next to him….IT WAS HILARIOUS!)

Another stolen FB photo of the jovial Germans

When we got to the second island, however, they were being separated from us, not out of shame, they were headed to Koh Ta Kiev.  I was super disappointed that they were leaving as the boat would be infinitely less fun. Even their departure from the boat was hilarious.  They had one silver hard case roller bag each and they had to carry it on their shoulders through waist deep water, over the beach and 100 meters to their bungalow.

Photo of Rob carrying his suitcase to the bungalow (stolen…again from Kevin's FB page)
I had heard of Koh Ta Kiev from one of my friends in Battambang and really wanted to go see it so we asked if we could ride on the shuttle boat round trip to check it out and see if we wanted to stay there the following night. 

Deserted beaches of Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia

Koh Ta Kiev was awesome!  It was a deserted island with only 8 bungalows on that side of the beach.  There were cows running up and down along the beach and a batch of 5 week old puppies intercepting the walkway to the hotel.  I wanted to stay….it was exactly what I wanted; to be away from civilization.  Joki agreed and decided he wanted to come too. So together we decided that the Koh Ta Kiev Resort was perfect and booked a bungalow for the following 2 nights.  The bungalows were really nice, but the bathrooms were a bit rustic.  No showers….just bucket baths and you had to flush the toilet with buckets too.  At least, here, the toilet floor and the shower floor were in two different locations.  I’ve been rather skeeved out as of late having to walk barefoot into the toilet/shower area.  I get flashbacks of the mockery that Britney Spears got walking barefoot into that gas station toilet some years back, and this – by far – was much, much worse.

SIDE NOTE: Asian culture dictates that you leave your shoes at the door of restaurants, hostels etc. So I am unsure of the etiquette of retrieving your shoes so you don’t have to step on their nasty combo bathroom floor.  Sometimes at the hostels, I would go downstairs and retrieve my flip flops and carry them back upstairs to use in the shower, but I always felt guilty afterward walking from the bathroom to the room in wet flip flops.  I think it’s a no-win situation and you just have to suck it up, neglect the fact that you could contract some foot fungus or plantar warts and act like a careless hillbilly.

We booked the snorkeling trip again the second day since it would be our transportation to and from the island.  It was only $1 more to do the whole excursion than just to take a water taxi, so we did it.

We did nothing for the next two days.  Nothing.  It was amazing. Joki painted watercolor and I swam and read.  That’s it. The power surges in Cambodia had fried 2 ipod sync cords so my phone was even low on battery so I didn’t use it…which is why there are very few photos. 

Joki on our hammock

Em and Joki

The four 5-week old puppies on the island nearly doubled the population of mammals on our beach

There were cows running up and down the beach…no big deal

The collection of bungalows on our beach

"Busy time": when the boats came in for a 1 hour snorkeling session each day and then took their patrons with them
On the fourth day, we headed back to Sihanookville and stayed in town.  I picked up another sync cord, we had dinner at a Mediterranean place and watched a little live music.  The next morning, Joki and I headed off on different buses – me to Phnom Penh and him to the east coast.  It was a fun and relaxing 4 days, but I was excited to go meet my girls from LA in Thailand.  I just had to make a short pit stop in Phnom Penh to catch my flight the following morning.

I was actually super looking forward to heading back to Phnom Penh.  It was actually difficult to find the will to leave the beaches of Cambodia but I was lured with the guise of a tennis date with my friend Hennes.  However, he wussed out citing he didn’t want to lose to a girl so I did NOT get to play tennis in Cambodia.  #sadface

We did have dinner with another new friend of mine from the hostel, Clara.  The night was super chill.  Since they both spoke German and mine is marginal, the majority of the conversations that night were solely in German. I’ve really been brushing up on my German in Cambodia, it seems like all of the other tourists here are German.  I still understand way more than I speak, but I’ve picked up a few new phrases and find myself understanding more and more each day….that is until I go back to America and forget it all, again.

Next up:  T-T-T-T-THAILAND with my girls!  Woohoo!

Bathing elephants in Thailand…and more!

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