In one word - dump!
Whilst neither of us have been on a lads holiday to Magaluf, I can only imagine its very similar to Sihankouville. Actually, I imagine Sihanoukville to be far worse.
When we arrived I was still feeling horrendously poorly and Dan was exhausted and all we wanted was a good meal and a cheap hotel room. We'd been pre-warned that Sihanoukville might not be our cup of tea, it's expensive, tacky and run down, but it's the jumping off point for the island we wanted to visit so we had to spent a night there whether we liked it or not!
After paying an extraordinary amount of dollars for a bog standard room we ventured out to see what if it was as bad as we imagined. Whilst walking past a rather amorous couple who were laying on top of each other on the walk way we bumped into the Danny and Nathan, the two boys from Leeds. We decided rather than spend the evening walking around trash city and grimacing we would go out for a few drinks and lap up Sihanoukville's filth. As we were getting ready the heavens opened and there was one hell of a storm. The streets were flooding but the lightening show was fantastic, so me and the boys set up for the night in one of the beach front bars to watch nature do its thing. And then guess who turns up? Everyone's favourite frenchy, Mel! It was like being back in Mui Ne. We had a great night wading through prostitutes and sex tourists. What a lark!
The next morning we left to take the three hour boat journey to Koh Rong on a ramshackled old fishing boat. Far more magical than the last boat journey we had endured! The island was a world away from Sihanoukville. It was paradise, the most spectacular island we have visited on our trip. The island, though relatively big, is small in the way of tourism with just two or three places to stay and eat. We had chosen Coco's whilst on the mainland and it was perfect. It wasn't the most beautiful resort on the island but it certainly had the most personality and the staff were amazing, they came to be very good friends of ours. One of the huge downsides to the island are the sand flies. You get eaten alive and so sunbathing on the beach is impossible. This didn't matter too much as we had set up shop in Coco's bar and ended up staying there for almost two weeks I think!
We got rather a reputation for moving house whilst on the island. We spent two nights at Coco's, then discovered these incredible treehouse bungalows on one of the other beaches so spent a night there, then back to Coco's, then back to the treehouse, then to the mainland to get cash, then back to Coco's. Even whilst at coco's we seemed to change bungalows daily as Dan wad on a mission to find the best sea view! It was, for me, the best time of our trip! I loved having a bit of routine and enjoyed being settled in one place. Nicola, Mary and Connor who worked in the restaurant were awesome and it was fantastic to get to know people properly rather than a night of talking travel itineraries. I certainly made the most of girls gossip after having been stuck with Dan for 3 months!
I can't say we really did too much whilst we were there. We hung out with so many good people, there was Jenna and Matt, Aoife and Micheal, Shaggy, the couple from Israel, Lydia and Luke, Holly and co, Nelly and Ben, I can't even remember! We'd been there such a long time, most people only stay one or two nights, that other people assumed we had taken jobs on the island! We just could not tear ourselves away!
The treehouse was unbelievable. We booked in for one night as that was all that was available, they're of course very popular! The first night was comical as the Island has no power and we had no torch, so you can imagine trying to climb up the stairs to a treehouse in the dark was quite difficult! The view from the small balcony outside was beautiful and we made the effort to get up the next morning to watch the sunrise over the ocean. It was incredibly cheap as well, just $20 for the sort of place couples would go on their honeymoon. The resort had a private beach, amazing restaurant that served up wood fire oven pizzas delivered straight to your bungalow. Bliss!
There was a sweet, albeit a wild, child named Daniel who was always in the restaurant. He was 7 and from South Africa but his parents had moved to the island the year previous and ran the Mango bar next door to Coco's. It was quite sad really, his parents seemed somewhat selfish in their choice of lifestyle and as a result he had never learnt to read or write and wasn't attending school. From speaking to his mother, who I shall not comment on, I learned that his parents were not together and he had lived with his father from a young age. It seemed this man was not a fan of women and this showed in Daniel. He would fight everyone, particularly the girls and come out with some terrible insults. He latched onto me somewhat as I seemed to be one of the few who told him off and I got the impression he respected that. When calm he was lovely and I think perhaps his life lacks the discipline children need. Obviously something I learnt from my parents from day one!
We had such a fantastic time on Koh Rong and with it being in the final weeks of our trip we were so thrilled it was as perfect as we had hoped. I would definitely love to go back. There were a lot of locals that Nicola, the girl from the bar and I wanted to help. In particularly there were two children who had a severe skin condition that they looked as though they had been burnt, but we learned that they had been born that way. The family had been forced to move to the island after being outlasted from their village on the mainland, with other families thinking they were weird and constantly staring and jeering at the children. The family couldn't afford the surgery to heal their skin and I would love to try to raise some money for them. It's just so difficult knowing where to start and there are so many families in similar situations just in need of the money.
One of the saddest things is that Dan and I know we will not return to Koh Rong. The Chinese are ploughing money into the island and construction is already underway to build a road, airport and a huge golf resort for the Chinese tourists. It seems to have been the case for quite some time but evidently they keep running out of money and plans get put on hold. I hope they never complete, it will completely ruin the island as well a lot of lives of the local families living there.