Arrived here on Sunday 26th November after an 11 hour bus journey from Siem Reap via Phnom Penh where we had to change buses. The bus from Siem Reap was late so we had to make a mad dash by tuk tuk to the other bus station if we were to catch our connection, the last bus for that day. The tuk tuk driver was great and sped off determined to help us get our bus, and went so fast round corners that one of our rucksacks went flying off. The motos following behind did a sterling job of avoiding it so luckily we managed to get it back intact and with no damage done.
It was dark when we finally got to Sihanoukville and we had to fork out $6 for a taxi to the guest house we'd booked. There are no tuk tuks here because it's a bit hilly and this is a standard fare. Obviously a cartel going on here - it cost us more than our bus fare from Phnom Penh! The motos (motorbikes) are much cheaper, only $1 for a journey, and you often see 4 or 5 people riding pillion. Even we had occasion to get on the same bike, with Eric sandwiched between Margaret and the driver.
Our hotel turned out to be pretty isolated and well away from the town, restaurants and bars, so after checking in we hopped on a couple of motos to head off to explore the town. Although it’s very spread out, there’s not really very much to the town itself, apart from its setting on the coast, so we got our motos to take us to Ochheuteal, one of the main beaches with lots of places to eat right on the beach, and plenty of accommodation nearby. It was so lovely sitting on the beach having a beer and a bite to eat that we decided that that’s where we wanted to stay (not to mention the added benefit of not having to fork out $6-10 every time we wanted to go anywhere!). On the friendly barman’s recommendation we booked the next 3 nights in a place about 100 meters back from the beach and checked out and in the next morning. Good decision to stay at the Seaside Hotel. We enjoyed three days lazing on the beach and eating wonderful fresh seafood – the Green Leaf’s pepper crab (fresh green peppercorns not the green peppers we all know) and coconut curry vegetable ‘soup’ were absolutely delicious!
The highlight ,though, was a boat trip down the river through Ream National Park and down to the coast a few miles from Sihanoukville. Lots of excellent bird life, including sea eagles, egrets, kingfisher, and fishermen standing up to their chests in water fishing for oysters and clams. We were dropped off on a deserted beach, pure white sands looking like something out of Desert Island Discs, for an hour before hiking through the jungle to another beach where lunch awaited. On the way we passed through a small village where, surprise, surprise, the childern were on their school playtime break. Martin and Sylvia (from Zurich - again!), two of our companions on the trip were keen to do something to help the school, similar to what we did for the one outside Siem Reap. We'd be interested to hear if they did manage to get books etc to the school, so Martin/Sylvia, if you read this do let us know.
We were sorry to be leaving this idyllic place where we enjoyed massages (Margaret finally having one despite claiming 'I don't like "massadgies"' - sounding more Scottish than she has done for years!) and various other beauty treatments on the beach. It was like the Greek islands of 30 or 40 years ago. In a few years we're sure it will become very commercialised and we're glad to have seen it now before the hoards of tourists descend on it. But too bad, it was back on the bus to Phnom Penh and sadly our last couple of days in Cambodia.