So… In the South of Cambodia there lies the seaside town of Sihanoukville, or rather Serendipity beach which acts as the main backpacker dive and is quite unashamedly the Malia of Cambodia. On the other side you have Otres beach which I was assured by everyone is the more beautiful and chilled of the two (why I did not wish to visit there I don’t know?). Having never been on an 18-30s holiday I was keen to try it out like a new hat and hay I had already cried over a boy in an alleyway, I may as well get fingered in one too (Joke).
I rocked up from a bus around 9pm at night and in full backpacker swing I had not booked ahead. Unfortunately because of the upcoming Vietnamese new year it turns out… I really should have.
This resulted in me and a few stragglers doing the arduous ‘carrying backpack march’ to each and every hostel. It doesn’t take long before a skinny white guy in dreadlocks complete with ex poetry slam, loser-groupy girl kissing him in between giving us a rundown of his current DJ set and also trying to persuade us to spend the night in Sihanoukville’s cheapest and dirtiest dorm… UTOPIA.
At 2 Dollars a night at 10pm when I’m tired and hungry you’d think I really couldn’t complain, but unless you are a vegan on acid looking to debate over fracking with other pretentious fennel lovers on what I can only describe as a giant communal mattress on the floor, then it’s probably not for you, just as it wasn’t for me.
Any other night I would have perhaps been in the mood to join in this giant playpen of pink eye (probably not I’m just saying that to sound flexible), but the crumbs on the plastic liner and the crumpled bodies strewn around and the judgmental stares of its greasy occupants turned me off, much like pound lands dairy range.
In the end me and a random (mysterious but nice man from Israel with the air of a covert hitman about him, complete with ironed T-shirts, intense eyes and small black duffel) found a twin room – literally the only place available by that time. I would have taken the unease of sharing a small room with this complete stranger slash potential murderer in clean sheets over the communal thrush that was Utopia any day.
I really grew to love Sihanoukville, it had such a classless edge of danger to it, I stayed in a number of hostels there and by far my favourite was ‘The Led Zephyrs’ (four dollars for 6-8 fan dorms, secure lockers and friendly reception).
By day the beach is okay as long as you are playing dead. The club promoters will incessantly give you flyers and the Cambodian child sellers will touch you, beg you, sell to you relentlessly and quickly turn hostile when rejected.
At night the beach strip transforms to its true Malia / Magaluf self; fire dancers, shot girls and pub crawls usually always ending at JJ’s by the end of the night. A bar called Sessions (there’s always a reggae bar isn’t there) was the place to go for all those seeking more than alcohol. Anything from drugs to a passport or hit contract could be obtained from those crafty but well-mannered men! Every Thursday there is a jungle rave in which you have to take a small raft to a bamboo bridge, where there is a small camper van blaring out acid house – it really was amazing – I still have a scar on my knee from falling off the raft back to the mainland.
The Island of Koh Rong
Now the Island of Koh Rong is about an hour from Sihanoukville, first and most importantly make sure you take all your dollars out with you, for there is no ATM on the island. There is only the lost dreams and virginity’s of gap year students and the remnants of an intestinal virus which works its way around the island perpetually. (No seriously all are true).
Accommodation is not available for pre booking so make sure you arrive on the early ferry to walk the beach whining ‘is there any room at the inn?’. Oh and for gods sake head left when you get off the ferry not right, I went right and nearly fell off the arsecrack of the island. There is much construction and re builds going on as a result of a fire that devastatingly spread across the beach side last year due to reckless travellers. This story is still recalled by many an islander.
I stayed at the wonderfully rustic Bongs hostel, 5 Dollars and a fan that sprung into action seemingly by the power of prayer alone (electricity is as much a problem as plumbing). Bongs staff were absolutely amazing and helped me a lot when I fell victim to the notorious and merciless ‘island bug’. They also had great dogs hanging around and a decent menu. On the topic of food, Koh Rong doesn’t host many budget and trustworthy (island bug-free) meals, however the fresh fruit shakes are costless, delicious and healthy. There was also a small fresh Thai food stall down an alleyway near the pier cooked by a man whose name I think was Ziggy. I liken this man to most janitor characters in kids films, in that he would only appear to be open at odd times of need.
I loved my time on koh rong, I began my love affair with snorkelling and it was here I started conquering my fear of open water.
The island trips are a must, particularly swimming with the luminous plankton at night, which is quite honestly one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had and the closest to avatar’s Pandora you could get.
There is also the trek to long beach, which aside from the beaches in the Philippines is one of the most beautiful stretch of beach I have ever been on.
At night Koh Rong transforms into what I can only imagine Koh Pha-Ngan used to be ten years ago (before the 16-year-old white westerners commandeered it). It has a maturer hippy chilled, crazy vibe to it and there is a good mix of ages and of live music, house and jungle raves available.
Must visit bars that double up as hostels too: Island Boys, Vagabonds and Mango’s
The Hot Crepe Guy
Okay so during my time on Koh Rong I and anyone else with eyes could not help noticing one of gods delicious creatures AKA- the hot crepe guy – who was and did exactly what it says on the tin… He was ridiculously hot (half Moroccan and half french) and he made crepes on the island. (Of course he did – the dreamboat). As a being of insecurity naturally I averted my eyes and awkwardly shuffled past him watching queues of beautiful ladies lining up to talk to him everyday for the six days I was there.
Well, on my last night I attended a rave at the Skybar (this bar quite literally is around 1million steps up into the sky and many a raver has been forced to sleep halfway down. In fact my friend recently told me she took some rather potent drugs and had to stay up there for two days. A lesson to us all – ‘Take snacks not drugs’ or snacks and drugs if you really must.
Anyway this bar was awesome, with a hippy-ish Ibiza feel to it complete with people perilously dancing on the rafters of the ceiling like an angel dust cliché whilst beautiful long-haired men converse deeply with beautifully pierced and tattooed short-haired girls.
It was this night that I chose to attempt to smoke a bit of weed (now I don’t really like weed and frankly it gives me indigestion) but tonight was my last night and damn it I would be a rock star. Except I soon remembered why it was I didn’t smoke weed, particularly after consuming alcohol. It is at this dry mouthed pallid point of the night when I’m staring into nothing when I notice the hot crepe guy looking my way. I did what any rock-star would do, I sleepily nodded to him and continued swaying my long arms to music.
Whilst I’m thinking to myself how do I escape the foggy walls that are enclosing me, I feel a tap on my arm and its hot crepe guy. ‘You not going to say ‘ello to me properly?’ he asks in a sexy french coy voice. Even though there is some significant awareness in my mind that this beautiful human has chosen to talk to me, either the weed has taken all common sense away or its my awkward insecure nature but I think he wants to be friends and I’m tired, tired from the steps and from resisting the impending weed hole. Perhaps my neurotic eyes are giving me away, as he soon asks if I want a drink and the only words I utter blankly and repeat in no real context of a sentence are; ‘Orange juice. Orange juice. I need orange juice’. (I’d heard somewhere orange juice is the PG drug takers elixir of life).
It’s an hour or five later and I’m sipping my orange juice sat on the pavement outside talking to hot crepe guy. I remember seeing friends walk past and giving me a huge thumbs up which I would brush off awkwardly. I had also thankfully found my way out of the hole and I am pretty certain he had no clue as to the mental and indigestion-induced trauma which I had undergone. By this time I’m very tired and thinking of all the steps back down to bed. I turn and tell him ‘I’m tired and I want to go to bed now, goodbye’ but that it was nice talking to him. He just stares at me and asks in that sexy soft voice, ‘it iz your last night on ze island and you do not want to sleep in a private room instead of a crowded dorm?’.
Oh bless him. ‘Wait, what ? You would actually want to swap rooms with me?’ I say – still oblivious to the fact that this olive skin and perfect smiling hippie, crepe-making-man may be flirting with me.
‘No I want to ‘ave ze pleasure of your company and to pleasure you’.
I didn’t even notice the steps down.