Teresa and I had been “trekking” for quite a while now, and a serious temporal dent had been made in our trip. That is, at this point, we’d been gone from home for almost 2 months and it really started to hit us that this trip would, at some gloomy point, come to an end. *Note* I’m adding this after having finished the article to mention that I just realized that at this point in writing, it’s been exactly 2 months since I uploaded my first post. It’s taking me just as long to keep up with logging my memories of this trip as the trip itself lasted.**
I remember the first week in Thailand, we’d visited Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, and had to stop back in Bangkok overnight before taking a train up north to Chiang Mai. That last night in Bangkok was the 1 week point and it had already felt like we’d been in Asia forever, like we were really living there.
But such as life is, time flies by faster and faster, compounding on itself exponentially within the confines of human perception. It didn’t stop us, though, from maintaining that mentality that we were not just visiting, but truly living, despite the fact that we knew that it would be over before we knew it.
It had been a very physical trip up until we parted with Angkor Wat. We needed some downtime and were privileged to have the opportunity to get it in Cambodia’s southern region. Sihanoukville was a relaxed, laidback town on the Gulf of Thailand. Essentially, it was a little paradise for us and had everything a vacation needed to please for a good 8 days. It was very welcome and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
We passed through Phnom Penh for a couple of days before making our way down, crashing at the White River again and pushing the city limits further than ever in the dead of night. It’s a place I won’t forget anytime soon. The end of our approach to Sihanoukville was a descent through some low hills and a spanning ocean view before we were dropped off at an outlying bus station. A tuk-tuk brought us to a stretch along the water with accommodations and restaurants. We had no problem finding a place to stay, for a slightly inflated price than we’d normally dish out without an actual improvement in quality.
Occheuteal Beach is probably the most populated area, and, compared to a couple of resorts I’ve been to, isn’t nearly as crowded. However, compared to what we were looking for, it was still a bit invasive in terms of how many merchants approached us on a regular basis. Every 5-10 minutes, someone would be trying to sell us a variety of items from small lobsters, to woven bracelets, to services involving ladies telling me I’m too hairy and need my shoulders threaded.
The beach itself wasn’t too bad, the water was amazing. It was a bit dirty, though, but only to the point where we needed to be mindful of where we ventured out to. We came here the first couple of days but eventually decided to look for something different. Otres was the answer.
We found a guy to drive us there on his motorcycle; for some reason, we couldn’t seem to find a place that rented them out to tourists. We were okay with it though, it would’ve amounted to the same thing and we weren’t planning on venturing out anywhere. This was chill time.
Otres is a few kilometers east, and while people certainly know about it, it’s far less populated and thus much cleaner. Yeah, people still came up to us from time to time with the same lines as before, but it was few and far between and it didn’t take away from the experience. If anything it was part of the experience, just not one we wanted to be a part of over and over all day long.
We got to relax, I got to even out the brutal beater tan that started in Kanchanaburi and never looked back. The evenings by the sea made for a cooler temperature and a very tranquil vibe after the ease of the day. We found a few restaurants that barbecued or fried up a variety of freshly caught local fish. There was nothing like it.
Next door to one of these venues was the Sihanoukville branch of The Happy Herb Pizza. The herbs were happy indeed. Offered while the order is being taken, and amazingly free of charge, the cooks would sprinkle ample amounts of the magic pizza topping all over. Spliffs pulled out from behind the bar were a single American dollar, and they were bloated if nothing else. It made for an even more relaxed time on the beaches where, if you aren’t bothering anybody, nobody’s bothering you. Not even by the Deputy Governor of Sihanoukville province who runs the city. According to the guys who worked behind the bar at the Happy Herb, that massive colonial-style palace about 200 meters down the street is his home.
Every day was fairly similar while we stayed here, and we were cool with that. We stayed a total of 8 days, our last real stop in Cambodia before moving on to southern Vietnam. We actually had to get our visas for Vietnam ahead of time, all arranged by our guesthouse.
The trip to Saigon was our first overnight bus, and awkward setup where strangers would sometimes be stuck sleeping right next to each other, regardless of gender. We saw people who’d never met before, arguing about how much space the other was taking up. Luckily, my lady and I could cozy up and after some adjustment, it was comfortable enough.
We got kicked off of our bus at 2 in the morning in Phnom Penh, after we’d been asleep for an hour or two. They made us switch and we were off again to the Vietnam’s border, one that had more of a stern, militaristic feel compared to the mostly casual way we’d been dealt with at these venues so far. It really was a preliminary insight as to the cognizance of security in this country that I can call nothing but spectacular.
And even though I know it’s not really a fair fight, Vietnam still ranks as high on my list as a place to visit could possibly be.