Our journey around Cambodia was a bit messy as we were making it up on the hoof, and so our next stop, Koh Kong, took us all the way down to the Southern coast. We booked a VIP direct overnight bus from Siem Reap, which we were told would take 12 hours, not too bad. After setting off after midnight, already late, we managed to fold ourselves up into the Cambodian sized sleeping chairs for some sleep. This was harder for Paul, mainly because he was in the aisle seat and was worried he’d fall off the bed at any turn, eek.
At around 8am Paul woke me up to say that the bus had stopped and people were getting off. ‘I don’t care, I’m going back to sleep’ was my grumpy reply. If only. Turns out, they were turfing everyone’s luggage off, and next up it was me. Our ‘direct bus’ actually ended in Phnom Penh, where we were told that in 30 minutes our next ‘direct’ bus to Koh Kong would arrive. It didn’t, and soon enough we were put on a Tuk Tuk and driven to a local station. We were beginning to doubt the existence of this phantom direct bus, and were proved right when the man came back with 2 tickets and said ‘the bus leaves at 10.45’. Two hours wait! I was having none of it – after travelling for as long as we have, you start to get a sense for when you’re getting taken advantage of – so I argued back. After a quick phone call, another bus was located for us. Back on the Tuk Tuk, we were ferried to another station where we were put on the 8.45 bus, it felt like a victory! After driving around the city for approximately 2 hours, seemingly picking up at every and any street corner, we finally left the city. Deep breath required, not so victorious anymore, this was clearly a very local and not VIP bus. Argh.
Koh Kong is a relatively small seaside town on the edge of the border with Thailand. We came for Koh Kong Island, an island 3 hours from the coast which we had read was as beautiful as the Thai Islands, but undeveloped. It definitely was that. Our little boat was the only one there, and with the exception of some stray dogs, there was no one else about. We were provided with snorkel sets which we tried out, but with nothing but sand to look at, we quickly gave up and relaxed on the beach. Lunch was a brilliant fresh barbeque cooked by our guides; three whole fish, with heads, were presented on the table. Not something I’d usually order, but great to try. Our trip back was broken up by a visit to a mangrove farm, after which we were dropped off back at the port. A very nice, chilled out day – definitely needed after the stress of the bus journey down.
Hearing that we were heading to Thailand the next day, the owner of the tour company sat down and went through all of the transport options, outlining the fair prices we should pay. Great! We thought, this’ll make life easier tomorrow. Not so. The journey to Koh Chang (a Thai Island and our next destination) was made up of a Tuk Tuk – mini van – pick-up truck/taxi – ferry – pick-up truck/taxi. It started off well, with the first two matching our expected prices. However, when sitting at Trin Station, the price quoted for our next leg was nearly double what we’d been advised. Thinking he was playing the negotiating game, we refused. He drove off. Hmm, we had a ferry to catch, and now no way of getting there. After stubbornly sitting there for 30 mins, we relented and paid what we believed to be an inflated price. The taxi dropped us off at a shop where we were directed to buy ferry tickets, the price offered again was far higher. Determined not to be ripped off twice, we tried to negotiate, and failed. Last resort, we decided to walk to the pier and buy the tickets direct, thinking we’d avoid the middle man fee. Lugging our massive bags in the midday Thai heat, we preceded to walk up to and along the entirely wrong pier, only to have to walk back with our tails between our legs and buy the tickets at the original price. But only one way! (convinced we were still getting ripped off, actually we weren’t).
A little ragged and tired, we eventually made it onto the ferry and decided to treat ourselves to a beer. Taking in the views, we started to relax, our destination in sight. Arriving on Koh Chang, there was a collection of taxis waiting. We then realised we didn’t have enough to pay the fare. We tried negotiating, but it seemed that Thais don’t negotiate, they don’t need to. For the second time that day, we watched our only form of transport drive off without us. The port was absolutely deserted, no cash machines, hardly any people. Oh dear, we shouldn’t have got that beer. Fortunately, after sitting around feeling a bit sorry for ourselves for 15 minutes, I met a lovely taxi driver who took us to another, busier, port for free, where another kind traveller agreed to lend us the money needed. After what felt like the longest journey, we finally made it to our final destination, Lonely Beach. What a day!