By the time we had finished exploring Phnom Penh, Alan and I were both in agreement that Cambodia isn’t the most tourist friendly country and it was probably a good idea to cut our time short and head to Vietnam early. I won’t go into all the reasons behind this decision as they are too plentiful, suffice to say that we were fed up with being treated as human ATM’s everywhere we went. From corrupt officials such as the border guards and the police, to tuk-tuk drivers trying to kidnap your bag off the minibus to force you to go with them, to people constantly trying to sell you stuff every few metres/minutes, to mothers who had their babies with them to make you feel sorry for them when they went begging (we got told by someone locally the babies had been sedated). The list sadly goes on for longer… It was too much like hard work going anywhere or doing anything. This was coupled with us feeling less safe than we had in any other country so far after seeing a bag snatching and encountering other tourists who had been victims of crime. We didn’t feel good so it was time to leave.
We headed to Otres beach in Sihanoukville for a few days relaxing by the beach while we applied for our Vietnamese visa. We had heard it was cheaper and easier to do it here than anywhere else and we are pleased to report it was ridiculously simple and we got our visa back the next day with no problems at all.
Then we headed towards the border using the crossing near Ha Tien in Vietnam. We had one of the worst travel experiences yet when the rogue company we used, Kampot Tour & Travel, oversold the bus. We were made to get out in Kampot into a tiny overflow Jeep which was fine with us. Until we realised that Alan couldn’t sit up straight because the roof was too low. Then they tried to stuff more people in than the Jeep was designed to fit… As I was the “smallest” (for readers who don’t know me, I am not especially small, probably a UK size 12 and about 165cm tall) I got the short straw of no seat. Instead I ended up perched with one buttock on the seat edge and the other buttock with the door handle painfully wedged into it after the delightful man from Kampot Tour and Travel slammed the door shut onto it. I was bashed against the door frame the whole way to the border resulting in lots of bruises. Let’s just say I wasn’t a happy bunny by the time we got there. This was symptomatic of how we were treated time and again in Cambodia by people all too happy to take our money but caring not about what they delivered in return. It reaffirmed our decision that we didn’t want to be there any longer.
Thankfully the moment we crossed over the border things improved instantly and dramatically. The minibus we got on there wasn’t even full so we had a seat each plus space. Then the boat to Phou Quoc was so well organised that not only did we get a seat, but a numbered one! We haven’t seen such orderliness since China! After that the minibuses waiting at the pier in Phou Quoc didn’t try to rip us off to transfer us to the other side of the island, they had a flat fee of $3 per person which was reasonable considering the distance.
Our first day in Phou Quoc was dedicated to exploring the island by moped. We headed north to explore the forested area, stopping at a seafood restaurant next to a fishing port on the north-west side of the island. As neither of us eats seafood we opted for a vegetable fried rice each, shockingly unadventurous, I know. The view though was sublime. We were also treated to some Vietnamese singing to accompany our meal, although it wasn’t to my taste musically I enjoyed listening to it and soaking in the atmosphere. I was feeling much more relaxed than I had felt in weeks.
After lunch we jumped back on the moped and meandered along a dirt road for ages before turning off onto an even smaller dirt road with a few “interesting” obstacles until we ended up on our own deserted tropical beach. We had the place to ourselves! This was just what the doctor ordered. On the way back through the forest we were treated to the sight of wild monkeys on the track ahead of us who then scattered into the trees on our approach.
The next day we lazed by the beach. We were staying on the south end of Long Beach which still has plenty of public beach space left. We had heard that further north towards town lots of hotels had privatised the beach outside their property so we were glad to have picked quite by chance a bit that still hasn’t fallen victim to this. The first couple of hours I entertained myself by watching from the comfort of my sunbed the fishermen pull in their haul to the shore using manual pulleys and one massive net. Then I was able to read my book in peace for the rest of the day without being hassled every few minutes for sunglasses/massage/boat trip/bracelet/fruit as we had been in Sihanoukville. In fact, we weren’t asked once by any touts to buy anything. This was bliss!
Day three shall now be known as “Splat day.” After the success of our moped trip on day one we hired a bike again to go and explore the waterfalls in the middle of the island. Anyway, after managing ok on dirt tracks with no problems, I managed to splat myself on the Tarmac of the main road when I was doing a u-turn to go back to a turning we had missed. Fortunately Alan wasn’t on the back, he was safely walking back to the missed junction to wait for me there. And fortunately I was barely going at any speed at all when the sand on the Tarmac made my front wheel slip and the bike fell onto the ground. And even more fortunately due to my slow speed the bike wasn’t damaged at all because that could have been costly. Unfortunately I was trapped beneath the bike. I wasn’t there for too long though, a nice local came along and rescued me by lifting the bike off of me (Alan still oblivious to events occurring behind him as he continued to walk to the junction). Then my knee and my lower leg started to bleed. By this point Alan had reached the junction and was obviously wondering where I had got. He then spotted me at the side of the road with some random local man so he headed back to find out what was occurring. We washed my wounds with the drinking water we had and then headed to the nearest pharmacy to get me patched up. The man in the pharmacy was so nice and helpful, even coming outside to give advice on how to use the iodine.
Once patched up we went back towards that fateful missed junction to explore the waterfalls. And here they are, as you can see they were amazing and well worth my injuries:
Then we headed over to the east side of the island for another lunch with a view.
Our third wedding anniversary fell during our time on the island post splat day. I was a bit of a manky mess with weeping wounds that were taking their time to seal over properly so it was down to Alan to enjoy the swimming pool in our fancy resort bungalow we had upgraded ourselves to for the occasion. The beach was out-of-bounds as I really didn’t want sand sticking in my wounds which was a shame.
After 6 restful days on the island it was time to tear, or in my case limp, ourselves off the island to go and explore the Mekong Delta on the mainland.