Monthly Archives: March 2013

Nha Trang, Hoi An and more travel time in Vietnam

 

I haven’t written an entry in a few days basically because there wasnt much to say. After Mui Ne we moved onto Nha Trang, where we basically did nothing for two days. We really weren’t a fan of Nha Trang and both wish, in retrospect, that we’d moved on faster than we did. Jess managed to haggle down to a decent price at a good hotel with two double beds in the room (luxury when at most places we share one) but unfortunately we realised afterwards that it wasnt in the best area. We really struggled to find places to eat and the majority of people there were either locals or rude, upper class tourists. The food was limited and expensive and really started to a no is in our time there. We were however, near a decent beach, where we spent both days lying around and reading our books.

One thing I love about Vietnam, especially in comparison to Cambodia, is it’s greenery and mountains. The landscapes are beautiful and Nha trang beach even occasionally reminded me of similar ones I’d seen in New Zealand. It was no otres beach (way too touristy) but it was surrounded by mountains which made it kindve unique. However, after two days of eating bad food, paying expensive prices for sun loungers and not really doing much else we were bored and well ready to move on.

Dream Beach at Nha Trang

Dream Beach at Nha Trang

Unfortunately for me this meant another overnight bus. Now if I was your average traveller I would love these buses. They’re relatively comfortable compared to other buses, they save you a nights accommodation and you can sleep for most of the journey. But for a light sleeper like me, and someone who’s suffered with insomnia in the past, I do not enjoy these journeys one little bit. This one was made particularly uncomfortable by the fact I needed a wee about five minutes into the journey.

I was happy when we stopped somewhere to pick people up and the driver let me get off to go to the toilet. I was less happy to discover that it wasnt a toilet so much as a shed with a drain. I could have dealt with this if it wasnt so dark I manage to mistake an extremely deep, water and piss filled hole for a puddle, accidentally putting my entire leg in it. The water came up to my thigh and I had no way of changing since my backpack was buried deep in the storage under the bus. Yes, I was going to have to sit on the bus for 12 hours in a pair of trousers that smelled like dirty water and piss. I had to laugh.

That was until I realised I needed another wee about 30 minutes later (I’d stupidly drank loads of water all day thinking it would be fine if I stopped an hour before the bus). 5 hours later and I was in so much pain I could barely think straight! I debated for about an hour why the bus hadnt stopped yet and how the bus driver could no need to go. Eventually, on the verge of tears, I got up and pleaded with the driver to stop. Thankfully he did and about 90% of the bus got off. Looks like I wasn’t the only one in pain!

I’ve realised that when I’m travelling I have loads of ‘I’m so lucky to be here’ moments but probably about half as many ‘I don’t want to do this any more’ moments too. When people imagine how amazing it would be to travel i think they rarely consider that its not always perfect. Of course the good times by far outweigh the bad and 90% of the time i feel fine. But Lying on that seat in pain, tired and wanting so badly to attempt sleep, I wondered why the hell I’d decided to travel in the first place. I then lay there, desperately trying to sleep and failing, for about 8 more hours. By the time we reached Hoi An I just wanted to go back to the UK and go to bed.

As always when you’re exhausted and your bus pulls into a new place, we were bombarded with offers of taxis, hotels, fruit etc. We usually know to ignore all these people but it’s not so easy when you can barely see straight. The bus driver told us the company had a free shuttle bus to the centre, so we jumped straight into one, lead by a woman claiming she was a representative. It was only when we realised we were the only ones taking them up on the offer that they were actually taking us to their hotel – in the middle of nowhere.

We got dropped off at the hotel and told them we weren’t staying there. We had seen pictures of the river front in hoi an and wanted to stay there. We started walking (in the heat with our heavy backpacks) down a deserted dirt track to what we thought we the city centre 10 minutes away. We soon realised we were just walking further and further from civilisation. There were no taxis around. That’s typical in south east Asia. It drives you crazy being asked if you want a moped/taxi/tuk tuk constantly and then when you actually need one they’re not there. We sat at the side of the road with no idea what to do next until eventually we were rescued by a moped driver. He told us we were going the wrong way and him and his friend would take us to the centre (surprisingly they could fit our backpacks on the tiny moped too). We weren’t surprised when they quoted us about 10 times the price we knew it should be.

Now I am useless in these situations. I’m useless at haggling, I’m a bit of a pushover and to be honest most of the time I just can’t be bothered when at the back of my mind I know it’s the difference of about £1. Plus I was so exhausted I probably would have paid 30 times the amount to be able to lie down. Jess however, is great. She wasnt having any of it, even when they tried to take us to several hotels who were charging us slightly extra. Eventually we found a hotel on the river front and Jess got the price down, as always. We basically got their worst room with no air con but when they said the words ‘you can check in now’ (It was about 9am) I was totally sold. One thing you have to know when you go to south east Asia, sadly, is that most of the locals will do anything to get more money out of you. I hate it as sometimes they may be genuine, but you just can’t trust a word they say. A lot of them have no problem screwing you over for an extra couple of quid and you have to be alert to that, even when you’ve just stumbled off a bus and haven’t had a minutes sleep.

Thankfully, when we finally got to the right place it looked like this. I knew instantly that I was going to love it and I was right. It was my favourite place in Vietnam so far.
Hoi An

Hoi An

Pretty riverside buildings

Pretty riverside buildings

The first thing I did, however, was lie down for a few hours. Sometimes you just have to prioritise sleep and rest over exploring and I knew this was one of those times so I left Jess to it and lay under our tiny fan for a few hours. After that it was time to explore.

The last few places we had visited hadn’t impressed us much. We had loved the sand dunes in Mui Ne but didn’t think much of the resort itself, and we both weren’t keen on Nha trang. To me they were just soulless tourist spots with no heart and nothing quirky or inviting about them. Hoi an on the other hand, is an ancient town and a world heritage site. It was full of personality and was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for out of Vietnam. The central point of the town is the Japanese bridge which looks so pretty at night, and the beautiful buildings that reflect in the river. I felt like I was seeing something I hadn’t seen before in south east Asia.

Japanese bridge

Japanese bridge

The streets are also lined with lanterns which make it even prettier at night. Most of the shops are tailors full of pretty dresses – it was actually so hard not to buy one! I had to resist the urge to buy a custom made dress in favour of more space in my backpack but it was so tempting. Dressing up is one thing I miss while Im being a backpacker!

Hoi An streets

Hoi An streets

Pretty lanterns

Pretty lanterns

Hoi An by night

Hoi An by night

Considering beer here cost the equivalent of 14p, we decided this might be a good place for a night out. We did however, make the mistake of starting at around 6pm – way too early! we found what looked like the place with the best music and sat there, waiting for the dance floor to fill up. Hoi An was one of the best places I’ve been to meet people and we got talking to a couple of people while we were sat there, including a guy we’d met in the chemist earlier (I love how you meet people in such random places when you’re travelling!). We eventually left the club at around 1am and were gutted to find everywhere closed which meant no chance of finding water or that post night out pizza! It was fun but when they started playing 100 Oasis songs in a row we knew it was time to leave. I mean, I love Oasis, but there are other bands!! I blame the group of pissed up Brits.

We woke up in the morning feeling pretty ill. It was a firm reminder of why I’m not drinking much out here – all I wanted to do was lie around and do nothing. I felt ill all day and couldn’t appreciate anything I was seeing, except maybe this sunset.

Sunset

Sunset

We did manage to have a pretty romantic meal on a rooftop bar looking over the river but I felt too sick to enjoy the food. I even still felt ill the next day. This is why, although it means we’re acting about 80, I would rather give up nights out in favour of sleep most of the time. I don’t want to be out here, somewhere amazing, feeling tired and ill every day and just wishing I was in bed. It’s not what I came here for. We had one more morning in Hoi An where again all we did was have a wander and look in the little shops. I was sad to leave but happy that this time we only had a 5 hour, day time journey to reach our next stop – Hue.

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Enjoying some down time in Mui Ne

Since Jess and I arrived in Vietnam, it had been all go. We took an overnight bus from Sihanoukville on the Tuesday, arrived at 12am the next day in Ho Chi Minh, spent the afternoon exploring and going to a sky bar then got up at 6am for a full day trip before getting on another overnight bus at 8pm the same day. We arrived in Mui Ne at 1am, absolutely exhausted. Although we’re both keen to see as much as we can in a short amount of time on our trip, we weren’t willing to kill ourselves in order to do it.

I had found that on the day trip to the Mekong I was so tired I found it difficult to appreciate what I was seeing. It was hot, I didn’t feel good and all I wanted to do was go and lie down. This is why sometimes you have to accept that not every day needs to be spent exploring – sometimes you need a break. We found the perfect place to do this in Mui Ne. After a short wander around we ended up back at our pretty decent, large hotel room taking advantage of the cable TV movie channels.

If I said to people that I went travelling and spent a day indoors watching films, they would no doubt be shocked and tell me I wasn’t making the most of things. What those people don’t realise is that when you’re travelling, sitting in bed for the day watching TV becomes a novelty that you actually miss at times. If you move around all day every day, spending hours in the sun, not only do you start to feel ill but you stop taking new things in and appreciating them for what they are. Sometimes chilling out and doing nothing for a day can be as valuable an experience as any of the amazing day trips we’ve done. You need to find the right balance. Thankfully, Jess and I were on the same page and decided to stay in Mui Ne an extra day, do the day trip to the sand dunes the day after and get the bus the day after that – leaving us with a full day of doing absolutely nothing.

So I spent a few hours indoors, soaking up the air con (Mui Ne is also one of the hottest places I’ve ever been, I guess due to being surrounded by sand dunes), catching up on online admin and watching a few films. You could say it was pretty similar to a lazy day at home. That was until I stepped outside the hotel, walked a few metres to the beach and witnessed one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Sunset in Mui Ne

Sunset in Mui Ne

This was another swift reminder of how lucky I am to be here. You can have an average day and then within 5 minutes it can totally turn around when you have an experience like that.

We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and happy we’d taken the time out, ready to go on our day trip to different coloured sand dunes. This was pretty much the only reason we came to Mui Ne and it was totally worth it.

Red and white rocks

Red and white rocks

First we walked along the river and witnessed beautiful white and orange rocks and sand. We also walked past an ostrich riding centre and were totally annoyed at ourselves afterwards for not giving it a go!

Beautiful colours in the sand dunes

Beautiful colours in the sand dunes

After that we saw the white sand dunes – an epic mass of sand which was surrounded by beautiful lakes.

white sand dunes

white sand dunes

beautiful lakes

Lake

We also witnessed some lovely landscapes on the way there in the jeep, including a fishing village. I was quickly realising how different Vietnam looks to Cambodia. It’s so much greener and full of mountains. In comparison Cambodia is very flat and there’s barely any greenery. I loved it.

fishing village

fishing village

While we were there we found some monkeys chained to the side of a restaurant. That always makes me really sad. I don’t understand how other cultures have such little respect for animals. One of them had a party trick – doing backflips. To which he earned himself a load of crackers and water. He then proceeded to grab Jess’ arm and pull it (I think he may have been trying to hump it) much to my amusement before he bit her. Luckily it didn’t break skin but we learnt our lesson about going to close to cheeky monkeys!

monkey flip

monkey flip

We ended the day at the orange sand dunes, which was where we witnessed a pretty disappointing sunset compared to the day before. By the end of these dunes I was absolutely exhausted – climbing sand dunes uses some serious leg power!

orange sand dunes

orange sand dunes

We were happy we visited Mui Ne although it wasn’t exactly what we had expected. We were hoping for another Sihanoukville (something I fear I will never find again!) but we found quite a high class resort full of expensive restaurants which was quite built up. It seemed to be a place where families and locals went on vacation. The beach was pretty, but it had nothing on Sihanoukville. I think that place may have ruined beaches for me forever – nowhere will ever compare. It did however, have dark blue water and pale sandy shores which were beautiful nonetheless.

I’d recommend a visit if you’re ever in Vietnam – purely for the sand dunes. I will warn you though, if you’re riding in a jeep then your hair will end up looking like this:

Jeep chic

Jeep chic

We left Mui Ne not quite believing the contrast of things we’d managed to see in 2 weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever fit so much into such a short amount of time before – so far we’re both pretty happy with the pace we’re travelling at and we hope it stays the same. I have 3 weeks left with Jess and who knows what other amazing things we can fit in in that amount of time!

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Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong River

Although we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached our back alley hotel in Ho Chi Minh, we were determined to do a bit of exploring with what we knew would be a short amount of time there. I was exhausted (due to my problem with being able to sleep overnight transport), I missed the serenity I had found in Sihanoukville and I just generally wasnt in the best mood. It definitely wasnt the right time for me to be experiencing the chaos of Ho Chi Minh and I don’t think we could have possibly found a bigger contrast to Sihanoukville.

Alley way where our hotel was

Alley way where our hotel was

I couldn’t believe that before now I had considered khao San road chaotic – it has absolutely nothing on Ho Chi Minh! I have never seen so many mopeds in my life (and that’s saying something after experiencing the roads in Phnom Penh) and I’ve never felt more scared crossing a road. You would literally have to weave your way through hundreds of mopeds to get to the other side – you’d step out into the road and just hope they would stop for you. The crossings on the road mean noting and we soon discovered the side of the road doesn’t either – you’d get them coming at you from all directions. At one stage Jess had reached the other side and I got stuck in the middle. I was surrounded and all I could do was close my eyes, scream and hope that the bikes would swerve around me! You weren’t even safe in the narrow alleyways where our hotel was – they would come down there too. They would also sometimes come into the pavement, and they did all this while beeping their horns at you continuously. I did not like fearing for my life everywhere I stepped one little bit! By this point I had decided I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and that I strongly disliked it.

Ho Chi Minh road

Ho Chi Minh road

However, it did manage to win me over a bit when we found a hotel bar (the Sheraton) with views like this.

view from the Sheraton Hotel

view from the Sheraton Hotel

It cost us $10 for a drink but was so worth it. We had to laugh when they asked us if we wanted to charge the drinks to the (extremely posh and expensive) room! He must have been having a laugh! Alongside this view, I also enjoyed walking though the wealthier areas of Ho Chi Minh which were full of coloured lights and not as chaotic as the other areas we d been. I’m glad we discovered that side of town as it gave me a new perspective on a city I had previously decided I hated.

I did however, have to face one of my fears to reach that hotel. After around 20 minutes of walking aimlessly around and trying to follow google maps (fat lot of good that app did me) we admitted defeat. Unfortunately they don’t have tuk tuks in Ho Chi Minh and only have taxis or mopeds. Since taxis are a lot more expensive, and Jess and I are on a budget, it only left us with one option. I’ve never been on a moped before and I can’t say I was too happy about it, especially given the crazy traffic, but I got over my fear for long enough to get to the other side of town. I did however, grab Jess’ sides like my life depended on it, even though she explained she wasn’t even holding onto anything so there was no point! Although the driver didnt speak any English I’m pretty sure the look of panic on my face would be universally recognised and as a result he drove extremely slowly and kept to the side if the road, which suited me fine. So far I haven’t gotten over many fears on this trip and it’s something I want to do more of, even if I had to start with a 5mph moped ride.

Stupid amount of mopeds at a rare stand still

Stupid amount of mopeds at a rare stand still

Anyway that night we grabbed some cheap street food (we were excited to find baguette and pate for about 70p) and had an early night as we had to be up at 6am for another day trip.

The day trip was to the Mekong River, something that Jess was really keen on and I was happy to go along with. Basically it consisted with a few rides up the river on boats of varying sizes, the most interesting being small rowing boats. Unfortunately I was still feeling so tired and was a little ill and so I don’t feel like I really appreciated the day as much as I could have. Sometimes when you’re travelling you feel guilty if you’re not moving around and seeing things 24/7, but there comes a point where you know if you don’t slow down you’ll stop enjoying it, so that’s exactly what we did at our next stop.

River crossing boats

River crossing boats

Rowing boats

Rowing boats

But anyway, the Mekong tour was pretty good and it was interesting to see the house boats and small shacks at the side of the river, watching the way the locals lived.

river house

river house

We had a Vietnam guide who spoke very good English and had a good sense of humour. So much so that when we got to a bee farm and Jess decided to hold the honey plaque full of them he left her holding it for about 10 minutes – I wasn’t going to go anywhere near a load of bees so I found it quite funny!

bees

bees

After the bees we had an opportunity to hold a python. I had done I before but wasnt going to turn down a chance again. Jess and I took it as an opportunity to get a joint picture holding the head and tail (we re getting a bit fed up if pictures of one of us on our own). I wasn’t too scared but it surprised me to see a German family letting their 8 year old hold it and not bat an eyelid when it seemed to be tightening around his neck!

Python holding

Python holding

After the bees and python we were able to taste some of the honey (which was amazing) and a selection of local fruits, some of which I still have no idea what they were but they tasted okay. At one point we were both feeling very dehydrated and desperately went off in search of water. We didnt find any but what we did find was shots of various alcohol – rice wine, coconut wine and most unusually, scorpion and snake fermented wine. It wasnt wine so much as an extremely strong vodka/whiskey tasting spirit. After 3 shots we both felt a bit drunk. Getting back on a shaky boat was a little risky!
Shots

Shots

After that day trip we arrived back in the city at around 5pm, with a few hours to spare before we were to board another coach. This one left at 8pm and arrived at 1am. I was not looking forward to it. Suffice to say when we reached our next stop, Mui Ne, at around 1.30am, I was done with travelling for a few days. All in all I’d say I enjoyed my time in Ho Chi Minh but I would not be keen to go back. I’m glad I experienced the chaos but by the end of my time there I couldn’t wait to get away from it and be able to walk down the road and feel safe again.

Ho Chi Minh leaving shot. I think it sums up the chaos well. Love the colours.

Ho Chi Minh leaving shot. I think it sums up the chaos well. Love the colours.

Strangely, Jess absolutely loved it. She said it reminded her of India (she puts me off going there on a daily basis by saying things like that!). Each to their own. It just goes to show how different places can mean nothing to one person and so much to another – one reason you shouldn’t always follow recommendations and should make your own mind up about places. Anyway, luckily our next place was to be another beach town and just what I needed. Ill write about that another time when I’m not lying on a sleeper bus on a very bumpy road trying desperately not to think about how much I need a wee!

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Goodbye Cambodia, Hello Vietnam

After our stressful experience crossing the Thailand/Cambodia border, we were really not looking forward to another crossing. We were also pretty sad to leave the what had become one of our favourite places in the world, but we were excited to experience a new country.

Cambodia had been a weird one for me. My first impressions of the country weren’t great, after being scammed several times in our first few hours there I was left with a mistrust for Cambodian people and a negative view of the place. It was also one of the worst places I’ve been for being constantly sold stuff and asked for money. However, as time went on my opinion changed. At the killing fields I learnt about the suffering and stress the country had been put through, and it gave me a new understanding and compassion for the locals. I didn’t blame them for begging for money and maybe resenting us for the money we had – westerners are so ungrateful in comparison to them. After I’d seen this I started to see the country in a different light. By the time I reached Sihanoukville, where the people were a lot more friendly than in the city, I had a massive soft spot for Cambodia.

In a week and a half Jess and I had seen the most epic ruins and temples we’d ever seen, learnt about and had the saddest experiences of our life at the Killing Fields, and stayed at the most beautiful and relaxing beach we’d ever been to. Not a bad way to spend 10 days! How can I dislike a country that brought me all of those things? I actually left feeling quite saddened. I had 5 dollars in my purse that I  could have given to a child who walked past us and begged every day. I thought we would need it for the tuk tuk to the bus but we didn’t. I still feel guilty about that to this day, and in actual fact I wished I had passed an orphanage or something similar, as I would have given them a big donation – something I don’t think my dad would have disapproved of me doing with his money. But I never got the opportunity and I didn’t want to just give it to anyone on the street and not know if they really needed it. I regret that.

So anyway, it was time to put Cambodia in the past and focus on our new destination – Vietnam. We boarded our first sleeper coach at 8pm from Sihanoukville. Although it was a little claustrophobic, it was relatively comfortable and I was happy we had a booth near the front of the coach where I could see the road. The toilet however was the tiniest box I’ve ever seen which you had crawl into and crouch down. One time I went the back door of the bus was left wide open about a metre away from it – not the most reassuring sign!

sleeper bus number 1

sleeper bus number 1

But anyway we had a few hours on that coach before they got us up and made us move to another one. It was pretty chaotic but eventually we were on our next bus of an even more claustrophobic model, but this time at the best, front seat.

We reached the border at around 6am. Since I don’t sleep very well on transport (which is extremely annoying if you’re travelling for an extended period of time!) I was absolutely exhausted. I’m so envious of Jess, who manages to fall asleep anywhere in about 5 minutes! I’ve spent a lot of my trip so far severely sleep deprived due to these problems. Luckily, the crossing was a lot smoother than the last one and the coach followed us through and we got back on at the other end – such a relief considering how awful we felt going from Thailand to Cambodia. When we got back on the coach we went to our seats (which were the best on the coach) and some others had stolen them. We had to move to the back of the coach, to extremely claustraophic seats which made me feel a bit sick. I could have killed them.

Sleeper bus number 2 after someone stole our nice seats

Sleeper bus number 2 after someone stole our nice seats

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) at around 12am the next day and we felt completely out of it after being in and out of sleep for the past 16 hours. As usual, we were grabbed straight off the bus and asked if we wanted a taxi. Dazed, confused and eager to find a guest house we jumped straight in. We were also confused as to what the currency was and how much vietnam dong was in comparison to dollars. Of course the taxi driver said he didn’t know and took us to a bank where we drew out what we thought was £100, when we saw the taxi metre we assumed we’d made a mistake. He bought us to a guest house which was where we realised he had driven us around in a circle, and we were back where we had started. Jess told him this and he started shouting at us to get out of the car. We were so tired we just paid him what we assumed was about $3 just to get rid of him. We soon realised we’d just given him $20 to take us around the block. I hate how that was the first thing to happen to us in Vietnam but I wasn’t going to judge the country that fast. We finally found a guest house and then we were free to explore our first city in the country – Ho Chi Minh.

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Finding our own personal paradise on Otres Beach, Sihanoukville

After our first night in Sihanoukville, I needed something good to prove to me that it was the perfect place I had read about. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced. After a walk up the beach we settled on a bungalow at sea view bungalows. There are loads lining the sea front which are basically about 2 metres from a restaurant/bar and the beach. They all seemed pretty clean but I was sold by the cute puppy that ran up to me as we approached this place.

Our home

Our new home

The shore in front of our beach hut

The shore in front of our beach hut

We practically ran out of the last place and into our new home which they had cleaned for us in time to move in at 9am, another reason we liked the look of the place. So for the next 4 days we stayed here. It can only be described as paradise.

shore

shore

We spent our days on the beach (or under the cover of the restaurant after I managed to burn quite badly on our first day even though I could have sworn I was in the shade!) with people coming up and selling us massages, pedicures etc all day.

pedicure

pedicure

sunglasses sales man

sunglasses sales man

I mean of course we had to deal with the occasional sunglasses or bracelets being shoved in our face but compared to other places in Cambodia they seemed to know when to leave you alone. We started a tab at the restaurant and were able to order food, drink, cocktails or whatever we wanted, it didn’t even feel like we were spending any money (our bill at the end of 3 nights and 4 days there came to $72 each – and that was being excessive). Add that to the fact that the food was absolutely delicious, the weather was perfect (not too hot for me and with a breeze and plenty of shade), the sea was clear and the sand was white (oh and I had my own cute puppy to play with!), and it was pretty much perfect. Our own personal paradise.

There are a few beaches in Sihanoukville, the most popular being Serendipity beach. This is where most backpackers stay and where everyone goes to party. We had been told by several people that we should avoid it at all costs and stay on otres beach instead. And god were we glad we made that decision. Although we could have got things a lot cheaper at serendipity, it looked like this.

Serendipity beach

Serendipity beach

It was full of pissed up backpackers, music blasting out and rubbish lining the shore. It reminded me of somewhere like Magaluf and was so not the kind of place we were looking for. In comparison Otres beach is quiet and relaxing with a mix of people staying there. Enough backpackers to make friends but not so many that the beach was overcrowded and you were expected to binge drink every night to fit in. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere more relaxing in my life and I absolutely loved it.

beautiful sunset number 1

beautiful sunset number 1

Beautiful sunset number 2

Beautiful sunset number 2

Saying that, we did want to experience the chaos of serendipity beach for one night and since the rugby was on Saturday night we decided that would be the best time. We got a tuk tuk from our beach and were pretty happy when we found a bar playing the game instantly. A few beers later (we have discovered one that’s as strong as Chang from Thailand which we re pretty happy about) and we were ready for some England/Wales rugby action. We went to a bar called Utopia first which boasted ‘free body shots’. We had one or two there but I think we decided it really wasnt our thing, especially after some very strange Russian guy came over and pretty much forced his phone number on us, claiming he could ‘show us somewhere really beautiful’ – no thanks. We made a few Welsh friends and headed over to ‘the big easy’ bar.

It was there that we found a big screen playing the match and about 40 people watching. I was so happy, since there was a man united game on at the same time I wasn’t sure we would find anywhere playing it – this was more than I could have hoped for (bar actually being in Cardiff for it). There were about 5 welsh people including us so we were totally outnumbered (I think that’s why I felt the need to shout so loud my throat hurt for days afterwards), but by half time things were looking good. I did however almost get in a fight with an English girl after saying half the people in the pub probably didnt care about the game anyway. I was met with rants about how she went all the way to New Zealand to see them play bla bla bla. Of course I apologised but she wasnt accepting it.

A drunken chat later and things were fine but I have to admit I did feel a little bit more smug after watching us obliterate her team! I can honestly say, especially considering I didn’t think we would win at all, it was one of the best games I’ve ever watched. After watching us beat England and win the six nations I was definitely in the mood to carry on the night! I did feel a bit gutted not to be in my home town to watch it but I was pretty sure I’d be over that in the morning when I woke up to paradise.

We went to a few bars on the beach front but to be honest for me they weren’t much of a match for the nights out I’ve had in Thailand. After an hour (it was around 3am by that point) I was ready to leave, still buzzing from the rugby win. But that wasnt before we got talking to a bunch of kids trying to sell us all sorts of crap. You would give them a dollar, they would laugh and play with you and then 5 minutes later be looking all sad and beg you for more – they were well trained! We ended up giving them about $10 each before calling it a night.

We woke up with a standard awful hangover but where better to ride it out than otres beach? We didn’t move from that spot, why would we even need to? I could have stayed there for weeks in that one place.

We did however, move for one day of our stay there and that was to go on a ‘party boat’ to an island. We d heard that both koh Rong and koh Rong Samloen were beautiful but that the latter was less populated. So although it was further we chose that one to visit for the day. After around 2 hours on the boat (which wasnt in any way a party boat but suited us fine) we reached somewhere, if you can believe it, even more beautiful than Otres beach. I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mainly because there was hardly anyone there, it was basically just the boat load of people and a few working at the one or two bars on the island. We had two hours here to just try and soak up the beauty of the place. It was amazing.

Koh Rong Samloen

Koh Rong Samloen

Tree posing

Tree posing

More posing

More posing

I wouldn’t have minded staying a night there but I almost didn’t want to spend one moment less at our perfect beach resort. On the 2 hour boat ride back I had one of those travelling moments that I love. Occasionally I’ll take time to reflect on what I’ve seen, realise how lucky I am and just generally think about my life as it is. These moments mean a lot to me. That’s when I wrote the blog on my dad.

We left on Tuesday night after 4 full days and we were gutted. We could have easily stayed longer but knew we had a lot of ground to cover in a few weeks so we had to move on. I would love to go back to Otres beach and Koh Rong Samloen one day but I fear it wouldn’t be the same. I imagine these places are similar to what the Thai beaches were 10-15 years ago before they became major tourist resorts. There was already a lot of construction work going on at samloen. It makes me sad as part of their beauty is that they’re untouched and uncorrupted by pissed up westerners and rubbish, just as serendipity has been. I’m happy to have seen them before they may reach that state. It was the happiest I’ve felt with travelling on this trip, and the saddest I’ve felt to leave anywhere. I would love to go back one day and I’d even go as far as to say people should skip the Thai beaches and head straight to Sihanoukville instead (but only if you can handle the horrendous border crossing!)

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