Well. We've finally managed to drag ourselves away from Funky Hut
on the Thai island of Koh Chang and a blissful 2.5 weeks of sun, sea, seafood and all-round chill. One of the lovely things about travelling is the people you meet along the way and we've been most fortunate to encounter some fantastic and interesting people whose adventures and/or lives will stay with us for some considerable time to come. Amongst the highlights will be the unexpected and delighted surprise of Thailand which wasn't even originally on our itinerary but which turned out to be such fun.
So, up early and a Ferry and taxi to Hat Lek and then to the Cambodian border town of Koh Kong (about 15km)
(by bus. Another cheery encounter with a corrupt Cambodian policeman demanding an extra $5 for coming into the country. A grumpy looking official with a pristine white T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a pistol, Alan was perhaps unwise to argue with him. In any event, he wasn't giving any ground and the immigration officials seemed unwilling to intervene (despite, technically, having the authority to over-rule the policeman). From the border, we took a couple of motorbikes to the nearby town of Ko Kong. Unfortunately, after only five minutes, the bike carrying Alan had a puncture
so we both had to bundle onto the back of a small 100 cc, together with our three rucksacks for the half hour journey to the nearest town, a strange place with a number of 'hotels' that had (or perhaps are) serving as brothels.
Luckily, The Asean,
where we stayed did not seem to have such a reputation and, indeed, we think we were the only guests. Up early in the morning, we caught the ferry
along the Cambodian coast to a popular seaside town called Sihanouk Ville, Cambodia's version of Blackpool
Actually, it's still quite undeveloped having only existed since the French opened up a road through dense jungle in the mid 50s. Nowadays, any reasonably affluent Cambodians head down here for a weekend from Phnom Penh and, usually fully clothed, frolic in the sea and (unfortunately) zoom about on those nasty jet-ski boats in and amongst the swimmers - which fills AB and myself with dread.
Today, we indulged ourselves. I had both a manicure and pedicure
whilst AB attempted to fix his re-occurring back problem with a serious massage.
Sihanouk Ville itself is quite a pleasant town but, as with the rest of Cambodia, the beach could do with a serious clean up. Populated by a wide variety of inhabitants (travellers old and young, landmine victims and some quite horrendous examples of people with serious disabilities who've got no alternative but to beg, massage ladies, tour groups, etc etc
We have also made a new friend - 'John Black',
an enterprising young man of 28 who has two jobs (construction by day, bartender by night). For two nights we listened to his hopes and aspirations, how he'd been affected by the aftershocks of Khmer Rouge which had badly interupted his education, and learned about what life is like in modern Cambodia for young people. Unusually, he was quite open and spoke pretty good English but it was not difficult to see exactly what a hard struggle it was going to be for him to improve himself - especially given the very low wages paid to manual staff.
After talking with John, Alan and I had the bright idea that it'd be an interesting challenge to open a Cambodian Business School - complete with a department of Ethics to help such enterprising individuals to see that there is actually an alternative to mass-scale corruption. For example, many public sector officials in Cambodia PAY a bribe to obtain a job in the police or taxation departments. They then don't receive much (or any) of a salary, relying instead on a variety of extortion and bribe methods to obtain monies.Travel practicals:
Ferry from Ko Chang to Trat then public taxi to Ha Tien (recently opened border crossing - fee $20 plus 'slush money of $5 to border police.
Motorbike taxi to Ko Kong. (20mins from border)
Ferry from xxX to Sihanouk Ville