It was a bit of relief to think that we were getting away from Sihanoukville. It presented itself in a seedy fashion, old Western men with young Khmer girls and worse. Where we were going there would be none of that. No one trying to sell us stuff every five minutes either. Our boat was full of traveling types as we cruised away from the mainland to Koh Russei (Bamboo Island). An hour later we turned around a rocky headland into a bay and first glimpsed our beach with huts dotted sporadically along its 2 km stretch. It was paradise. The resort had one restaurant/cafe that served food and drink for most of the day and evening. We found our simple beach hut and settled in. Steffi very meticulously plugged up big holes with sticking plaster in the mosquito net we had to sleep under. It was advised that we don't leave any food lying around as this would attract very large biting ants. We finished our biscuits immediately. After our great Khmer curries at the restaurant, we marveled at the brightness of the full moon unpolluted by artificial light, listening to Radiohead played at the bar.
The night was as promised, all we could hear was the lapping of waves and distant fishing boats plying their trade.
After breakfast we went walking through the dense jungle that gives the island its name. Sticking to a well trodden path we emerged after only a short time on the north side of the island. This to our horror was full of day trippers to the smaller beach complete with beach sellers and manicurists. We turned back, hoping that no one could see the path to our beach. We thought that we might go deeper into the forest, but with Cambodia's recent history being what it is, we thought better than to go off track, when there are still undiscovered minefields, not to mention spiders and snakes.
After the rest of the day on the beach and a bit of snorkeling, the night was to be a little sleepless. The islands four dogs decided to have a barking contest a 3 a.m. then Steffi heard something scratching in the hut and some door movement. With our torch at hand we picked out the shape of a rat. Horrified we had a closer look. It was lurking next to a bag in which we kept soap, which it had taken a fancy to. We thought we'd just let it get on with it but this proved annoying as it made so much noise in the process. We had to get rid of the soap. With a much closer inspection of our visitor we learned that it wasn't a rat at all. It had big Hamster like eyes with big mousy ears and a rat like tail. Steffi fell in love with it, proclaiming that it was even cute. It wasn't at all shy either, it even posed for a photo. After it realized it'd been found out, it scuttled away. The soap was then disposed off.
We woke to the sound of Minor birds (German: Beo) with their vast array of sound effects and the sight of droppings (kleine Mause Koettelchen) in and around our luggage. The soap bar was outside where I'd thrown it, but with big bite marks in it. It got its 'dinner' after all...
All together we spent five days on this island. Swimming and sunning a lot. The night before we were due to leave, John didn't let me sleep the whole night!! The poor boy got a sickness bug, I will spare you the details... It might have been the Tofu curry.
We left the next day on the boat, John looked like death and after administering Paracetamol to him, I helped a guy with his recently acquired sea urchin needles in his foot. Thank God for my good first aid kit!
It was sad to say good bye to the island, especially when we arrived in Sihanoukville. We spent one more night and got the early bus next morning to Phnom Penh.
John being much better, enjoyed his last bus journey very much, listening to the horrendous Khmer love songs, that we got bombarded with. We got welcomed with big smiles by the hoards of tuk tuk drivers desperate for business. We took one to a typical backpacker guesthouse area and found an OK room to stay for our last three nights in Cambodia. The afternoon we spent shopping and looking around, getting our bearings.
Yesterday we visited two places of interest in Cambodia's history.In the morning we went to Tuol Sleng Museum, the Khmer Rouge prison, torture chamber and murder hole, known as S21. This was truly harrowing. Here we learned at first hand, details of the atrocities committed by Pol Pot and his cronies on his own people. Most disturbing was that many of the perpetrators are still untried for their crimes, living their normal lives among the population. The leaders that are still alive, are under arrest, but represented by top lawyers, determined to clear their name.With all the faces of the victims in mind, we left this place in deep conversation, wondering how all this could be possible.
In huge contrast we went to the Royal Palace next. Cambodia's king still resides here in big pomp and splendour. Of all the wonderful buildings in this huge area the Wat Preah Keo Morokat (big temple) was by far the most impressive. It houses hundreds of Buddha statues, the centrepiece being a big emerald Buddha and a golden standing one encrusted with thousands of diamonds. The only disturbing thing was the bad smell of peoples feet (everyone was forced to leave their shoes outside the temple as a mark of respect), 32 degrees heat doesn't help.
This is a city of contrasts, after we left the glittering 'bubble' of the palace, we got back to Phnom Penh's normal street life: Begging children and limbless book sellers.
This night, after gurgling noises in the bathroom and my lively stories about how far rats can swim through plumbing, John sealed down the toilet lid with sticking plaster. We had a peaceful sleep...
Today has been a very lazy day. We just did our chores, checking in online and having a good haggle for a reasonable price with a tuk tuk driver, who will take us to the airport tomorrow. We hope he will remember the pick up time???
We are sad to leave, we loved our trip through three countries but we really look forward to going home.
We will send one more log when we are home, hopefully with lots of pictures......