Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 8: Sihanoukville Day 2

Since the most exciting part of my day consisted of reading "Are You There Vodka? It's me, Chelsea" I'm going to let Marv tell you about his action packed day on the islands. It's like Lost, just with less John Locke.

Sihanoukville seems like the sort of place Thailand was 50 years ago. It is very run down and dirty. Unlike Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, poverty is visible everywhere - and there are cows grazing freely. The beach isn't that nice either - filled with begging cripples and children. However, it had an amazing market with a superb selection of top-of-the-line bermuda shirts (see attached photo).

On this day Adam, David and I decided we wanted to get away from the filth of the city and out into the islands which are located about an hour away by boat. As last night was full of shots, beer and buckets of whisky (yes, buckets), we were feeling a bit rough as we got up for our 9AM boat departure. The trip to the islands started off with a rather paltry (but complimentary) breakfast (1 chewy baguette and two fried eggs). A few minutes to 9AM we got into the boat. We waded through the water for about 30 feet before climbing onto the deck. The boat is a typical Cambodian fishing boat converted for tourist purposes. There are two rattly old engines out back that drive a very long propshaft straight into the water. There is also a tarp covering the seating area - this proved useful later in the day...or not.

The boat ride was pleasant enough and took approximately 50 minutes to the first stop by a coral reef. I wasn't particularly interested in snorkeling as I suspected the provided snorkels were riddled with Hepatitis and other diseases of the Orient. Plus, since I have visual acuity similar to that of a mole rat I wouldn't have seen much anyway. However, Adam and David wanted to snorkel (they had brought their own snorkels) so I remained in the boat reading SuperFreakonomics (recommended). After about 30 minutes of snorkeling we moved on to our next stop - the island of Koh Russei.

As we got off onto Koh Russei the clouds parted and the sun came out. The scenery looked exactly like it does in movies like Platoon and Apocalypse Now. It was strikingly beautiful. We went swimming in the green waters for some time before having grilled barracuda for lunch (my 4th Barracuda meal so far). It was delicious, if not entirely sanitary. Following our lunch we went for a walk through the jungle to the other side of the island where we happened upon the most stunningly beautiful beach.

The beach was the sort of unspoiled beach I would imagine are plentiful in Thailand or Indonesia. There was almost no other people there and the trees provided wonderful shade from the strong sun. The sand was soft and supple, and the sea was green. Speaking of the sea, it is about as warm as the air (30 Celsius / 85 Fahrenheit for you Yanks!). We spent about an hour swimming and relaxing before heading back through the jungle, where we saw termite mounds and huge centipedes. As the trip out from Sihanoukville took about 50 minutes, we were expecting the return trip to go equally quickly. This was not to be.

As soon as we got back into the boat to return to shore it started raining. And then it rained some more. Then the wind picked up - in fact it was so windy that the tarp had to be removed, leaving us fully exposed to the elements. Now, I knew that it would be the rainy season, but this was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The sheer amount of water falling from the sky soaks you in less than 10 seconds. Being the experienced seafarer that I am, I would guess that the swell (wave height) surpassed 6 feet. The boat rocked back and forth and from side to side with such force that the sides of the boat were briefly submerged. Every time we crested a wave, about 10 gallons of salt water came crashing onto deck. Everything was completely wet - thankfully the camera was in a zip lock bag. I never thought I would say this, but I was freezing cold in Cambodia! Although it was awful I couldn't stop laughing. I never felt endangered (as I am quite the swimmer), but it was a bit unpleasant. However, our fellow British female companions "had never been so scared in their lives"...

The ride back to shore was twice as long as it should have been, partly because we had to tow a broken down Cambodian fishing vessel. We were all extremely cold as we got back to shore, but jumping in the warm sea helped a lot. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the event as I feared the camera would be ruined by the wetness. Now it's on to the Mekong Delta and Saigon. Hopefully we will still have wireless internet access so we can continue to keep you updated.

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