Cambodia’s calendar has been woefully lacking in public holidays for the past couple of months. Thankfully that changed this week when we were granted a day off on Monday because of the Buddhist festival Meak Bochea. It had been over a year since I had been to Sihanoukville, the biggest coastal town in Cambodia so a group of friends and I decided to plan a trip there.
We hired a van and left on Friday night, driving through the dark roads at much faster speeds than the congested day time traffic would allow. There were lots of us going down: me, Rachel, Gloria, Robin, Shelby, Phaline, Varsha, Liz, Hayley, and Tom. We reached the beach by 11:30pm and gratefully breathed in lungfuls of warm salty air. As someone who grew up near the coast, I miss it greatly.
I was sharing a bungalow with Rachel (bestie for the restie) and once we had checked in, we returned to the beach and grabbed a few beers to celebrate our arrival. The beach we had chosen to stay at is called Otres and is a little further down the coast than the main drag, Ocheteaul or Serendipity. The area is generally quieter, cleaner and the atmosphere more relaxed which is exactly what we were looking for.
Saturday morning saw us sunbathing on the beach, swimming in the warm, clear waters and drinking coconut shakes. It was topped off by a wonderful back massage, the oil of which led to me getting rather badly sunburnt but shhhh, don’t tell my mum!
In the afternoon, I took a tuk tuk over to Ocheteaul beach which, by perfect coincidence, was where Sovann Komar were enjoying their annual holiday. I met up with all the parents and children and played with them in the water for a couple of hours. I also took a frisbee over and had great fun in the surf with some of the children. As always, I managed to capture a few candid shots of their happiness.
Saturday evening saw Rachel and I passing out on our bed. Let’s blame the sun for our pathetic attempt to go out and party. We made it as far as the corner store to buy Oreos and Haribo and then returned to our balcony and drank vodka and pomegranate juice we had bought from home. Frankly, we needed to recuperate after several long weeks at work and the early night was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Sunday was … interesting. Jordan and Sophorn had travelled down to join us on Saturday afternoon and we had all decided to book a boat trip. I, however, had momentarily forgotten I hate boats. I do that sometimes. This was an unfortunate time to forget however as the crossing to the first island was by far the worst boat journey I have ever been on. We were close to capsizing several times and the boat took on so much water our driver was bailing it out for about twenty minutes once we arrived at our destination. The swell and the waves crashed around us, soaking everything on the boat. Luckily Shelby had a dry bag so our phones and my camera was safe. My heart rate however, was not.
As soon as we reached the calm water by a cliff jump, I dived off the boat. It might sound irrational to be afraid of boats as someone who is such a strong swimmer but I guess irrationality is the hallmark of a phobia. Anyway, as soon as I was in the clear, deep water, I felt a million times better. I didn’t do the cliff jumping because I’m also afraid of heights. At this point I was wondering why I’d agreed to go on the boat trip at all.
Our next stop was just around the corner on the same island and was far more to my liking. It was a beautiful beach, and we spent the afternoon there. Sunbathing, swimming, frisbee-ing, eating dinner prepared on the boat, playing drinking games and being interrupted by a grotesquely fat cow, and generally having an awesome time.
Even the dreaded journey back to Otres couldn’t take away from the wonderful afternoon. And, in fact, the trip back was much calmer, the wind having died down and the sea flattering out immeasurably. Sunday evening saw us eating at a beach barbecue place I had first visited in 2009. Ah memories. Oh and I also broke my toe tripping over a rock sticking out of the sand. And before you ask, I’d drunk one beer.
Monday morning involved yet more sunbathing. Rachel and I walked down to the far end of Otres which is even quieter. We found a beach side restaurant that served Pimms and settled on our sun loungers with bags of freshly cut mango, pineapple, and watermelon. Leaving to go back to the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh was certainly done with some reluctance. I love this city and I love my job but the relaxing, laid-back, and carefree lifestyle at the beach is something I already miss. Ah well, I guess I’ll just have to go back again soon!