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A beach for xmas

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 27 December 2011 | Views [832]

After the crazy bustle of Phnom Penh, and wanting to go somewhere with a beach for Christmas, we headed down to the Cambodian coast. Our first stop was Sihanoukville, a very touristy town surrounded by several beaches. We had heard that several of the beaches were very busy and, in need of a place to truly relax, we headed for Otres beach, furthest from the town. We checked into a wooden bungalow overlooking the ocean on a headland by the beach. It was a gorgeous location, with a lovely beach and just a few beachside restaurants half a mile from our bungalow. The sea was warm enough to swim, and after arriving on a sweaty bus from dusty Phnom Penh we went straight down and plunged into the sea, swimming as the sun set over the Gulf of Thailand and the many islands dotted around off the coast.

The next day we set out for some serious sunbathing, only moving from our loungers to swim, eat or have a massage. It must have been a lovely beach because John didn't moan much about the sand (he has a bit of an issue with sand....JH: that bloody stuff gets everywhere!). We had dinner at a candle-lit beach shack with the sea lapping at our table.

Unfortunately we had to leave the next day as we had booked some accomodation in Koh Kong, still on the coast but right by the Thai border (as it was xmas, accomodation was becoming booked up and we wanted to ensure we had somewhere to sleep & not end up like Baby Jesus!).

On arrival in Koh Konh, we were a bit disappointed to find a pretty typical dusty SE Asian town, very different to our paradise on Otres Beach. However, we were staying in a nice quiet guesthouse with a small pool aand on further investigation, the town had a number of pleasant restaurants and bars.......and anyway on xmas day we planned to be on Koh Kong island.

To make sure that it was up to scratch for our xmas day outing, we visited the island the next day. After a 2 hour boat trip, chatting to a lovely lady from San Fransisco, we turned into a turquoise bay, with white sand and fringed by palm trees.....and no-one else but the 7 people on our boat there. A day was spent researching this site by lazing on the beach, swimming and eating the BBQ lunch that was provided (NB as the BBQ was cooked by someone else this time, we did not suffer any ill effects). Sadly the day had to end and we had a rather rough crossing back to the town.

The next day we hired a moped and headed off to a waterfall we had been told about. The Honda 125cc "Dream" was not quite the Honda 1000cc "Fireblade" back home, but comfy enough for two and once John sorted out the gears, which were completely opposite to his bike, everything went smoothly. It is even possible to ride a 125cc moped off-road and through streams as this was necessary to get to the waterfall! We spent a couple of hours exploring the waterfall, and the water was clear and warm enough to swim (as long as you didn't get dragged over one of the many water cascades!).

After our successful moped trip the previous day, we hired the bike again and headed towards the Thai border, where we had heard there were some beaches. The beaches were nothing special, and a bit close to the busy Koh Kong port to swim, but it was great to be travelling under our own steam. We certainly used the bike to its full potential, heading down a variety of dirt and sand tracks looking for beaches. One thing in particular to look out for were the lorries travelling to the local sand quarry....there was no way they were going to slow down to pass a measly moped and they sped past kicking up a dust cloud that enveloped us totally. In the afternoon, we took the bike up into the mountains until we finally decided that we had gone far enough, and a 125cc was not sufficient to continue on the unmade, pot-holed roads.

We stopped to fill up with fuel to ensure we could make it back to Koh Kong....this required a stop at a little shack by the side of the road, a very pleasant lady dressed in pyjamas and a litre of fuel in a coke bottle (how else would you measure out litres?).

As it was Christmas Eve we went out for dinner and a few drinks at a restaurant by the river. Having heard almost no Christmas songs (a very good thing) our ears were assaulted by Jingle Bells on speed, obviously a Cambodian version of the real song, mixed in with the Beatles, more recent music and other xmas songs!

We booked a trip back to Koh Kong island for the next day, xmas day and enjoyed a similar day of sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming with 2 English girls, a Canadian and a couple from Belgium. The only difference being an extremely choppy boat ride there and back.

Christmas luch was a BBQ on the beach again and for Christmas dinner we decided to go to a posh French restaurant on the riverfront, where we had a delicious steak, beer, wine and gorgeous desserts (no brandy butter though :( ). Thanks to Phyllis for her generous wedding/xmas gift which allowed us to do this.

Boxing day was a day of travel. We crossed the border back into Thailand following some pointless fingerprinting by the grumpy Cambodian border police, although this border was too busy for them to request bribes (perhaps this was why they were grumpy?)! It was great to go through Thai immigration: someone was handing out immigration cards (as opposed to us being required to know exactly where they were by some sixth sense), no queues and an efficient stamp by an equally grumpy Thai official.

We transferred to a minibus to Trat, where we could change for a bus to Bangkok. After an extremely efficient transfer to the minibus (there was one waiting as we crossed the border) we decided we were off to a good start. The plan was to head to Ayuthaya in Thailand, via Bangkok, all in the same day. However, after 20minutes, the minibus turned off into a small town where we were told we had to change buses and wait for 10 minutes. 45 minutes later we were still waiting, with no explanation, but we did eventually set off again and arrived at Trat in good time to get a bus to Bangkok. It was wonderful being back in Thailand as things seemed very organised compared to Laos and Cambodia....for example, the roads actually have tarmac! with no potholes! and two lanes! We arrived in Bangkok to somewhat of a culture shock, having not seen this level of Western development for 6 weeks. The traffic hadn't abated and we got into a tuk-tukl to take us to the train station. He sped through the traffic, and John made the mistake of calling him Mr Schumacher, which served only to make him go even faster!

We bought our train ticket to Ayuthaya and with 20minutes to spare, ran into the station food court to grab some noodles as we were starving. Unfortunately everyone had closed their stalls so we were forced round the corner to KFC, which we ate on the train. We arrived in Ayuthaya at 10pm, just in time to find a guesthouse still open as the town seemed to be shutting for the night.

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