As part of a six-month round the world trip, my husband and I truly loved or liked every place we visited, except one—Sihanoukville, Cambodia (also called Snooky for short).
To be fair, we had been duly warned about this rough-around-the-edges beach town, but it was very intriguing and a convenient stopover destination on our overland journey back to Bangkok, so we decided to brave it for one night. More hard-core travelers might argue that with time we may have come to at least appreciate certain aspects of this Cambodian beach town, that is a cross between Coney Island (circa 1980) and the Wild West, but I kind of doubt it.
We had also been warned about the difficulty of dealing with the Snooky motorbike taxi drivers (motodops), but I don’t think either of us could have imagined that our driver would agree on a price, then strand us on the beach about a mile from the hotel in a thunder and lightening storm! His excuse: his motorbike got stuck in the sand. Big question: why would you try to drive your motorbike on the beach, you idiot! Other big question: why didn’t we direct him away from the beach and back on the road before he got “stuck”?
Anyway, we paid the guy off because we had also heard that arguing with these guys gets you nothing but a potential punch in the nose. Then we walked very quickly down the beach and watched a huge thunderstorm move our way. We didn’t make it back to the hotel before getting drenched, but we were pleased that no lightning struck us as we crossed a little metal bridge to get to the hotel.
Needless to say, we were anxious to get out of Sihanoukville and move toward Bangkok the next morning. We boarded our minibus (a tricked out minivan that accommodates twelve Western tourists plus one or two Cambodians you mysteriously pick up on the way) at 7 a.m., and started our journey along a dirt road to the Thai border. The road was fairly smooth by Cambodian standards but peppered with ferry crossings (four in all before we hit Thailand), which required the van to be driven onto a jerry-rigged floating platform and floated across rivers. The first few were actually quite fun but by the fourth crossing at noon, we were over it. We reached the Thai border at around 1 p.m. and literally walked with our backpacks through the Cambodian departure checkpoint and the Thai entry point. Did I mention it was pouring rain? Thank god for our pack covers, but I’m afraid we were drenched upon re-entering Thailand.
We boarded another minibus right on the other side of the border to go to Trat and pick up a bus to Bangkok. Packed with a bunch of wet backpackers, the minibus smelled quite ripe but we dried out a little by the time we hit Trat (one hour after crossing the border). After a series of calls from Trat to Bangkok to get a hotel reservation (not as easy as we thought since today is the King’s Birthday), we boarded a 4 p.m. Bangkok-bound bus. The bus ride was actually quite comfortable and we marveled at the cleanliness of not only the bus but also our surroundings in Thailand.
We couldn’t help but laugh because a month and a half ago when we left Bangkok we thought it was dirty and a little depressing. It’s amazing how a month and a half of travel in Vietnam and especially Cambodia can really change your perspective on things. At around 9:45 p.m. we arrived in Bangkok and headed for our hotel. When we arrived, they informed us that they actually didn’t have a room for us after all. After almost fifteen hours of travel, this was the last thing we wanted to hear. However, the hotel was kind enough to help us locate another room nearby. It ain’t The Ritz by a long shot, but we both slept like stones.
Upon waking the next morning, we were both relieved that we weren’t going anywhere that day and a little proud that we had completed our first overland border crossing. Although there were definitely several moments that left us longing for the conveniences and familiarity of home, we were thankful that our good days outnumbered the more challenging ones.