We last left you in Phu Quo, Vietnam or was it Saigon?? Tonight we are writing from Phnom Penh(PP) Cambodia. We flew back to Saigon and spent the night there before boarding a 12 hour (12 HOUR!!) bus to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a beach town in the south. Our “direct bus” there turned out to actually be by way of PP and every town with more than 5 chickens along the way. We had a few tense moments at the border crossing where we got separated and rule number one of never leaving a wedding crasher behind was almost in violation (woo woo laura), and changing buses where some Kate (the Curry kind) lost our transfer bus tickets (no worries it was found and we apologized to the bus driver who we accused of cheating us and taking our ticket. In our defense we were already mad at the bus because it never picked us up, we had to run to it and board last as the 60 people onboard blamed us for the 30 minute delay) but we made it to Sihanoukville by 7pm.
After we crossed the border we immediately noticed a difference. Where the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh seemed to go on for hours…10 minutes passed and we were in rural Cambodia. All of the houses were on stilts with children and dogs running between them. We were on the lookout for Angelina and Brad and their UN of children but haven’t spotted them yet. The villages we passed didn’t seem to have much in the way of material possessions, but the houses looked stable and the fields around them were green.
As the bus pulled into Sihanoukville, we noticed all of these men chasing after the bus, but we were too confused trying to figure out if we were there or not to notice. However once we disembarked, we were bombarded with tuk tuk drivers, taxi drivers, and moto drivers. While this was happening our bags were being thrown from the bus into a mass of people. We quickly regained our composure, told a tuk tuk driver if he backed off for a second for us to get our bags we would go in his tuk tuk. He defended our honor while we once again regained our composure and were ready to face Cambodia.
Our first night we just pointed to a hotel in the guide book and were lucky enough to stay in a nice room with one tiny bed and no hot water for $7 a night. It actually was very nice and we had the best night’s sleep yet..dont worry Amanda it was nothing like sharing a bed after a hard night at Dockside. The next morning we had to find a new hotel because ours had no availability, but we decided to get breakfast first- a girl has to have priorities!! As we were walking along the beach looking for a place to eat we were joined by a young Cambodian girl trying to sell us bracelets. Caitlin thought she looked harmless so she engaged her in conversation while we walked..it was about 5 minutes later when we realized this girl was relentless. In Vietnam most people spoke no English, and those who could speak English spoke only broken English. Well this girl spoke fluent teenager English. For the duration of our breakfast she pestered us to buy a bracelet and asked about our lives back home all the while saying “if you buy a bracelet you buy from me”. She kept trying to make us free bracelets but we refused to take them because we didn’t want to get scammed by a kid. (Keep reading…) We even broke out the nanny voices and said “now we are going to eat you need to go away”. Finally she found someone who looked dumber than us and she left us alone. After breakfast we went in search of a hotel and wound up booking 2 nights at the Motel 7…one step above the Motel 6 back home yet not quite a Super 8.
With our accommodations set we headed back to the beach and found loungers to park ourselves in for the day. The beach is filled with all kinds of sellers hustling everything from fruit to bracelets to sunglasse to shrimp/lobters- we did make a deal with one girl with plaid earrings that we would but a pineapple off her later in the day but otherwise we tried to avoid these people like the plague. In Vietnam when you said no, these sellers would leave you alone for the rest of the day, but here you are approached by new sellers continuously. We are not quite sure how we got scammed by a 7 year old but it went something like this:
2 British guys were sitting next to us on loungers, Tony and his friend. These guys got approached by every seller out there- it must have been their pale British skin (we have developed a nice tan from our time in ‘Nam). What started out as an innocent game of tic tac toe where Tony would have to buy a bracelet if he lost to the seven year old Cambodian boy who spoke English like a used car salesman. (note: the rest of the English speaking world calls it knots and crosses. Strange.) Well guess what- Tony lost and had to buy the bracelet and when he tried to get out of the deal (which he never really agreed to) the little Fendi wearing scammer broke out the integrity card and bullied a man 5 times his age into buying a braclet for $2. We watched this whole spectacle with amusement commenting along with tony and the boy. Then the boy tried to get us to play a game with him but we told him we knew he was smart and had tricks and that we weren’t buying anything from him. Then sweet little scammer boy made us free bracelets- Cambodian friendship bracelets. When we tried to refuse the bracelets he told us if you refuse them then you don’t like Cambodia. He even made them open and close for us so that we could take them off if we wanted. Kate’s is pink and blue and Caitlin’s is green and black which the boy made to complement her eyes. Once he made the bracelets he told us to “open our hearts” we told him we didn’t want any more bracelets but that we would give him $1 for our friendship bracelets and he told us that was bad karma. But as soon as we told him it would be $1 or nothing he realized the gig was up and he took our dollar and moved on to the next sucker.
For the rest of the day we were bombarded with kids trying to sell us bracelets and when we told them we already had one, they took one look at our wrist and said that’s the free one- who gave that to you. Kids!
After laying on the beach all day we relaxed at a beach bar and drank 50 cent drafts while we watched the sunset. We could have stayed longer and drank 25 cent drafts but the students in us had to leave the beach to do school work.
The next day we had a trip planned on a boat which would bring us to the islands. We paid a bit more for the boat that advertised it “would make our dreams come true”. Who wouldn’t book that trp? I must admit it was a pretty nice boat with a sundeck on top and two levels of bars and seating. It was a strange mix of people on the boat- some people like us who occupied the sundeck the whole trip and then a nice Swedish family, an adorable Mexican family with the cutest little baby named Kenya who was one of the cutest babies ever, a group of sex tourists with their little Cambodian chicas ( we will post a comment on sex tourism later because we have many thoughts) and some German ex-pats with their Cambodian wives. Ohhh yes and then there was the group of Cambodian men who LLLLLLOOOOOOVVVVEEEEDDDD the Kates. The boat was run by a great German ex-pat named Robert who was determined to make the trip a good time- and let me tell you the bar level of that ship was packed by 9:15AM. The trip had a snorkel stop at which Kate jumped off the 3rd level of the boat into the water. A scared Caitlin was going to follow until Kate informed her that the landing hurt and that she had felt a major shift in her intestines. After snorkeling we decided 11AM was the perfect time for a cocktail which the Cambodian men bought for us. Well we should have bought them ourselves because these men were CREEPERS- in our defense we did try to buy them but the British bartender told us to let the men buy them. Well we are not fluent in broken English but we do believe these men were trying to proposition us and they told us that while they are Cambodian they love white women- that my friend was not worth the price of a mojito. The rest of the trip we stayed off the bar deck and away from the bar deck and the creepers, but we did enjoy the stops at the rainforest and the hot water spring which was similar to ceder water and Caitlin did not want to swim in nor was she keen on swimming with the leech type spermy shaped creatures.
The boat brought us back to the port just after sunset- and as we were paying our bill for the 2 Mirindas (which is the most amazing orange soda ever) and getting made fun of by the Bavarian owner who referred to us as the American Girl Party Animals we realized our tickets were apparently bogus and the owner told us we would have to wait on the ship and he would drive us in his Mercedes to where we bought the tickets. It took forever for the boat to clear off, but the owner felt bad we had to wait so he sent us free jagermeister shots. Well for those of you who know us well you know the Kates and jager do not mix so those shots went right over the shoulder and into the Gulf of Thailand.
After the shots Robert, the owner invited us up to the bar for a drink. We agreed to have a beer with him, but told him we were eager to get to the 25cent drafts on the beach to which he responded “ I am from Bavaria if you cannot afford beer I will give you beer for free!!”. Robert is our kind of man!! Sitting at the boat bar an hour after it docked reminded us a bit of being at Dockside after closing- a motley crew of bartender friends and drunks! But you couldn't beat the view:
Robert drove us, his Cambodian girlfriend, and a rottie named Lucy. (A we thought of you!) Lucy was quite the character. On the islands she would race up and down the beach and would climb up to the sundeck to check things out but would be scared to go back down. Robert said it happens everyday and he eventually just left her up there with us for her to learn a lesson. We showed Robert the shack where we booked our ticket and left his as he fought for our money. If you find yourself in Sihanoukville, the dream yacht run by sun tours is a great deal. $10 more than the other offerings, however you get so much more, a better boat, food, drinks, and a great experience. They also support people in the town as well as a private orphanage for 20 children in PP.
After some drinks and school work that evening we headed to bed to catch early bus to PP. But not before we started to talk to more bracelet seller children. This time it was 15 year old girls. They were in school during the day, well dressed, and totally adolescent and too cool for us. We figured that the older children come down to try to earn some cash at night. The Cambodian version of loitering at the mall. At first we adamantly said no. But in the course of our conversations we bonded, and after another beer (for us not the kids) we decided that we just couldn’t live without two headbands. We’re suckers. Later that evening we were talking with a couple from Scotland and we developed the international sign of “I’ve been had by a Cambodian kid’s slick talking ways” Similar to a fist pump you just have to hold up your wrist showing off the handcrafted Cambodian goods with an embarrassed smirk on your face. The future of Cambodia is bright and prosperous with such happy/talkative youth! Let us also take a moment to share how the Cambodian boys loved us! On waiter was smitten and asked us to come back so he could practice English. And a boy at our hotel was very concerned with our bookings and scheduling and general well being. He would ask how we slept and if we dreamed and if he was in them. Very cute!
Our bus ride to PP was boring yet uneventful except for the 500 stops we had to make to drop off people and goods and pick up diapers and passengers. It was pouring as we got to PP and as we got off the bus we saw one of our bags run by us. Not sure what was happening one Kate followed that bag as the other was on the lookout for the other. It turns out our bus company had a terminal they were getting everything out the rain in. We found a tuk tuk and agreed to a $2 price and were off to a hotel we picked from our book. It was pouring!! We noticed our tuk tuk was going slow and just going tuk. We weren’t sure what was happening and before we knew it our tuk tuk tuckered out and we were stalled in the middle of the road. Ut-oh is a universal word. And we found it pretty funny sitting there in the middle of the flooded road. Somehow we made it to a corner where gas was added out of a glass 2 liter coke bottle.
WE cheered and we once again on our way. We got all settled at the hotel. $5 a night. What what!! We’ve gotten good at checking out the room first…true backpackers. Although we kind of wish in our inspection we noticed the lack of a flushing toilet, hot water, towels, bed linens (Thanks Moms for the sleep sacks!!), and the bar ten feet from our door which plays the same three Bob Marley songs over and over and over til 3am but what can you do. And as we write we are noticing a certain sway to the room…our hotel is right on the lake here in PP and we are hoping like hell right now that the building is stable. No worries we are tri-athletes we will survive and for $5 a night we aren’t complaining. We are actually kind of glad our western standards are adapting because that is not in our budget.
Since it was pouring in PP, we booked our bus to Kratie, a town with rare dolphins on the Mekong Delta and then decided to hit up a few of the happy hours we saw in our backpacker hotel district. We ended up at a backpackers bar called the Lazy Gekco and drank about $8 worth of 75 cent drinks. We hope to return tomorrow for quiz night that raises money for local orphanages.
Hope everyone is well! Leave us comments!!