This post recaps my third day traveling back in Cambodia during this year’s Spring Break.
It was a slow start to what would be a long day. Jet lagged almost to the point of crumble, I woke up super early, wanting to get breakfast and writing in before heading on the Mekong Express bus to the coast. The TeaHouse, as mentioned previously, has a beautiful pool I used to spend a lot of time with. When the sun hasn’t fully risen, the pool is typically empty.
A semi-blurry image of the unique staircase above the hotel’s restaurant:
A couple shameless selfies back in the room:
One of the annoying things about pick-up service for these buses is that they give you a very long waiting window (usually an hour or forty-five minutes), and though one could stay in their room and check-out super-quick before departing on the bus, it’s more convenient for everybody to check-out, then hangout near the entrance. TeaHouse has a nice waiting area–the best I’ve seen, actually, but I still had to do the wait slog.
Once on the mini-bus, I was able to take plenty of lively pictures from the core of the city, though the glare from the window was impossible to ignore–the buses keep their windows up and A/C cranked as much as possible.
Photos like this were what I enjoyed taking a lot when I worked on my Cambodia Bladed series from my previous trip.
Orussey market (or: O’russei) is one of the larger markets in Phnom Penh–mostly indoors, and multiple floors in size. It’s rarely shopped at by foreigners.
Probably one of the more captivating images from my trip–perhaps I’ll edit this one down the road. Though I take it for granted at this point, the electrical wires are quite striking.
It was difficult to take any pictures between the city and the coast–at least images from the road of the landscape, that would turn out high quality. The following pictures are from Sihanoukville, where I met up with James pretty quickly. He had skipped out on the bus ride down (he claimed he wanted adventure) and his bike ended up breaking along the way . . . apparently he had to push it 2k in the heat, which resulted the 4 hour bike ride taking 6 hours. I felt for him. Below, the Khmer restaurant we visited (where I tried to procure magic mushrooms, and failed) was growing plants out of random beer bottles. Inventive!
The seemingly gigantic coconut barely had any juice, and James made sure he got every last drop.
After a quick lunch and grocery stock-up in Sihanoukville, James and I stashed his moto and got ready to wait for the ferry, which took forever, and was dominated by tanned, skinny foreigners–mostly from Australia and Eastern Europe.
On the “speed” ferry, which we thought would only take 45 minutes, but which took twice that. Namely because of the strong current, but also because the boat stopped at Koh Rong Samloem (the island we were visiting) but at the alternative side. We had to continue on to the other island, Koh Rong, and then back-track to Koh Rong Samloem via another, slower boat.
One thing I’ll never get tired of is the shading of blue and green in the water down there.
Atop the smaller boat, which was filled with foreigners yet again (there had been a handful of Cambodian tourists on the speed ferry, but none here). A few of the foreigners, American, had apparently been waiting a long time, and passive aggressively blamed us (!) for showing up late. I felt bad about myself and my foreigner status, especially because James was there and he had to put up with their shit too. Anyway, we spent the 30 minute ride relaxing, taking photos, and drinking water.
Arriving to M’pei Bei, “23” in Khmer, which was the village on the northern tip of Koh Rong Samloem–sleepy, slightly trashy (in spots) and filled with too many foreigners for its own good. Yet still, cheap and a paradise in its own way.
Not being the type to decide on lodging upon arrival (I don’t get how some people can do that!), I had booked in advance a bungalow at Sunset Bungalows, based on the scores on Booking.com. Though the rocky coast was littered a bit, and though it was “the spot” for foreigners to go to watch the sunset (which we didn’t encounter in any dramatic fashion during out two nights there), I found the bungalows themselves quite amazing, with a perfectly nice hammock, a relatively functional shower and toilet, and two comfortable beds with mosquito nets and a fan.
Our first night we decided to not go crazy and instead do some photography (mine was not very comprehensive because of my little camera) and enjoy a dinner at the Sunset Bungalows restaurant.
It was fantastic being on the Bay of Thailand again. The air quality is serene and the temperatures are perfect throughout the day and evening. James was very inspired by the experience.
After our photo shoot, we stumbled exhausted over to the restaurant of the bungalows, located within a giant structure straight out of a movie. We spent even more time taking pictures, what with the unique lighting situation we found ourselves in.
We also drank Khmer whiskey and cokes. Many of them.
Dinner was a very-welcome Western-style BBQ, with grilled meat and potatoes and bread, a cabbage-based salad, and some dipping sauces.
After dinner we suddenly had amassed some drunken energies, so we found ourselves out and about again taking photos. I didn’t bring my tripod so all my night photos were slightly blurry, but I did explore some of the HDR features on my camera, which really brought out the light from the fishing vessels out in the water.
Though we didn’t know how long the beach was, we decided to walk as far as we could. “23” looked tiny on the map, and it ended up being tiny in real life too. We found, to our surprise, a party-like atmosphere on the exact opposite side of Sunset, which featured trippy lights and fire dancers. It was the perfect opportunity to take HD video and long-exposure shots. I write this and post this from my apartment, which is already struggling with the still images on its DSL connection. I hope to upload the videos in the future, which turned out much better and much less psychedelic than the following images.
The fire dancers were literally four local Khmer guys, probably all in their early 20s, who had literally just started learning how to do it. James asked a couple of them who responded they had only been practicing for a few days. They weren’t professional, but they were captivating in their dance-like quality of manipulating the oil-soaked batons.
In the following images I started leaving my shutter open for seven or so seconds. I fortunately was able to rest the camera on a bench . . . ideally I would have had a much more friendly tripod to use.
At this point one of the guys got on the back of another. It was pretty incredible.
Though the following image is awful, I use it to demonstrate what was going on at the time:
There are approximately 10 days worth of photos. This has been day 3.