Day 8: Ko Samet to Koh Kong
645am! I’m happy to be up early. Rising to midday heat with a hangover is depressing. Also, I’m over this island. Time to move on.
With my blisters bandaged and bag packed, the glaring sun singes my bloodshot eyes as I go to reception to check out. Who am I kidding? Hangovers suck anytime of day.
I catch the eight o’clock ferry back to the mainland, where I wait for a minibus to take me to Trat, my gateway to the Cambodian border!
It arrives, and every seat is filled with either people or luggage. I’m forced to squeeze between three dorky French dudes in the back seat. Our arms fuse together in a film of sweat and every time the one on the end speaks to me, little bits of deli sandwich land on his chin.
The driver speeds and swerves around semi-trucks as he chats on his phone, driving like he’s on salary. The road is bumpy as hell and I seriously need to pee.
But we reach the Trat bus depot in record time, and a man motions me to the end row. The sign reads ‘CAMBODIA BORDER, Terminal 13’. My lucky number! Five guys sit around a table in front. A couple speak broken English to me while the rest stare and snicker like grade five bullies. I get the gist.
I retort back in English and they get the gist, too. We laugh, and I ask them where the best places to visit in Cambodia are. As usual, I have no clue where to go next. They tell me to stop in Koh Kong, fifteen minutes from the border.
When the van pulls up I throw my bag in back and hop in. The hour long journey displays a rapidly changing landscape; Thai towns become fewer and smaller until turning to thick jungle. The sun gleams off the ocean in defiance of the dark clouds looming in the east and west. Yeah baby, this is what I came for. Cambodia calls!
At the border, I find my misplaced Thailand departure slip after some confusing conversation, then fill out some paperwork and get my visa stamped. A guy sets me up with a motorbike taxi and hotel.
During the motorbike ride to Koh Kong, the sprinkling sky turns to painfully heavy water pellets and the driver pulls over so I can get one of those stupid colourful water ponchos that everyone else on the road is wearing.
Swooping down a hill, the jungle drops away to become river and we zoom across a long bridge, caught in a warm Cambodian downpour. The dark forest stretches down both sides of the water and the pure damned beauty has me maniacally laughing through tears on the back of the motorbike.
My hotel is ridiculous; gorgeous terra cotta stone rising four storeys with a pool in the center. ‘Andy’ at the front desk books me in. He says when he finishes work at five, he’ll take me to see one of the biggest mangrove forests in Asia.
I settle in, then bop next door to the little bar shaking with house music. I meet Leo from the UK, who is djing. Tomorrow he’s off to Sihanoukville to work at one of the bars. After a quick beer, I meet Andy in front of the hotel. We jump on his motorbike and head to the country. Dark falls as the bike pulls up to a tiny village, where families eat dinner in their huts. We enter the mangrove forest on a boardwalk built on stilts. It stretches two kilometres through the forest, roots rising above our heads and over the boardwalk like monstrous spider-leg archways. Fireflies burn amongst the trees like airborne phosphorescence, and every few minutes the lightning storm above flashes throughout the mangrove. The boardwalk finally leads to a hut where we buy wine coolers from the lady who lives here. Then we amble across a wooden bridge in the blackness and up a thirteen metre tower. Below to the left, a group of fireflies glow inside a tree, and above, the lightning storm illuminates the forest and river surrounding us.
Eventually our stomachs lead us back to the bike and we drive to town in the dark, stopping on the side of the road for fried rice and beef skewers.
Then I go back to my room, and the Cambodian crickets lull me to sleep with their back-leg bedtime stories.