Last month I left Melbourne to travel Cambodia and Thailand for six weeks. Ever since I first visited South East Asia three years ago, I desperately wanted to return. I began thinking about it in the same certain terms usually reserved for more important matters such as buying a car or graduating from school. Even when I decided to put other priorities first and money became tight, I always had a few grand put aside for South East Asia just in case the opportunity suddenly arose.
Without going into details, things recently fell into place in such a way that made it possible for me to drop everything to return to Asia but the flipside was that I was preoccupied with these personal matters up to the last minute and I barely gave the trip much thought. Having only made up my mind that I was going one month ago, I hadn’t done much in the way of preparations besides booking my flight. Generally I don’t like to plan much when I travel anyway but even as I was packing my bag the night before my departure, I felt strangely detached from what was about to happen.
It was only when I disembarked in Kuala Lumpur that it really hit me that I was travelling again. It was strange how something as mundane as putting on my backpack and walking to the bus stop could bring on such a strong rush of excitement. It was my second time in Kuala Lumpur but the Islamic beauty of the city was not lost on me. As soon as I got into the centre, I rode the skytrain which was worth it just for the view.
After spending a day in Kuala Lumpur, I got a connecting flight to Phnom Penh and a minivan to Sihanoukville. On the van I got to talking to a Swedish girl who asked me if I wanted to share a cheap hotel room with her. My plan had been to look for a hostel upon arriving but I agreed, sensing she was reluctant to stay in a dorm.
It wasn’t long before I was glad that I was sharing a hotel room with Anna. I immediately disliked Sihanoukville and most of the drunken backpackers there. When I first visited Cambodia, I spoke to quite a few travellers who highly recommended Sihanoukville; one guy likened it to Koh Phangnan before it became popular. Perhaps I was there three years too late because I think it would be more apt to describe it as the Phuket of Cambodia but without the nightlife to redeem it.
In any case, I enjoyed my time in Sihanoukville. We split our time between Serendipity and Otres during the day and at night, we usually had dinner with a middle aged Swedish guy, who was a friend of Anna’s father, and his Cambodian girlfriend. One night they took us to one of their favourite restaurants in town, which was a nice respite from eating on the beach where we were usually hassled by Brits promoting bars and Cambodian children selling fireworks.
After four days, I caught the ferry to Koh Rong. I said goodbye to Anna and told her I’d most likely be back in a couple of days.