Koh Rong, Cambodia

Well friends, we’ve made it to our final stop in Cambodia; the beautiful island of Koh Rong!

After two nights at Eden Eco Village just outside of Kampot, we caught another bus to the beach town of Sihanoukville. From here, you can catch a speed ferry and in 45 min you’re on the island!

Now the time has finally come for me to publicly complain about the bus service that was Champa Mekong. Up to this point, all of our domestic travel (excluding the overnight bus) had been with Mekong Express, and despite having a few unforeseen problems which were out of their control, we had a great experience. Because of the time we needed to catch the ferry, we had to forego our beloved Mekong Express for the-bus-company-who-will-not-be-named-twice.

We arrived at the bus station and checked in for our VIP van – which we pre-booked and selected seats – without issue. It’s getting closer and closer to departure time, and we notice that there’s no 12 passenger van anywhere in sight. Only this bigger, maybe 20 person bus which is parked out front. 5 minutes before departure another even larger bus shows up and a whole crew of people pile out and head straight for the person yelling “Sihanoukville! Sihanoukville!” standing directly in front of that 20 person bus.

Can you see where this is going?

There was no VIP van. There was only that damn bus.

And despite our protests – this isn’t what we paid for! – we were told that that was the only bus going and we could either get on or rebook. AND to top it off, because we were fighting for what we purchased, we were the last on the bus. Sis, Terry & Shane ended up in the jumper seats in the aisle for the next 3 hours and I was shoved in the very back seat with a girl who didn’t give two sh*ts about personal space.

Needless to say, we were all ready to get off that bus. Lesson learned -Mekong Express or bust!

Anyway, back to Koh Rong. We had 4 glorious days in a (basically) beachside bungalow.

View from the bungalow.

If those aren’t the faces of two happy campers then I don’t know what is.

We did two main things while in Koh Rong: take a $10 boat tour around the island and dive. Let’s start with the $10 boat tour, which started out sketchy but ended up being a lot of fun!

First off, it took way more effort than expected to find these elusive $10 boat tours. I had read about them online from other blogs but none seemed to give any indication on how you actually go about booking one. The secret? You just walk up to any of the stands in the main area and ask about the $10 boat tour. You will instantly be bombarded with people trying to sell it to you.

When we purchased the tour the night before we were told there would be a max of 15 people, stops for snorkeling, fishing, time at 4k beach (a white sand beach on the other side of the island), swimming with the bioluminescent plankton after dark, dancing (YES – dancing) AND dinner + 2 beers and a whiskey & coke (lol) included.

We ended up on the “Three Brothers” boat tour, and what we got was a max of 25 people, snorkeling with kid-sized masks, one beer, fishing while drinking our whiskey & coke, time at 4k beach, dinner INCLUDING the fish we caught (didn’t see that coming), swimming with the bioluminescent plankton and dancing (it happened!).

Why was the boat so crowded? Turns out, another company sold tickets the night before and then at the last minute decided not to go, so they transferred those people to the Three Brothers tour. Guess who those people were…

Ya – we (along with a few others) were the reason for the overcrowding.

*shrugs*

Once the boat got on its way we could spread out a little and it didn’t feel so cramped.

So, we were off to a different start, but as I mentioned before if you expect about 50% less than what you imagine then Cambodia will never disappoint you. From that point on, we just went with the flow and ended up having a great time. There were a few other small issues along the way, but we just soaked them up as part of the day!

Back on the boat after snorkeling.
Sis attempting to catch a fish while drinking her whiskey & coke.
Terry caught 4 fish!
(Poor) Little Mermaid reenactment on 4k beach.

I like to call this next series “Hold me like those girls on Instagram”.

Very freshly caught fish for dinner. Oddly enough, Terry wasn’t a fan.

Not pictured is the bioluminescence on account of it being – ya know – pitch black water. Which, I would like to give a little shout out to Shane here because he loves to dive but he has an irrational fear of open water, or should I say open water in which he can’t see what’s around. But, with a little peer pressure and #YOBO (you only ‘Bode’ once) chanting, he jumped in, long enough to see the plankton and call it a day.

Also not pictured were the two adorable brothers who were the co-captains to their dad and grandpa that day and were THRILLED when we gave them a pack of Oreos and a can of Pringles as a “tip” for helping out.

Sissys at 4k beach.

Next up, for Shane & I at least, diving!

We had planned to dive two days, but since Shane was recovering from his Kampot sickness, we were only able to go once. We haven’t been in over a year, so we had a one-day refresher course which made for a nice, relaxing day of diving, but man – what a tease! Diving is just the greatest.

Awkward family photo?

I will say, Shane did push his limits a little here with his recovery time. For those non-divers, you really shouldn’t dive if you’ve had respiratory or sinus problems because it makes it hard or even impossible to equalize pressure as you go under. Shane felt good again, but you know how it is after a cold, things are still just a little bit off. All was OK until after the 2nd dive when he about gave the guide a heart attack. He must have popped a blood vessel in his nose because it started bleeding and was collecting in the bottom of his mask. That, mixed with a little water, and he looked like Carrie when he took his mask off at the surface.

So, uh – lesson learned.

Other than that, our time in Koh Rong was spent playing on the beach and

OH!

We almost adopted a cat.

The first morning, we picked a random, cheap place for breakfast, and a cat and her kitten came up to the table. This wasn’t really anything new because there are (sadly) strays everywhere. This lil’ missy though, hopped right up into Shane’s lap, and where mama went – baby followed.

Naturally, our kitty loving heart-strings were pulled. Shane ate breakfast with both of them in his lap (because how to do you even say no?). By day 2, she was named Xena (after the warrior princess) and by day 3 we were Googling how to get her out of Cambodia and back to the Netherlands. Turns out, since Cambodia is a “high-risk” country for rabies it’s a 3-month process. Had it only been a 1-month wait (like it was for Meatball) I’m pretty sure Shane and Xena would have had an Airbnb in Phnom Penh until she could fly. Alas, we left our warrior princess in Koh Rong, but during our short time with her, she got all the breakfast snuggles and hotdog pieces a kitty could want.

Waiting not so patiently for her hotdog.

Koh Rong was the type of place that just grew on you. Despite this island being my idea, I was a little bit nervous about coming because I had started to read about how it was a “backpackers paradise”, but not in a good way. Yes, there was a party every night on the main beach, but we stayed far enough down that it wasn’t really an issue. And you could very easily find parts of the island where there was no trace of the party mentality. The longer we stayed, the less I wanted to leave and, to be honest, the more I wish we had stayed on some of the other, even more remote beaches. All in all, I’d say Koh Rong has something for everyone.

And, if you ever find yourself in Koh Rong, you should wander down one of the alleys to find Sigi and his delicious authentic Thai food! He’s a delightfully sarcastic one-man show, cooking staples from his home-county while he sings to Shania Twain. We went there twice.

And you should definitely follow up any meal with a $1 shake. Blended fruit + milk (or not) makes for the most delicious treat.

Koh Rong felt like a relaxing retreat after the (fun) but hectic first 10 days of the trip. It was nice to dive & spend some time in the sun.

Especially since the 36 hours after leaving Koh Rong would be spent traveling to our next destination…

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Ya know how sometimes you need something, but you didn’t know you needed it until you have it?

That was Palma de Mallorca for me.

As I write this is 18°C (65°F) & raining. It’s getting dark at 9:30pm now. I’m slowly accepting the fact that The Long Night will once again be upon us. (Game of Thrones reference, sorry for being dramatic.) Therefore, one last weekend on a sun-shiney Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea was exactly what I needed!

IMG_4640

I ditched Shane again (sorry hubs) and met up with my friend, Kaitlin, from grad school who was in Spain already for a wedding.

IMG_4540

Per usual, the first day we walked, ate, drank, repeat.

We starting our Saturday with a free walking tour to learn the layout of the city center and a little history! For instance, did you know that Palma was founded by the Romans and later taken over by the Muslims before the reconquest of the Christians? Now, there is essentially no evidence of the Roman or Muslim eras on the island as, with few exceptions, the buildings were either destroyed and rebuilt, or the ruins were covered over the years.

The current city center was also surrounded by a medieval city wall – similar to Dubrovnik – but law prevented people from living outside it. What did they do? Change the law? Nope, in the early 1900s they tore down the entire thing. Makes sense…

IMG_4562
IMG_4553

One other unique thing, which we never would have noticed on our own, were the small faces on street corners (above the street sign, below the lamp). Each face is that of a person of importance to Palma, and is adorned with something representative of their contribution. It’s hard to see, but this guy has books on his head as he was a professor.

IMG_4568

Another great thing about walking tours is asking your local guide where to go. We asked about food & beaches (priorities). Her suggestions lead to some interesting scenarios…

Her first suggestion was a lunch place which was a little outside of city center so off we went. Let’s be real, you always anticipate some awkward scenarios when you’re in a foreign country and you don’t really speak the language (thankfully Kaitlin speaks some Spanish), but this was a chart-topper for us both. As we walked into the restaurant we were immediately sized up by the staff as tourists (I suppose), and then promptly ignored. Finally, when we were able to catch the eye of the waiter, Kaitlin asked for a table for two (in Spanish) to which he gives an indication to come with him….or so we thought. We followed him to a table of 4 he was serving, then back to the front counter, then almost into the kitchen – all the while getting the same ‘follow me’ type of look.

After almost joining to cook staff we decided we’d reached our daily dose of awkward and that was our cue to leave.

Tour guide status: 0/1

After a quick lunch elsewhere, we stopped for a typical Mallorcan pastry, the ensaïmadaat a quite off the beaten path shop also recommended by the tour guide as one of the best in the city. You can have them plain with only powdered sugar, or stuffed with fruit/cream/chocolate – you name it.

I ordered apricot. It came right away.

IMG_4579

Kaitlin ordered something? I don’t remember, long story short they were out. “Would you like chocolate instead?” Sure!

25 min later…. nothin. After a little reminder, her’s finally arrived.

Tour guide status: 0.5/2

Next up, the church Santa Eulalia, recommended by our guide as her favorite in the city. This, she was not wrong about as the views from the bell tower were fantastic.

IMG_4590

Tour guide status: 1.5/3

Our final stop of the day was Bellver Castle which sits on a hill overlooking the city and took a little hiking to reach…

IMG_4609

In case your wondering. We discovered a paved route with stairs once we got to the top (facepalm).

Anyway, the view was great, and the castle was really cool as it’s one of the only round castles in Europe.

IMG_4635
IMG_4623

All-in-all Saturday we walked a little over 20km (12mi) therefore we were quite ready for dinner. We ordered so much food that they actually asked us to move from a 2 person table to a 4 person table…

IMG_4642

Seemed a little dramatic in my opinion, but I wasn’t going to complain.

Day 2 was spent at the beach!

IMG_4645

Tour guide told us to take bus #3 to the end of the line, and we would find Illetes, a much nicer beach than the one closest to city center.

IMG_4649
IMG_4656

I don’t think turquoise waters will ever get old.

Tour guide status: 2.5/4

Our last meal in Palma ended up being the best one. After a day at the beach, we were hungry. 7pm, in case you’re wondering, is too early to eat dinner in Spain. As we were wandering the streets looking for an open restaurant a little google action brought us to this place called Calixto.

I think there were only three employees and only tables outside on the terrace in a smaller, quiet square. There were no menus. The waiter (and maybe owner?) offered us paella (traditional, only meat, or vegetarian) and sangria to which we immediately said YES! It did not disappoint.

IMG_4672

Tour guide should add this place to her list of suggestions!

And that was the weekend! Way too fast, per usual, but great to meet up with another friend!

Up next, Shane’s ESEB conference and my mom & sis arrive in a week!

Tot ziens!

Whitney