Southern Cambodia (ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា)

It’s now time to cross the border and explore what’s on the other side : Cambodia.
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Most of the time I travel within Europe, where you don’t even need a passport to travel between countries. You just have to have an ID with you and you’re good to roll ! Thailand is pretty easy too, as you don’t need any Visa if you stay for less than a month.

When you get to Cambodia, it’s a bit different though, first of all you must cross the border on foot, no bus will go through. Then, either you already have a Visa (or eVisa like I had), or you can get a Visa on arrival for 20$. Officers will now take your fingerprints and picture, stamp your passport, and you’re good to go. Beware, sometimes people will try to help you to fill forms, but they’ll charge you exorbitant fee, all you have to pay for is the Visa.

The next step is now to find a way to join the nearest town of Krong Khemara Phoumin and catch a bus from there, if you want to get further. Unfortunately for me the last bus for Sihanoukville has left an hour ago, and I know the last boat for Koh Rong leaves around 3pm, the schedule is quite tight.

I try to find another way to go there without spending too much. Luckily, 4 other people are in the same situation as I am, and they are ready to share a cab. The 40$ it takes is much more expensive than the bus, but if you consider it’s a 4h course, it’s not that much. I make up my mind and join them for the ride, managing to bargain it to 30$.

On the road, we go through the country side, and from the valleys come some loud, high pitched sounds, like an alarm. They are actually produced by Cambodian cicadas. We have some cicadas in France as well, but have you ever heard such  a loud noise come out of an insect?

We manage to get to Sihanoukville in time, after a good old tropical storm, and I buy my ticket for the last speedboat to Koh Rong island. On the boat, the mood is already different from what I’ve seen so far : almost only westerner backpackers, about the same age as I am (25). At first I’m like… meh, because I kinda liked being among locals, trying to manage things by myself. But to say the truth, most of the people I meet on the boat and on the island are very kind, and I’m starting to feel I’ll have a good time here.

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Taken by my friend Michelle

My friend Lauren arrived on the island the day before and told me where she’s staying. I’m not sure of the name, but Hey, it’s not that big of an island, I’ll find her eventually. In the meantime I go for a walk on Tui beach, where all the activity of Koh Rong is concentrated : mostly bars, restaurants and guesthouses. As the sun is setting I take a couple of shots with my film camera and meet some very friendly guys chilling in the sand and enjoying the view. This place is gorgeous!

Back at the Natural lodge, a German guy who is sharing my dorm shows me his back, litteraly COVERED with spots, apparently from bedbugs. I guess I’ll just sleep on those couches outside then… I haven’t told Lauren I was on the island, so when she comes back she’s basically clueless 😏 It’s awesome to reunite like this, on the other side of the world !

After being introduced to her road buddies, we get back to the beach to enjoy the island’s nightlife : party, music, swimming under the moonshine, and in luminescent plankton. I’m just starting to land in Asia, to really be aware of where I am. We spend another day on Koh Rong, I enjoy the place to rest a bit (I’ve already had more than 20h transport in the past two days) and have an awesome time with my new crazy friends Loïc, Jonas and Michelle. Frankly those two days are some of the bests I’ve spent in Asia.

The next day we leave for the continent. While Lauren and I stay together, our friends go their separate ways, I know I’ll meet some of them in Cambodia again, but some are leaving for good. It will always be part of traveling, you meet amazing people and you never know for sure when and where you will be able to rejoin.

Our next step is Otres beach, near Sihanoukville. We have 5-6 days before going to Phnom Penh and want to stay enjoy the sea a bit longer.

We’re staying at the Wish You Where Here… guesthouse, a couple meters from the beach. When they hear us talking about bedbugs, they don’t want to take any chance and make us do a full laundry (bags, clothes, shoes…). The place is very welcoming, and you just have to cross the road to be on the beach, which is beautiful by the way. I like the skies there very much, and take the time to capture a quick timelapse

While we only have the clothes we’re wearing left, plus a tiny plastic bag for our stuff, Lauren and I agree to go spend the next night on the nearby Koh Ta Kiev island. Koh Ta Kiev is a small and quiet place where you’ve got no running water, and electricity only few hours a day. One of Lauren’s friend used to work here and we wanted to check if he was still there. In fact he has now left, and the place he was working at -an amazing forest guesthouse called Crusoe island- looks abandoned (but we’re told it’s actually just closed for the low season).

The next day we take the boat to get back to Otres and get our stuff back. On the way, a rare case of stupidity strikes me as I jump from a 8 meters high rock into the sea and hit a some pretty sharp coral with my foot. I’m now the happy owner of a quite serious injury to the toes, and of a coral pattern on my sole. Fortunately it’s not bad enough to require me to go to the hospital, and I am quickly able to find some bandages, antiseptics and antibiotics. As a bad news never comes alone, I retrieve my -now clean- stuff and figure I had only left one thing in my bag : my passport. Luckily passport are well and can resist such things, even the stamps are pretty readable.

We spend the next fews days chilling -and for my part, mainly healing- at Otres beach. I won’t forget the sky and the sunsets there 😉 this picture is a 1s exposure on a tripod, long enough to make the water a bit smooth, but short enough no to blur the couple on the left.
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On the 3rd day we book a bus to our next destination, the Cambodian capital city Phnom Penh.

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