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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Koh Kong, Cambodia: Don't Drink and Tuk-Tuk

I think it's safe to say that going into Cambodia the three of us were slightly apprehensive.  We had heard and read about a lot of petty theft, purse snatching, even "brick attacks" on foreigners (these are the types of things you don't tell your parents before you go somewhere...) and from the moment we walked across the border it was clear that Cambodia had a bit more of a renegade feel than Thailand.  I was, however, very pleasantly surprised by Cambodia.  The countryside was beautiful, the people were very friendly and helpful, the food was delicious (Khmer curry!) and the beaches were great.

When we arrived at the border by minivan we proceeded to stamp out of Thailand and were ushered through a gate on to a dirt road that was surrounded by trees on one side and water on the other.  With no one directing us and no signs, we were unsure of where we were supposed to go or if we were even across the border, but we stumbled upon the immigration stand.  We were immediately surrounded by men in skinny jeans and trucker hats (Cambodian fashion) who held a contraption near our head that supposedly measured our temperature and gave us a clean bill of health.  They then took control and filled out all of our forms and paperwork before we realized we should be doing this by ourselves and they began to ask us for their "tip."  We also paid double the price for our Visa but at that point decided it was a moot point to try and argue. Definitely not the typical border crossing/immigration checkpoint.  Once we survived this debacle we had to get ourselves into the town of Koh Kong to find a place to stay. Using our trusty Lonely Planet guidebooks we decided on Ramsey Buntam Guesthouse.  It wasn't the most luxurious of places, with dead mosquitoes littering the sheets and a giant dead cockroach on the ground, but it was monsooning outside and we weren't in the mood to traipse around town to find another place.

The location turned out to be perfect, however, because right next door was Paddy's Bamboo Pub - a very small pub with just a few tables. After enjoying a delicious meal of Khmer Curry and some Angkor Beer, we were invited by a group of Cambodian men behind us to join their table and have a drink.  Only a couple of the men were fluent in English so we stumbled our way through some hilarious conversations and taught them some of our favorite Americanisms such as the fist pump and "Booyeah!" The owner, Paddy, came out and joined us for a bit and told us about his dream to start a hostel and his goals of helping his fellow Cambodians to have work and learn English, quite the amazing fellow! After a few rounds, which involved a "cheers" every other drink, literally, we were invited to join the group at a club for some dancing.  We were wiped out from our trek though and decided to take a pass as our only way home would be from one of the guys, a tuk-tuk driver, who had been downing beers with us until he stopped so he could be the "designated tuk-tuk driver." I'm sure it would have been a very memorable experience, but I was ok with skipping out this time around.

The next morning we had some great breakfast with baguettes (real bread! Can't get this in Thailand!) before Paddy personally gave us a ride, by tuk-tuk of course, to the bus station so we could head down south to the beaches of Sihanoukville.  There wasn't a whole lot happening in Koh Kong, but Paddy's Pub made it a very worthwhile stop on our trip!

1 comment:

Thai Baht for your thoughts....

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