Alright I’ll say it. I have a problem. An addiction, really. But the first step on the road to recovery is acceptance, right? There’s hope for me yet. There has to be. I will keep the faith. My vice, you ask? Chocolate-almond covered ice cream bars made by Magnum. Yup. Not exactly the worst addiction a girl could have, but still dangerous. They cost $2 – a veritable fortune out here considering a meal is about $4 – and they’re worth every penny. Not only are they sweet and delicious, they are gluten free, which is something most desserts are not. And they’re perfect for those warm island days after a long day at the beach… yeah, you’re about to hate me. If you already don’t really like me very much, stop reading here, bc your dislike for me will soon grow exponentially.
You know all those travel pictures people share on social media saying “I need a vacation” or “I’d rather be here”? Well, I just spent the past week in two of those places. It’s okay, I would hate me too.
This may not be the most exciting post in the world considering the last week was spent alternating between reading a book on the beach, swimming at the beach, laying on a hammock strung up on the beach, and (last but not least) hanging out at the beach. Did I mention there was a beach? Bc there were. Several beaches. Right about now I imagine you’re calling me another word in your head that sounds a lot like “beach” and even also starts with a “B” but isn’t quite the same word. But that’s okay.
The water was that crystal-clear that looks like some filter-crazy Insta lover went overboard on the edits and now it just looks fake, but there’s really no filter and you’re standing in 5ft of water looking down at your toes thinking “Wow I need a pedicure” and “Oh look, a crab!”
It’s not all fun and games, though. You can tell who’s spent time at the beach by the sunburns and sand flea bites (those bastards are everywhere and they will get you). They seem to have a particular fondness for Ky which he has not enjoyed, but we got the cure-all miracle product (Tiger Balm) which supposedly cures everything from itchiness to headaches, and he can certainly vouch for its itch-relief properties at this stage.
We spent our first three nights on Koh Ta Kiev at a hostel called Kactus, and I truly cannot recommend either one enough. It was incredible. Granted, we spent the entirety of our morning transit from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (the port city which gives you access to the islands off the coast) looking for a place to stay and not meeting with much success. We were thinking we would have to stay a few nights in Sihanoukville itself bc everything on the island was booked before getting an email from Kactus saying they had a few free hammocks for us, and boy oh boy am I glad we took them up on it. The longboat picked us up at 3pm – they have their own boat bc no company goes to their part of the already-isolated island and they normally wouldn’t be back in town at 3PM but their oven broke and they had to go into the city for a new one – and we had to literally walk into the ocean to get to it. I’m talking waist deep. This was by no means a problem, seeing as the boat’s helper carried our heavy luggage for us above his head and tossed it (not gently) on board, and we carried our small backpacks as we gingerly walked into the waves – fully clothed – to climb into the boat and take the hour-long ride to the island. It was freaking awesome. We knew right then we would be getting the full experience bc there was no fancy speedboat company to write us up a ticket and have a team to load our bags etc, it was just you and your boat captain (and in our case the owner who had to pick the oven up).
We spent our first few hours taking in our part of the island – a gorgeous treehouse hostel with a private beach – before they came and took our dinner order. And this is the best part. What I didn’t mention yet is that this hostel is owned by a world renowned French chef who decided island life was the way to go and opened up a hostel on a remote island with no WiFi or data access. Let me tell you, his decision is one I am eternally grateful for. Each meal was one of two options – usually one vegetarian and one meat – and both absolutely delicious. The portions were huge and the flavors were mouth-wateringly delicious. $6 a meal had you eating like a king, and I truly don’t think I have or will ever experience such good food again for such an amazing price (except for the food I get in my mom’s kitchen for free). The hammocks were veeery warm at night and the bucket showers – yeah you read that right – were not the most satisfying, hygienically speaking, but the experience was incredible and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Except for maybe the massive spider I encountered in the bathroom when I stumbled into the hut at 4AM and came face to face with a man-eating arachnid which was hopefully the largest eight-legged creature I will ever have the misfortune of coming into contact with. But other than that, everything was great. I just went back to my hammock with a little bit of PTSD.
After gaining a few pounds on Koh Ta Kiev, we headed back to Sihanoukville to relax (as if we hadn't already been doing that) for a few hours and take a speedboat to Koh Rong Sanloem, another nearby island. Sanloem is louder and more popular than Koh Ta Kiev, but only just. Differences include an actual commercial speedboat company that services the local piers, indoor plumbing, and electricity. Well, sometimes electricity. The power went out on a daily basis for hours at a time, but who needs lights, right? We enjoyed our hostel so much we extended our stay an extra night and took a boat trip out to the reefs for snorkeling and fishing with the locals (line fishing). Suffice it to say that if we were catching fish to feed ourselves for dinner that night, we would have starved. Luckily our boat’s captain was a fish-catching fiend and took care of it for us, seeing as he reeled in about 20 fish in the span of an hour. I’m not going to lie, I was incredibly jealous considering the most action my line got was when it got tangled with that of the British guy next to me (who thought he caught some massive shark when I pulled on the tangled line which was freaking hilarious).
This hostel was known for its parties, but you could find Ky and I in our bunks by around 10 every night bc we are not the party animals we once were – something I’m sure my grandma will be happy to hear (I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m an alcoholic). We did go out one night, however, but not to party. We went to the beach just outside our hostel as the night got darker and the moon hid in the clouds and waded into the water. I know it sounds like the beginnings of a poor quality shark-related-violence based movie, but no. We did it for the bioluminescent plankton. Though if you ask Ky, we were about to get eaten by sharks approximately every two seconds – he did not like the ocean at night and subsequently also did not enjoy all my jokes about the likelihood of shark attacks. Weird, right? I’m actually surprised he didn’t drown me out there as I made all my jokes and splashed around, making the plankton light up around me. I will say this, though: while incredible and amazing and magical, there are not as high concentrations of plankton as you see in the Insta-photos, people. It’s awesome, but it’s also over-edited and over-exaggerated on social media, as most things are.
Anyway, several Magnum ice cream bars and bucket showers later found us back on a speedboat headed for mainland Cambodia once again. Yesterday was spent at our hostel – me working on Masters apps and trying not to drown under the self-induced pressure, and Ky taking naps and doing whatever else it is people do when they’re at a Cambodian beach resort without applications to work on. Yes, my words are dripping with jealousy. Whatever.
All in all it’s been a wonderful 10 days so far in this beautiful country – our first few days in Phnom Penh were fantastic, and a welcome change from underwhelming Saigon. We visited the Killing Fields and the Secret Prison which made for a very long day, but it was well worth it. Learning about the history of a country is such a huge part of visiting it – you can’t just come for the island parties, you need to develop an understanding of why a country works the way it does and has developed the culture that it has, or else why leave your own country in the first place? There are island parties in the Keys if you’re looking for a rager and potential death by shark consumption, ya know? Culture is important, people.
But for now, sleep is calling my name and my stomach is full of the most delicious curry I’ve ever had washed down with – you guessed it – a Magnum ice cream bar. It was delicious, as per usual.
So this is where I leave you folx – until next time!
Today’s list of differences and surprises:
PS. For those of you jealous of my island time, let me make you feel better. I am now suffering on the patio of a neighboring hostel to my own (bc ours has no power or WiFi at the moment) trying to get my life together and submit some masters applications. Pray for me.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)