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On the road in Cambodia

13th December 2011

I jumped out of bed at 7am and by 8am I was rattling out of Sihanoukville on an old local bus. After 2 hours of rural Cambodian vistas filled with free range buffalo, skinny white cows, dogs and waving children I reached the lovely colonial town of Kampot. The rice paddies all around had changed from vibrant green to mellow yellow as they dried out and were ready to harvest. Whole extended families had come together to cut the rice by hand with small sickles and neatly pile it up ready for threshing, leaving about 6inches of stubble for the buffalos.

Passing on through Kep and reaching the Ha Tien border with Vietnam by 12, I was through customs in 20 mins and found that the visa on arrival was only valid if you were to go no further into Vietnam than Ha Tien town. Luckily I had the visa in advance (phew) so half an hour later I was having a baguette and coke, awaiting the departure of the ferry to Phu Quoc. I chose a seat right next to the door and checked my life-jacket, which was in full working order before relaxing for a painless 1 1/2 hour ride on a gloriously flat sea. I disembarked the jetty in sweltering heat with a huge rucksack on my back and a smaller day pack on my front, while a line of motorbikes ferried goods along the jetties length making the straggle of passengers keep stopping to let them pass.

I jumped a mini van to Long Beach, a beautiful stretch of golden sand about 10 kms long, and found a guesthouse and small bungalow complex right on the beach. Thus by 4.30 I was sipping a cold beer in a tropical heaven among thatched restaurants with about 40 other tourists of varied age only half filling the available tables and chairs. Wooden tables full of tasty local fishy treats were laid out and bbq's lit. For $5 US I chose a huge chunk of tuna withy a crusty garlic butter baguette. It was gorgeous. A couple of Saigon green label beers [ @ $2 each ] and a sunset later I called time and retired, looking forward to hiring a moped in the morning and exploring the island.

Peter O'Sullivan

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