The journey from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville (524km) was relatively un-eventful but there are just a couple of things I’d like to share. Wether you want to go to Phnom Penh or not, all busses to Sihanoukville will either make a stop there, or you will have to change busses.
I had read that Giant Ibis were the most enjoyable busses to use (and they have free wifi!) but I could only seem to find/book the leg from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and not the second leg from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. (I have subsequently been told that Giant Ibis do operate between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville but their website says otherwise!) We opted to book it anyway and then wing it from there. The journey took 7 hours but was pretty luxurious.Thanks to our lack of planning, on our arrival, the first few bus places we asked only had busses leaving at 1:30am and as it was only 2pm we were keen to get on our way. One of the many tuk tuk drivers who had been hassling us since we got off the bus said he knew a bus that left in 20 minutes time and cost $10. We agreed the fare of $2 for the tuk tuk and off we went. Turns out the place he knew that we had just paid $2 to get to was just a one minute walk around the corner from where we had just been standing. It also became apparent that he would be receiving commission from the bus company for taking us there and that our fare had been inflated to cover said commission. In any case, we still had a 4/12 hour journey ahead of us and were just keen to get moving. Conveniently, the tuk tuk driver also waited until I was on my own with four backpacks before making off with my $2 change with a smirk on his face, knowing full well that I couldn’t chase after him. Sigh. Despite being completely rammed and relentlessly blasting cheesy Cambodian karaoke the entire way, the bus journey it’s self wasn’t too bad. Having said that, it was advertised as taking 4/12 hours and actually took 7 bringing us to a total journey time of around 14 hours.
When we arrived in Sihanoukville we were still feeling stung so decided to bypass the hoard of tuk tuk drivers and find our own way to the hostel we had booked online earlier that day. We had taken a screen shot of a Trip Advisor map to help us find our way. After an hour of asking people who were very keen to help (as long as you paid for their services) and traipsing around in the dark where it should definitely have been, we caved in and found a tuk tuk with a driver who actually knew where we were trying to get to. Turns out the map was completely wrong which seems to have become a trend with online maps in Asia. I don’t know who powers the ones on Trip Advisor, maybe Bing? In any case, we have yet to find one that’s correct. When we FINALLY arrived at the hostel, let’s just say it left a lot to be desired.
The Freelance Hotel & Bar really should be called ‘The Dirty Hole With Rude Staff Where Elderly Western Men Go To Pick Up Prostitutes And Pretend To Listen To Rock Music… Hotel and Bar’. We booked online, one double bed fan room, for three nights. Pretty simple you would think but when we arrived they didn’t seem to have anywhere to put us. Eventually we were led upstairs to a room fitting the description but the bed was un-made and the room had obviously not been cleaned. I asked the guy “has somebody been sleeping in here?” and he just replied “uh… I don’t think so. Bye”. On closer inspection, there was rubbish on the floor, someones used toothbrush in the bathroom and the shower didn’t work. Not a trickle. Nothing. By this time it was midnight so we decided to give up and go to sleep. Just as well really as moments later there was a power cut that lasted all night.
The next morning we asked to change rooms on the basis that the shower didn’t work. We were told we could move in one hour after it had been cleaned. We sat down for some breakfast and while I was finishing up, Rich went to move our stuff across. I popped up to join him in our new room only to find that this room was just as dirty as the other one, it had two single beds (we paid for double) and it didn’t even have a shower at all! It had a small cold tap near the ground. To top it all off, the lovely staff had just cleaned the room we were in initially while our stuff was still in there, had thrown away all my new toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap etc that cost about $9) and had also taken my favorite, super duper microfiber travel towel! This was a terrible start to Valentine’s day/our two year anniversary.
After some further serious frustrations in town I ended up crying in the street but that didn’t stop the tuk tuk drivers trying to get money off me. If anything, it made them more persistent! Our day improved slightly when we finally got to the beach but the letdown was to continue. We knew that it would be difficult to get transport back into town from Otres beach after dark so after seeing all the lovely places we could have stayed, we had to return to our hole at sunset. We arrived back at 7:30 it was pitch dark and the entire hostel had no electricity. AGAIN. We spent the next few hours using the wifi in a place around the corner before returning to Freelance and demanding a refund for one and a half nights as there was no way we were staying the next day. They begrudgingly gave us our money back and we retreated to our bedroom for what may just be the worst nights sleep I’ve ever had. Not that I got any actual sleep. There was no electricity so the fan didn’t work, the room was boiling hot and full of mosquitos AND the bed had fleas. I ended up spending the night cocooned in a silk skirt getting angrier, sweatier and itchier by the minute. Rich gave up all together and went to sleep on the floor outside on the balcony in the hallway. When morning came, we couldn’t have a shower as there wasn’t one, so we packed up all our stuff and headed back to the beach to beg for a room.
To be continued….