Bamboo Island, a bastard of a bus journey and back to Bangkok

Jan 12, 2011

We arrived on Koh Ru on 4th January after a one hour boat ride from Sihanoukville. As soon as we got off the boat we saw that our resort (Bamboo Island Beach Resort) was very basic compared to Lazy Beach. We went to the bar/eating area which consisted of some low tables and a few cushions to sit on (which were mostly used by the owners four dogs so they were covered in dog hair and smelt rather vile). We tried to make ourselves comfortable and after having some lunch we went to our bungalow - it’s beyond us why they don’t invest in tables & chairs! We were staying in Bungalow 1; a wooden hut with a straw roof and lots of openings for bugs and creatures to get in. Inside the bungalow there were two wooden beds with a one inch mattress and the bedding was covered in stains and it smelt disgusting. The beds were the second most uncomfortable we’ve ever slept in (Katy & Alan - they were almost as bad as the one in your spare room)! We didn’t realise until we got there that none of the bungalows had bathrooms so there were two toilets and two showers for the people staying in the ten bungalows to share. We have no problem sharing bathrooms as long as they’re clean & hygienic but these were just disgusting! The enclosure that they were in stank and it was very dirty. Showering and using the toilet was a very unpleasant experience. Aside from the accommodation, the beach was okay; a thin strip of sand that curved round the bay with trees beyond the beach and sea. Although it was quiet and clean, it didn’t have the charm or beauty of Lazy Beach. The crowd at Bamboo Island was also very different to those at Lazy Beach; Lazy Beach was mostly couples and families whereas Bamboo Island was full of hippies. We had originally planned to stay for five nights but after two nights we’d had enough so on 6th January we got the boat back to Sihanoukville to start our journey back to Thailand.

We arrived at Sihanoukville harbour at 11am and we immediately bought bus tickets leaving for Bangkok that night. We found a nice restaurant (New Sea View Villa) to camp in and we chilled there for eight hours until our bus was due to leave. We went to the pick-up area and eventually we were ushered on to a bus. We got talking with the other passengers and there were people on there heading to Phnom Penh, Siem Riep and Ho Chi Minh City but we were the only people going to Bangkok. We checked with the driver that we were on the correct bus and although he spoke very little English, he assured us that we were on the right one (although he didn’t really fill us with confidence). We set off and a few minutes later we stopped to pick up more passengers at a ticket office. We were there for quite a while so Jimmy and I got off to check that we were on the correct bus and we were then told that we were on the wrong one (surprise!) and we would need to change in Phnom Penh. We were dropped off at another ticket office in Phnom Penh at 12.40am. I asked the steward where our bus was and he said it would pick us up from there at 1am. Ten minutes later Jimmy checked with the steward that the bus would be there at 1am and he was then told that our bus had already gone! The steward made a call and then we had to run down the street to get on a bus. When we got to the bus our bags were put in the luggage storage area but we were told to wait outside. Ten minutes later the driver said that there were no seats for us but if we got on for now we would catch up with our bus in 20km and get our beds (as it was a sleeper bus). We got on the bus and had to sit on the very narrow steps next to the driver. The bus ran over a cat and a few rats on the way. At around 3am we pulled up next to our bus and we were ushered on it but they wouldn’t let us move our bags as they said both buses were going to the same bus station in Siem Reap so we could get them when we arrived there. At 6am we arrived in Siem Reap but the other bus (with our bags on) never turned up. After speaking to people at the bus station we were told that it had crashed in to a van and had broken down so they had sent another bus to go and collect the passengers and all the luggage. Our connection bus to Bangkok was due to leave at 8am and initially we were assured that our bags would be with us before then. 8am came and went and at 9am the recovery bus turned up with our bags. We were told that a replacement bus would take us to Bangkok at 9.30am and we were put in to a Tuk-Tuk to take us to the bus. We were dropped off at a youth hostel and the Tuk-Tuk driver made a quick getaway. We went to the reception and it turned out that there was no 9.30am bus and the next one was at 12.30pm! Luckily there were two seats left on it. We waited for over three hours in the youth hostels café and then at 12.30pm we started the journey to Bangkok. We eventually arrived at 9pm on January 7th and we were absolutely exhausted! The journey took 34 hours in total so if you ever go to Cambodia, avoid the Virak Buntham bus company!!!

We spent four nights in Bangkok (our home away from home whilst travelling) and we had a really relaxed time soaking up the city. We pushed the boat out and stayed in the Siem area (the shopping district) and spent lots of time browsing in the shopping malls and stopping for treats and drinks at the many cafés, restaurant and street vendors. We went back to one of our favourite malls, the MBK Centre, which is spread over seven floors with shops and vendors everywhere. We had breakfast there yesterday in the 6th floor food court and we both tried omelette over rice with a different topping; I had Hong Kong pork and Jimmy had teriyaki chicken, they were delicious. On Saturday we went to the IMAX cinema in the Paragon Centre to see Tron Legacy in 3D as Jimmy was desperate to see it. It was really good and the cinema was packed. At Thai cinemas they play a homage to the King before the film and the audience have to stand up for five minutes to watch it. We’ve seen it a couple of times now and it’s sooo cheesy! We went to Banglamphu on Monday (the backpacker district) and we checked out what the street sellers had to offer, we bought a chess and backgammon set as we are sick to death of cards (current scores - Jimmy 78, Neil 60 - Boo!!!). Yesterday was our last day in Bangkok and we went to the Bangkok Art & Culture Museum. The museum is in a really grand massive building but there wasn’t really that much art to see apart from exhibits by two of the princesses which were cool. We caught the 7.30pm sleeper train to Surat Thani last night and we arrived in Surat Thani three hours late this morning. We missed the morning boats to Ko Phangan (our next stop) and we’re now waiting until 2pm for the next boat. We’re staying on Bottle Beach (recommended to us by Jack and Aimee) and we reckon we’ll stay there for four or five nights and then either head straight to Malaysia or stop at one last island in Thailand on the way. We’ll send this update out when we get WiFi. Hope 2011 is treating you well so far! Laters! x

P.S - We arrived on Bottle beach this afternoon - it’s beautiful!