We decided to squeeze in one last beach trip before we leave Cambodia and there was one last beach destination we hadn’t visited, so we took off on Friday for a visit. It sounded perfect.
Lonely Planet Cambodia describes Koh Kong like this: “Cambodia’s largest island towers over seas so crystal clear you can make out individual grains of sand in a couple meters of water. Its seven pristine beaches get so few visitors that sand crabs scamper obliviously up and down the beach and the shoreline is dotted with colourful shells of the sort you see only in souvenir shops....beaches lined with coconut palms and lush vegetation just as you’d expect in a tropical paradise... one leads to a genuine Gilligan’s Island-style lagoon.”
Um, yes please! We were super excited and as soon as we checked into the hotel were checking into ways to get to that island!
We were a teeny bit surprised to find out that the only way was by boat but when we learned how far that island really was from the shore, it was no surprise that they don’t have a bridge out to it. It is an hour boat ride to the northern point, and further to get to each of the seven beaches. The hotel had a brochure for an all-inclusive all day boat ride that featured a beach, lunch bbq, mangrove tour, jungle trek, snorkeling, and more. We negotiated with them on the prices, since everything is negotiable here and our kids wouldn’t be able to do half of that, and then we all got tucked into bed excited to head to that beach at 8:15 the next morning!
And that’s about where the planning ended.
In short, it was the worst boat trip ever. But if you want the entertaining version, keep reading.
We stood there waiting for the boat where we were told to wait and it didn’t show up. We asked about it again and again but received no new information. Around 9am, we were escorted to a different hotel where the boat had been waiting for us the whole time. We joined 4 other tourists and 6 or 7 Cambodians for the ride. It was hard to tell who was crew and who were just friends along for the ride.
Our boys were excited but not excited enough to ride up on deck. We gathered underneath but could still see out the window. It was fun as we were in the bay but once we hit the open ocean the waves were huge and our boat hit a giant swell, bounced way into the air, and left us with one kid screaming. For like, half an hour. (It was scary!) The other one was sleeping. The boat driver slowed a little but continued to hit the waves at high speed and rocked the boat with each one. He decided to take the inland course around the island instead of the oceanside one so it took much longer to reach the beach. During that time we had a seasick crew, a ship that ran aground and required people, including Stephen, to get out and push, and a couple stalls of the engine. Our confidence in this boat crew was diminishing with every passing minute.
And then this happened:
Yep. As we finally got to the beach, three hours after departing the docks, almost four since scheduled departure time, the boat dropped anchor and informed us we had to swim to the beach. They should put that in the brochure, by the way, don’t you think? Anyway, after they dropped the anchor, our boat was facing the beach right where the huge waves were breaking and one came over the back and filled the bottom of the boat with water. I snapped that photo. Just after I took the picture, another wave crashed in and more water came in. I don’t have a picture of the higher water because it was at that point that the ziploc bag enclosing our peanut butter sandwiches was emptied out of PB&J and filled up with Canon SLR! I decided I didn’t want my camera to get wet and that was my best option. I even turned it inside out and reverse zipped it folded over so it wouldn’t get PB&J on my camera. Now that’s quick thinking in chaos! Go, me!
But as I was doing that our boat was spinning. I looked up to see that we were parallel to the beach and the waves that had been coming over our boat from the back were now coming over our boat from the side and tipping us sideways, nearly capsizing us. Everyone was moved into the little enclosed area with us and grabbing lifejackets. Our kids were screaming and the boat was just turning in circles. They couldn’t get the anchor back in because the boat had twisted so much the rope had wrapped around it several times and made it feel even heavier, yet they wouldn’t cut it. I went from thinking about how I shouldn’t have brought my camera to thinking I shouldn’t have brought my kids. Or myself and my husband, for that matter.
Eventually, though, we got away. But we never did get to see that beach. They took us to the perfectly still (and polluted) waters of bay and we had a BBQ lunch on the rocks, which the kids called their beach trip.
They were happy.
Lunch was good. Or, not terrible, at least.
Then we saw some mangroves.
And, 8 hours after departing the hotel, 7+ of it on a boat, we returned. It was disappointing, but it made for a great story. Another adventure of following God, I guess.
For all of us.
(My son’s journal entry for this week)