Last known location: London, England

Prior Engagements

Dan: After 10 days or so back home, getting more than our annual fix of snow and turkey, we flew back out to south-east Asia. We arrived on the other side of the Vietnam-Cambodia border in Phnom Penh, only a couple of hundred miles from where we’d left. The 19 hour flight wasn’t the most fun we’ve ever had, but we did manage to get a couple of hours sleep at Seoul airport!

We arrived quite late in the evening and the city was very quiet, everyone seems to go to bed very early here and get up at the crack of dawn. Next morning we were straight on the bus down to Sihanoukville on the south coast, where we were to spend new year. The coach wasn’t in the best of shape and had a fairly serious suspension problem which meant that it rolled violently from side to side every time we went over the tiniest bump! During the journey i also discovered a box of Belgian truffles in my bag – a left over Christmas present i’d brought along. They didn’t seem to like the tropical heat though and i disgusted Gem by drinking the molten remains from the foil bag they came in! As usual the journey took half as long again as we were told it would, so we arrived in the early evening in time for dinner at our hotel, and an early night to catch up on some missed sleep.

We weren’t doing very well getting over our jetlag – the next day (new years eve) we didn’t make it out of bed until the early afternoon! When we finally did get up we headed straight for the beach. Sihanoukville seems to be quite a magnet for backpackers, and the place was especially busy for new year.  The beach nearest our hotel, Serendipity Beach, had beach bars along most of it’s length, all of which were busy with both westerners and Cambodians. It was a lot more developed than we were expecting, but it was good to be on the beach so we spent that afternoon on a sun lounger getting accustomed to the heat again and drinking fruit shakes and cocktails! That night started off fairly respectably with a nice dinner and bottle of wine, and we then took in a few of the local bars, most of which are attached the hostels, ending up in a place called Utopia, where we saw in the new year with fireworks, fire jugglers and a terrible DJ, who refused to do a new year countdown until the song he was playing had finished!

New years day was predictably a bit of a write off, we woke up very late again and only made it out briefly for some dinner! We decided that we finally had to get over our jetlag so the next day we set an alarm and got up at a more respectable time, before hiring a tuk-tuk to take us the 5km or so to Otres beach. This was far less developed and much more peaceful, and we spent a lazy day sunbathing and swimming before our driver returned in the evening to take us back down the dirt track and home.

Gem: We had planned to head back inland the next morning, but we’d seen flyers for a place called Monkey Island resort, on an island called Koh Rong, about 3 hours by boat off the coast.  It looked like the beach destination we’d been hoping for so we booked the boat over and a 2 night stay and set off early the next morning for some more R&R.

The boat to Monkey Island was full of supplies for the island – a lot of beer, soft drinks, some fresh fruit and a few fish thrown in, too.  Suffice to say, the boat was pretty basic, wooden benches and only a few inches above the water.  This all seemed fine, but as we got further away from the mainland and the waves got bigger it began to become a bit of an issue.  We’d been promised the boat would only take 2 hours, but, naturally, this wasn’t the case.  2 hours in and one of the 3 monks next to us was throwing up, the couple we’d been chatting happily to earlier were having a domestic and I was feeling somewhat seasick!  And the island was still quite a way away!  Luckily, I managed not to be sick, and Dan distracted one half of the married couple enough so that we had a pleasant docking and arrived on Koh Rong island without drowning!

Map picture

The island was stunning – white sand beach and gorgeous turquoise water.  We stayed in a bungalow about 10 metres from the sea.  It was basically a room with a bed and a mosquito net, but it had a front porch with a hammock which was great fun and we could see and hear the sea from the front window!  Pretty special!  After getting used to being on dry land we spent the rest of the day swimming in the sea, reading our books on the beach and generally relaxing.  Now, here’s the bit for the girls…

Dan and I spent ages that afternoon in the water – it was really hot so the sea was the best spot to cope with the 30+ temperatures.  Despite lots of laughing and giggling Dan suddenly got a bit serious and before I knew it he had proposed!  It was the perfect setting and it was just the two of us with no one around for 200m or so.  Of course I said yes and we were both very happy!  We don’t have a bling ring yet (it’s not really appropriate for the type of trip we’re on!) but we’ve bought a dark brown buffalo horn ring for the interim and will get something else when we get home.

That evening was spent celebrating, obviously.  We kept it to ourselves for a day and only told a few people staying on the island.  Unfortunately the married couple we’d befriended on the boat over had a massive fall out that evening.  Rings off and everything.  So we didn’t feel we could gloat too much about our blissful happiness (!).  We managed to get a few free cocktails though (no bubbly on the island!) and between counselling our new friends we had a great night.

There wasn’t much to do on the island other than swim and sunbathe so the next day we snorkelled around the coral at the headland and swam round to the next bay.  Lots of colourful fish and interesting coral to see, and loads of big crabs around the rocks closer to the beach.  We spent our last night on the island swinging on the hammock and reading – an idyllic end to a lovely couple of days!

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