The road to the coast from Phnom Penh, though still 4 hours, is significantly more comfortable than that north to Angkor Wat. The tarmac fulfilling more of the general expectations of what a road should be.
For a short time the countryside became more mountainous and a little cleaner. Piles of plastic not so prevalent along the road side. Vegetation no longer rice paddies but thick forest, once again accompanied by incessant warm rain .
Filling the tank from a soda bottle
Coastwards the hills rolled away and forest turned to monoculture. May be palm oil? The desolation of biodiversity under the canopy was clear. Like British softwood plantations stark rows blocking out light and defying growth.
Rice paddies soon reappeared where dark gray buffalo worked and wandered knee deep in water. Along with villages and the accompanying detritus of Cambodian life. Haphazard shops, rows and rows of petrol for sale in plastic bottles. Anything from a 2l water bottle to a 5 gallon can. Motos and tuktuks piled high. People, belongings and pigs in wicker baskets strapped precariously to the sides.
Sihanouk Ville has wedged its toe in the tourism door but is mainly a haunt of the backpacker fraternity and divers who enjoy the sublimely beautiful coast and scattered islands.
Boats to islands
The town makes some attempt at rubbish collection with large black tubs outside shops and women litter picking in the early mornings. Volunteer or employed? But essentially they fail miserably. Vast sandy beaches and rocky coves are splattered with non destructible packaging. May be responsible tourism should include cleaning the beaches?
Serendipity beach retains its charm yet has acquired the trappings of tourism, mercifully without the concrete skyline. Lines of beach front bars, deck chairs and hawkers. Buy a bracelet or have a $2 pedicure. Delicious barbecued seafood for $3 hardly sing of tourist exploitation.
Koh Rong Saloem Island
A tuktuk ride to one of the out of town beaches or boat ride to the islands is effort worth making. Clean, empty in the low season. with shoals of flying fish nonchalantly across the bay. Thick green tropical forest pushes on to shimmering white sands as water cascades down warm water falls fed by monsoon rain.
A beach trip in the rain? Well being from Cumbria that is the one thing I should be used to. But it beats the Lake District. There is no escaping. If you are out in it you just get wet, but at least it is warm rain and as soon as it stops you’ll will steam dry to the point you will wish it was still with you. It doesn’t detract from the charm and if you want a crowd free stay, then try the monsoon season.