The next morning we got up early to meet with our rep at Eco Sea Dive. Simona was really on the ball and got us and 3 other Irish guys onto a boat to head to the Island. The boat ride was about 40 minutes and had a couple of stops. First was a semi-touristy beach on the island where most people disembarked. The rest of the small group continued on to Eco Sea Dive's private little slice of paradise. There is litterally no way to cross the island from one area to another other than by boat. It was amazing from the start. Just a private beach with a couple dozen bungalows and common area with hammocks, bar and restaurant. Just about everyone there came for diving, or if not to dive then just to relax, so the vibe was super chill. The Divemasters basically ran the show and they were a really cool, fun group. Cenk, head DM and instructor, was from Cypress, Kas was a youngin with a ton of diving experience from The Netherlands, and Carolina from Italy were a stellar crew, and really made us feel right at home on the island.
I did only 5 dives because the visibility was not so good. One one of the dives it was maybe a meter or 2 at best. But I didn't mind so much because it was nice to get some low-vis experience under my belt. On one dive we actually ended up losing one of our divers and had to surface to find him. We found him quickly though and learned to stick closer together. The currents were also super strong at times. I kind of felt bad for a couple of the Irish guys who had taken the boat over with us and were getting their certifications. They were really rough conditions for someone just learning. My last dive however was ideal. The visibility was maybe 7 meters or better, the currents died down and the sea life was pretty spectacular. Nothing big, but just beautiful. I decided to quit there because I wanted to end my experience on a good dive. When I wasn't diving and in the evenings Jamie and I hung out with the divemasters, the Irish guys, and any other guests that decided to join us in the bar. Cenk made the best bloody mary's I have ever tasted, and we chatted, made fun of each other, especially the Irish boys, and one night we even played at bit of texas holdem' for peanuts....literal peanuts. It was all really relaxing and fun, and 5 days after we arrived we did not want to get back on the boat to head back to the mainland. We should have followed our instincts.
The ride back to Sihanoukville took twice as long as the ride there because we made about 4 stops, but the day was beautiful and we were in good spirits. Still feeling good when we arrived, I visited the dive shop again to drop off the credit card and cash the owner of Eco Sea Dive had entrusted to me before I left the island (I know - crazy, right!). Once I dropped it off we ended up randomly running into a guy we had met on the plane from Bangkok into Phnom Penh. We decided to grab some lunch with the guy and took our time before grabbing a tuktuk to another beach about 15 minutes away where we had booked our hotel.
It was New Years Eve and we had every reason to believe that our holiday on the beach would be utterly amazing. Not the case. Upon our arrival we were denied our booking by the absolute rudest woman I have ever met. She told us our booking was no good and she had no rooms. Basically she decided to ignore her online bookings at the regular rates and rent her bungalows to walk-ins who she charged double for the space. She then went on to tell us that we could stay in her families cottage at a higher rate than our original booking, because you know, it was better than the bungalows because it had an en-suite. We were hesitant, understandably, to commandeer her families home, but she was adamant that her family (an infant and young daughter included) would be fine sleeping outdoors. What a horrifying decision to have to make! We really didn't have much choice since it was New Years Eve and every other place was booked. The decision was forced upon us further when a couple of backpackers showed up and she told us if we didn't take the room she would rent it to them for $5 more than what she offered it to us for. She was rude and argumentative the whole time and another couple coming shortly after us with a similar booking was treated the same but turned away since she had no other space to offer. While we were grateful to have a room for the night it was horribly run down, we were not even sure the sheets were clean, and the "en-suite" was little more than a hole in the ground. I've stayed in shitty places before, believe me, but this was ridiculous. It was probably made worse just from the woman's attitude. I stayed away from the place the whole night, I was just disgusted by the situation, and I couldn't bear to look at her child knowing I was kicking her out of her bed, or see the makeshift bed the woman had made for her family of four....a mattress on top of a picnic table with a mosquito net draped over top of it. Jamie and I hid out in the resort next door. We had a really nice dinner, I tried Amok, a Khmer (Cambodian) dish, which was delicious. We had a few glasses of wine and welcomed 2015 with our toes in the crystal clear waters of Otres Beach. I should mention, all of my complain aside, that the location we were at was absolutely stunning. A picturesque tropical scene. The new year was brought in by fireworks over the water and a few paper lanterns being released into the night sky. It was beautiful.
By the time we returned to go to bed we were feeling better, but the horrible nights rest did nothing for our nerves by the next morning. I got up early, no use spending any more time in that room than I needed to. To be honest, I was kinda feeling like I would have been more comfortable sleeping on one of the beach loungers. I wonder what she would have charged us for that? I had a nice breakfast at the place next door and laid on the beach until Jamie got up. We didn't hang out long before we decided to head back to the main beach to find another place to stay. When we told the woman we were checking out she was like "Oh, I thought you booked for 3 nights?" To which I answered, "I thought we no have booking?" I was so glad to get out of there.
We did end up finding another place on a very last minute booking. Actually when we arrived they no longer had the size room we had booked online but the owner was kind enough to offer us an upgraded room at no additional cost. We were able to finally relax comfortably and take a hot shower for the first time in almost a week. It was glorious!
The next day we decided to head back to Thailand. We boarded a bus that looked as if it was barely staying together, and didn't have enough seats for all its passengers, so some people sat in the aisles. It took about 5 hours to get to the boarder, 2 hours to go through Cambodian, then Thai customs, followed by a 3 hour van to a bus station in Trad, then a songtow to some agency in Trad, then a final 6 hour ride to Pattaya, where we stayed for the night. The whole thing took us about 14 hours in total. We went the rest of the 3 hour distance home the next day. The end!
Despite the shit-show that was our last 3 days, the Christmas in Cambodia trip was really fun and very relaxing. Last time I was in the country I was only able to stay a short time so it was nice to see more of Cambodia.