On Tuesday morning we took a bus with the direction to Sihanoukville (also known as ‘Kampong Som’). Initially we had planned to stay one night in this city before taking the boat to the island, but we are happy we did not: the city is not so welcoming, construction is everywhere, the tuk-tuk drivers are the most aggressive we have met, and prostitution is really obvious. We heard that if one really wants to stay, a good option might be the Otress Beach which is a bit further away. We took the speed boat at 2pm, and after a 30 minute boat ride, we arrived at our stop: M’Pai Bay (our pier). We were very surprised to find a lot of garbage laying in the middle of the sea, during our boat ride…
After leaving our bags at our hostel (not our best experience so we will not recommend it) we went in direction of the beach, crossing the whole village on our way. M’Pai Bay village (which means village 23) is quite small and it expands mainly around the pier. A mix of concrete and wood structures. Of course, the beachfront is mainly occupied by accommodation, restaurants and bars, while the actual village is located in the back, uphill.
Again, we were shocked by the littering. The landscape is so beautiful that it is heartbreaking. You can find litter not only everywhere in the village, but also on the jungle trails and in the more remote beaches. Some initiatives have been put in place here and there, which are aimed at improving the waste management on the island but obviously this is still not a priority for neither the villagers nor the government.
The beach is super nice, and we could easily include it in our top 5 beaches list. Long sandy beach fringed by the jungle. The water is very clear and shallow, while the tides are very visible through the day. A few little fishes follow us probably because our steps in the sand raise up some nutrients. We can see crab holes everywhere in and out of the water; luckily, it’s mostly very small holes so we assume the crabs are relatively small, therefore inoffensive for our feet! Assumption confirmed when we caught sights of a few here and there but they are very fast at hiding in the sand! The sand is amazing, very thin and shaped by the water. We observed also what I have seen on other beaches: the crabs are real artists! They indeed make little fine art from the sand and create little spherical shapes all around the beach. We heroically managed to stay in the damp heat until the beautiful sunset appeared.
The next day we followed the recommendations of the locals which told us to walk up to ClearWater Bay through a jungle trail. It’s a 45 minutes hike from the village and we are advised to wear good walking shoes as the jungle trail is scattered with roots, bugs and even snakes (luckily we didn’t meet any!).
To reach the trail we have to cross the beach we were on the day before, and we are still amazed by its beauty. It is very warm and the water looks so inviting but we decide to go through without stopping: curious to discover the “new” beach. We still take the time for a few more pictures on the way.
At the end of the beach we arrive in front of an eco-resort that looks pretty cool. We particularly like their “Jugle Gym” (I guess the N went on holidays… 🙂 ). Indeed they had build about 10 gym equipment out of sticks, wraps and laundry bottles filled with sand. Pretty cool! The view from the gym is obviously the best you could have! Silviu could not resist and had to impress me with his strength 😉
A few meters after the resort, the jungle trail starts. We had to walk along the sea for the first part before actually crossing to the other side of the headland. It is indeed a nice trail, although we can feel the air being stuffier as it is getting very warm now (it was noon already). We did encountered a few bugs, as well as a couple of monkeys! We would not have noticed it if it wasn’t for one of them jumping from one tree to another and us noticing the movement in the leaves; they went on their own way, while we did also. It was a nice encounter.
We finally get there! We can surely confirm that the Bay is well-named: clear-water all around! It reminds us of the beach we mentioned earlier but with even more shallow water which gives it a very clear blue color. Our first surprise: the water is very warm at the surface!!! We need to get much further away to finally feel some refreshing cold streams! It is very, very hard to get out of the water! We stayed 2 hours in the water and our fingers got all wrinkled. When we finally went out of the water, it took us just 10 minutes to get back in the water for another hour!
We eventually forced ourselves to leave the place. We had to head back to our hotel for the sunset, which we heard it was pretty good. The weather was cloudier on the end of afternoon which made the jungle trail feel easier and faster. Because of the low tide we decided to cross the beach through the water for a little refreshment on the way. We bought some passion fruits once at the village and savored them comfortably installed for tonight’s show: a beautiful sunset!
We later went for dinner in the village with a German girl that we had met earlier. As a side-note, as you can see on the picture: despise putting sunscreen between each bath we did take a lot of “colors” (read ‘red’) on our faces! And of course, sunburnt our back…
The next day we decided to take it easy and avoid sun exposure as to not further burn our bodies. Guess what? Madam Nature heard us and made the day cloudy and rainy! We spent our morning on the terrace Silviu working, me reading. We then took cover from the rain in our bedroom. Once the rain was over we went for lunch and a walk in the surroundings. At night we went to a restaurant that we had been recommended, as it is the only one it seems to serve fresh fish … on an island!! Crazy! Apparently, for what I was told, Chinese companies are buying most of the fish around; so even if we were staying in a fishermen village, there was no fresh fish anywhere… Sad…
Anyway we enjoyed another beautiful sunset while waiting for our dinner: steam fish with a lime-pepper sauce and fried fish with a tomato-garlic sauce. It was really good!
Our last night on the island has been rough due to a very strong storm that shattered our hostel for a few hours: lighting and thunderstorms every 5 to 10 seconds! And of course heavy rain all time long. In the morning we had planned to take the 7am boat in order to be able to catch a bus to Phnom Penh. Luckily the storm had stopped but the rain was still there so we were worried the boat wouldn’t make it. But it did! A bit late but not too bad.
The ride back ended being quite hectic: big jumps on the waves and poor visibility so the captain got lost and went much more South that it should have. At least the crew found that very funny so it’s somehow reassuring. What we found very funny was the wiper… a manual windshield wiper… whaaaat? Well it’s a poor guy staying at the front of the boat with his poncho under the rain in order to wipe the window for the captain!
We finally arrived but… in a different pier than expected! We were told that a free shuttle would come but still had to wait for 40 minutes there unsure of what was happening. Many tourists had connections to catch and everyone was worried about missing them, so people ended up taking tuk-tuks that were clearly over-charging them … with pleasure! Business is business… The shuttle finally arrived and we were dropped directly at the bus station. Another 6 hours on the road before we would get to the Cambodian capital!