It’s an unusual thing indeed to find an orderly transport system when backpacking through SE Asia.
I had gotten used to showing up to delayed transport services, disorganized companies and just general mishap. I’d experienced overbooked buses in Laos with passengers having to sit on the floor for up to nine hours, to transfers in the middle of nowhere with little to no instruction in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
The speed ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong resides in a league of its own. It is a completely structured company owned and run by Westerners. The service makes you feel like you are in the Greek Islands not the wilds of Cambodia.
With strict ticketing, boarding and on-board safety, I almost went into shock on our first trip using the service. The small boat powered through the ocean and got us to Koh Rong promptly and on time. The staff on board were lively, informative and friendly; their infectious personalities increased the excitement of all who were heading to the famous ‘paradise’ rumoured to be found on the island.
The ground staff on the island however didn’t share this attitude. Organising our dreaded return ferry back to the mainland, we were greeted by a rude and unfriendly girl who ultimately was disinterested in helping us book our return trip. As a resident on the island you are forced to travel on the morning service, leaving the afternoon slots open for day-trippers who may or may not even be visiting the island. We left shocked at the staggering difference in customer service offered by the company.
Unfortunately, we chose a bad day to travel by a small boat in Cambodia, with high seas battering the area. Due to the high swells, the ferry was several hours delayed as the boat struggled to get to the island with the passengers travelling from the mainland to replace us. As we waited for the boat to arrive, the staff was unable to give us any indication of when we would actually be departing and advised we stay put and wait.
When we were finally on board and out on the water, the boat was tossed around like a ping-pong ball as waves crashed over the sides. Propped up on the rail on a comfortable chair on the exposed roof, I fell sound asleep after the first few sways side to side. The boat took a circuitous route, sheltering where it could among the other small islands and adding an extra hour to the trip.
I woke as we pulled into Sihanoukville to find that 90% of the passengers on the boat had been sea sick the entire journey as I had blissfully slept unawares. My friends from the main bottom deck filled me in on the horrors and I couldn’t believe I slept through it all.
We had arrived late in Sihanoukville and had missed all buses to Kampot. We had an extremely late lunch at Led Zephyr before organising taxis to take us away to Arcadia.
All opinions are subjective to the writers personal travel experience. The writer travelled at her own expense.