Our last couple of days in Cambodia were spent at Monkey Maya. This was billed as a jungle retreat overlooking the sea in the South of Cambodia. And indeed it was.
However, there is not much Cambodian coastline, but it seems that much of what they have has been bought up by the Chinese and other foreigners, to build holiday villages and massive casinos.
The off grid, jungle retreat itself, owned by a small scale UK consortium, was still hidden away amongst the mangroves and indeed had uninterrupted views of the sea and the coastal sunsets were incredible.
You did not have to walk far in any direction before you found evidence of jungle clearance and huge red scars in the landscape and all the beautiful trees and plants destroyed. What buildings have gone up, lack style or taste. I fear for the future of any of the traditional Cambodian buildings on this land.
Landy’s off road capabilities were put to the test in Cambodia and we enjoyed crossing the wooden ‘billy goat gruff’ bridge between us and the main road.
Allegedly 40% of Cambodian land has been leased to foreigners including Angkor Wat! One can’t help but feel that what is being done is of little benefit to Cambodians. The roads in the vicinity of these places are very poor, so no visible infrastructure deals involved.
The politics of Cambodia are strange and contradictory. The constitutional monarch is elected. Officially a multi-party democracy, in reality it is a one party state and Hun Sen has been prime minister since 1985.
Prior to taking office, Hun Sen commanded a battalion for the Kymer Rouge but later in 1979 helped the Vietnamese overthrow the Kymer Rouge.
Cambodia is vaguely communist, but also a free market state. On some measures the Country is classed as the 16th most corrupt in the world. My fear is that the deals done were poor and really benefitted mainly those with the authority to agree terms. More evidence of huge Chinese indebtedness, but perhaps to less good effect than in other places? Who wants hundreds of casinos? That can only really benefit the Chinese consortia who own and run these places and which are probably prevented from running Casinos in China.
One of the last Cambodian towns we drove through on our way to Koh Kong and the border with Thailand, was Sianoukville. This was a busy town with terrible roads with a sea coast and like most Cambodian places, was covered in litter both inside town and in the surrounding countryside. Here near the seaside, the Chinese had really got to grips with redevelopment, destroying most of what remained of the French town planning on the old seafront and they were building many Chinese scale skyscrapers and Casinos in locations overlooking the beautiful coastline.
The fear here is again, what is happening about roads and drainage? And how many casinos can a town support? Here there were quite a few Chinese tourists. The place looked like a tip. Massive construction, dusty potholed roads and very little to do, perhaps except gamble? I was glad to leave all this behind.
After driving away from Sihanoukville on busy terrible single carraigeway roads, we entered the province of Koh Kong. Here the heavy traffic ceased and we began to enjoy the countryside again and the rolling hills which were a feature of this corner of Cambodia.
Our last stop was outside Koh Kong town before the border. For a very late lunch, Jim had found a Crab restaurant built out into an estuary. We needed a pause before crossing the border and this fitted the bill. We were totally alone in this large ‘resort’. We were almost tempted by the offer of a room for the night and a boat tour of the islands, but our border crossing beckonned and we were psyched up for it now.
Those of you who have been following our travels will probably recall that Thailand does not welcome careful drivers! In fact, their regulations stipulate, a bit like China, that foreign cars may only enter with a guide or travel company. This has resulted in overlanders like us, playing cat and mouse with the Thai borders, in the hope that the lesser visited crossings may overlook this. We did not want to be one of the few who failed to find a crossing which let us through.
We had prepared all the documents carefully and had had lots of advice from various people in the know, and I am glad to say that at 6pm at night, the whole process of leaving Cambodia and entering Thailand took 45 minutes. It took a bit longer to buy our new SIM cards so I can continue with the blog.
We had identified a place to camp only 20kms from the border, in a Red Cross Holiday resort on the coast, where camping was free. (Thanks to the ioverlander app.)
After all the preparation and planning, what neither of us had clocked, was that they drive on the Left in Thailand. I shot off in the dark on the right and was indignant to find three cars bearing down on me on the wrong side of the road flashing their headlights! The only problem was, it was me who was the numkin, and not them! Luckily Landy’s big flash lights saved the day and we slid across to safety.
Travelling on good roads, but which were being upgraded, we eventually slipped into the lightly guarded Red Cross holiday village and found ourselves a beautiful stretch of beach and set up camp in Landy under street lamps illuminating picnic tables and chairs. It was peaceful, clean, permitted and empty.
The only downside was the heat and it was still nearly 30 degrees in the car when we switched off the lights.
Next stop the island of Koh Chang near Trat, South of Bangkok.