Feeling uncharacteristically chirpy and hangover free on New Year’s Day, we booked boat tickets to a big island off Sihanoukville, Koh Rong. We clambered onboard a speedboat and put on our life jackets before whizzing across the sea for half an hour, in some very choppy conditions! I had the absolute time of my life and was grinning from ear to ear for the whole journey, despite the fact that we were sat right at the back so got soaking wet. The main area of Koh Rong was lovely – surrounded by blue and absolutely covered in nice bars and hostels as it’s a bit of a haven for backpackers. We were staying in a resort on a private beach called “Nature Beach”, and for some reason they picked us up on a huge fishing boat. We weren’t complaining about the free lift to the area, and we lay on the top floor taking in the gorgeous views.
Once we arrived for check-in, something had obviously gone wrong because they couldn’t find our booking. They hurried us away to the bar, and treated us to a free beer each for the inconvenience; which hadn’t actually bothered us at all because we were booked to stay in a tent by the beach so there was no hurry! Minutes later we were offered yet more drinks, along with dinner in the house – racking up to about $15. We could definitely get used to having a delayed check-in. Needless to say we didn’t mention that we were booked to stay in a $7 tent… The next twist in the tale is that they took us to the wrong tent anyway – and gave us an amazing one up on a platform in the forest. We fell in love as it felt like such an adventure. The beach itself was picture-perfect so it was just heaven.
We spent our days sea kayaking, swimming (more of Ollie pretending to be a seal) and snoozing. Whizzing back to the kayaking; boy was I bad. Perks of not travelling alone meant that after a few novelty rows, I spent my time lying on the kayak tanning as I was paddled around. Bliss! I was feeling increasingly ill over the week so wasn’t on top form and was generally pestering Ollie less than usual. He was obviously devastated at the lack of attention so we started thinking that maybe we should head back to the mainland to visit a doctor.
The island was a complete haven, and we totally recharged our batteries (as if we have had anything to stress over for the past month…). When you spend all day swimming, eating fresh fruit and delicious curries, and splashing around falling off huge swings in the middle of the sea, you realise that your life is incredible and that you’re unbelievably lucky to be in a position to travel. I can only encourage anyone that is able to do it to take the leap as you will never look back.
3 nights in and I was feeling very worse for wear. In the morning we climbed aboard our fishing boat once more before we made our way to the International Clinic in Sihanoukville, where I was charged $115 for a minute appointment and a pack of tablets – life was a dream. We booked a more expensive room for the perk of air conditioning and a double bed instead of bunks, only to find that Otres Village was having a day of power cuts. In all honestly I had a horrible few days getting worse and worse. I was having nasty migraines and had a temperature, in a place with 35 degree heat and no water or power. All I can do is apologise to Ollie; how he put up with that moaning I will never know.
We went back to the hospital and they decided I had flu – and hooked me up to a drip. At this point I was finding it hilarious: the inevitable had happened. As I child, A and E basically reserved a seat for me as I was so accident prone, so it was called from the start that I’d have an injury or illness somewhere down the line. I woke up miserable the next day, realising it was just the hell I’d had the day before, times by ten. Another tuk tuk to the hospital and a temperature of 40 degrees and I really wasn’t having fun. The only way I can describe my symptoms is the worst migraine I’ve ever experienced – imagine monkeys banging drums in your head, babies screaming and some horrible baseline song playing over and over for hours on end) along with horrible fever. I had to argue with my doctor as he remained convinced I had flu, before he started to take it more seriously and do a lot more blood tests.
Ollie popped out to get snacks and came back in the room sniggering. “I want you to hear it from me” (more snorts and giggles) “you’ve got Dengue Fever”. Obviously I presumed it was a joke and threw a few swear words at him. It turned out that he was being truthful but had a case of nervous giggles. If you haven’t heard of it, Dengue Fever is pretty serious (not to worry anyone, but it can be life threatening), and it is caused by mosquito bites in the day time. Very, very luckily for me, I didn’t have a severe case and had 4 days and nights in hospital on constant drips. I’m a massive wimp and hate needles and canulars (almost as much as I hate stubbed toes, to put my wimpishness into perspective) so it wasn’t fun.
Ollie absolutely saved the day and made 4 unpleasant days of only allowed to eat porridge (I know, prisoner or patient?) fun by buying us playdough, making me laugh constantly, and teaching my nurses to play Connect 4, which became our main hobby. I sure do love that kid!
If you’re ever ill in Cambodia, Sihanoukville International Clinic was brilliant and took amazing care of me. Anything you ever read before travelling warns you not to get ill in Cambodia because they have such poor healthcare. Expats we met told us that people die of regularly from things as little as kidney stones, because they can’t afford any medical care. Ollie’s dad Matbow also absolutely saved the day by taking care of all of the insurance claims, which meant that they covered everything over the excess. Basically I did nothing and everyone took care of me so I’m ridiculously grateful!
Dengue Gate aside, I loved Koh Rong and wish we could have gone for longer – bloody mosquitoes. By the time I was discharged we were ready to move on, so we booked buses to Phnom Pehn, the capital of Cambodia. I was totally bewildered and lacking energy as I stepped out of the hospital for the first time in days, and I’ll admit I really did wish I was home and not recovering in the sticky weather. Nothing quite beats the cup of tea your mum makes when you’re poorly, but alas, the adventure continued without a detour back to Devon!