The time I accidentally snuck onto a tour boat

After some days on the beautiful and idyllic island of Koh Rong Sanloem in the south of Cambodia, I decide to visit the bigger island, Koh Rong. The second I land on Koh Rong, I realize I’ve made a big mistake and am “homesick” for Koh Rong Sanloem. I already have limited time in Cambodia as my visa expires in a few days and decide it’s better to stick with what I know I love in the limited time. Although the boat ride was nice, the 35 minute trek with my 18 kilo bag to my hostel was rough. The second I get to my hostel, I find out when the ferry back to Koh Rong Sanloem leaves the next day. The next morning, the idea of trekking back to the ferry station to get to the Cambodia Speed Ferry is unbearable especially in the high heat of the day. I try my best to make arrangements with a guy on a motorbike to pick me up at 12:00 pm at my hostel and at the end of a rather repetitive and frustrating conversation, I’m confident we’ve made traction. But 12:00 pm rolls around and I am still sitting around with my bag.

So I take my bag and try to prepare mentally for the next excruciating 35 minutes walking in the heat with 18 kilos. Not too far after getting on the trail parallel to the beach, I notice a different pier with a large, docked boat, one that the guy did not mention as an option when I asked the night before. I come up to a large group of Asian tourists waiting around with their luggage and ask them where the boat goes. They yell for a young boy to come to speak English to me. He comes out and tells me the boat is leaving at 1:15 and when I ask him if it is going to Koh Rong Sanloem, he confirms that he knows it is because that’s where he is going too.

Immediately after, boarding begins and I march on the pier and onto the boat, determined to take this boat back to Koh Rong Sanloem and resume enjoying my tropical getaway. I get on the boat, sweating profusely and relieved to have found a closer boat. Some staff members come up to me asking for my ticket. After a bit of a miscommunication because of how I was pronouncing Koh Rong Sanloem, they confirm the boat goes there. I give them $5.00 and tell them this is what I paid the day before and they take my money.

The staff member then directs me to the lower level of the boat, presumably because he is concerned at how much I’m sweating and wants me to cool down with the fans downstairs. After I slowly start to cool off, I look around and am surprised at how nice this boat is. This boat is more of a cruise ship with complimentary tea, coffee, and water and a charging station for phones. Not only did I avoid an excruciating walk but now I got an upgraded boat. When we leave shore and I finally cool down, I decide its safe for me to go back upstairs. Everyone is in great spirits and there’s party music playing. I am the only non-Asian person on this boat and it seems to be mostly families, chattering excitedly and walking around on the AstroTurf covering the upper deck of the boat.

After a while, everybody starts to pass around and put on lifejackets. “Well”, I think to myself, “this is pretty excessive safety protocol.” “Do you want one?” asks one of the parents of the boy who translated for me. It wasn’t until the snorkeling gear gets passed around and I realize that this is not a commuter boat but some kind of tour boat. Yes, it explains why everyone is in such high spirits.

It all should have been strange to me in the beginning if I wasn’t so preoccupied with avoiding the long trek to the ferry with my huge bag and getting back to my precious Koh Rong Sanloem. It finally dawns on me that I have inadvertently snuck onto an all Asian snorkeling tour boat. Well, I decided to get my full money’s worth and join the snorkeling. Everyone looked at me a little funny but were really nice and helpful. We get in long messy lines to jump out of the boat and everyone makes their way to the shore of the nearby island. It was probably some of the best snorkeling I have ever done and I ended up paying the same amount as I would have for a regular transportation ferry. It was a pretty random afternoon.

After the snorkeling, I get my clothes on, and sit with my bag. The tour operator announces the next stop is Koh Rong Sanloem and that they will have exactly an hour there before having to board the boat. The boat stops and I get off and say goodbye to young boy who translated for me before getting on the boat. It was really thanks to him that I even got on this boat in the first place. I look back at everyone else and see that they are being guided into the small casino at the end of the pier. I wonder what their next stop will be. As for me, I am finally back on the right island  after a short change of scenery and a little adventure.

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