Ko Sdech is a blip of an island equi-distant between Ko Kong and Sihanoukville that sits just to the west of the large bay of Kompong Som. There is a small fishing village on the island, and, I'd been told a guesthouse. A guesthouse, a small island, loads of beaches -- what more does a man need? So, when the ferry pulled up, off I hopped.
While there were a bunch of foreigners on the boat, nobody else alighted, but the boat did remain there for a good half an hour as supplies for the island were offloaded -- it seems Ko Sdechians really like their pineapple.
From the pier it is a fifteen minute walk through what is, all in all, a pretty little fishing village. There is a school, a few little restaurants selling basic Khmer food, and if you're in the market for a new fishing net, you're absolutely in the right place. As I walked along the village road, I was greeted to the left and right by children waving and chortling hellos at me -- all the way to the right turn up to the guesthouse, which sits on the other side of the island behind the ice-making factory.
I'd been told in Ko Kong that the guesthouse was ok, with wooden bungalows and a small restaurant -- the main problem was that no English was spoken -- not a word. When I walked up and over the hill behind the ice-making factory and past the baby blue cinder-block rooms I reached a small, mostly rocky bay with a few ramshackle windowless wooden huts, a large sprawling restaurant and some of the most deafening karaoke I'd ever heard of.
I've never been a karaoke fan. People say it grows on you, but I'd say like gangrene, and the karaoke belting out of this place was so far beyond the pale, I briefly considered heading back to the pier, getting a boat to the coast and trying to reach Sihanoukville by land -- believe me it was loud.
True to my source, not a work of English was spoken here, but the staff were fine with Thai, so in no time at all I'd arranged housing in one of the blue cinderblocks which are almost out of earshot of the distortion matrix for 200B, got cleaned up and ready to explore.
Before a I knew it a local fixer appeared and zipped me off on his moto to what he claimed to be the best Thai restaurant on the island -- set out on on of the fishing piers. It is really just a noodle and rice stall under cover -- don't imagine any expansive water views -- but the food was good and cheap. I chatted away with the staff while watching some pier workers mashing up ice to put into little boats -- it's funny when you see this kind of thing being done for the first time -- even the most basic undertaking can be a little interesting.
Sated and rested, I hiked to the far end of the island where there is a reasonable little beach, with amazingly crystal clear water. While there wasn't much in the way of housing around there, I did have a small entourage so I didn't bother with a swim and instead made do with a paddle. One of the kids mentioned that the swimming was better on the other side of the island by the karaoke bar, but as I was trying to avoid permanent ear damage, I decided on another tact.
Straight across the water on the mainland I could see a long sweeping beach with not a thing on it -- now that looks like the real deal.
I wandered back to the main pier (where the ferry arrives) and from there organised a little runabout to take me over to the coast. I had to wait a little while for a few people to show up, but as there is a fishing village on the mainland, straight opposite, there is pretty frequent traffic. The trip is a bargain at 20B.
Once on the mainland I walked east away from the village and reached a long very nice stretch of sand. There was a fair bit of refuse on the beach, but as it isn't being cleaned for tourists, that was to be expected.
Here, totally alone I went for a swim and it was lovely! Floating in the water (which is pretty shallow) for a half an hour or so is a great way to loosen up and relax.
Rather than floating all the way back to Ko Sdech, I wandered back and caught another 20B boat back. Before I knew it, sunset was on the way so it was back to the karaoke disaster area, where I had a few drinks, some dinner and took it yet another lovely sunset -- shame the music was just about vibrating my beer can off the table.
If you're looking for an interesting slice of un-adulterated Cambodian fishing village life - you could do a lot worse than Ko Sdech -- just be sure to bring a few books, some sunscreen and don't forget the earplugs.
Tomorrow, off to Sihanoukville.