How Koh Rong Went So Wrong, So Fast

It’s almost been a year. I think I’m mentally prepared to blog about this now.

Koh Rong, Cambodia, was the destination I had dreamed about for months. I’d planned for David and I to spend Christmas 2014 there, chilling out on this idyllic island with minimal hours of electricity. We were going to unplug, unwind, relax.

koh rong

Which we did… for a day.

Arriving on Koh Rong in a packed boat after a bumpy 2-hour journey, we worked our way along the shoreline to the infamous Treehouse Resort. I’d booked us into a treehouse for our entire stay, rather than the typical beach huts. It was pretty incredible, I will say. The toilet was on one level, followed by another ladder to the bedroom. Our view of the ocean was thrilling, little wooden boats bopping along in the waves, water lapping up at the beach beneath us. The one catch is that the treehouse walls don’t exactly reach the ceiling, meaning you’re kind of at the mercy of the jungle (and the monkeys that come with it), but it would be fine, right?

koh rong

The stairs to our tree house paradise.

We didn’t have the best sleep of our lives that evening. Despite being safely cocooned under our mosquito net, every time we heard a thump on our thatched roof, we rolled over to each other whispering, “monkey? Lizard?” I had my flashlight at the ready. Between the sounds in the trees and the roar of the waves, we were a tad tired come morning.

The next day made up for it, however. I love the beachside restaurants and bars with their pouffy chairs and super fresh fruit. We spent the day bopping between the bar, the beach and our treehouse, reading books, getting some sun and enjoying a few boozy beverages.

koh rong

We wandered back onto the main resort strip for dinner, fining another restaurant where they were setting up Christmas decorations as the holiday was a mere two days away. My chicken skewers were to die for, while David munched on a curry. Back to our resort for a couple of evening drinks and off to bed.

Except… then it hit.

My stomach.

The pain.

The agony.

Let’s just say I did not sleep that night. Electricity goes out at 10 p.m., so after that you’re at the mercy of flashlights. I had to continually go up and down the rickety wooden ladder by flashlight, occasionally amongst little geckos and lizards, woefully hugging the toilet, wishing I were dead. What was the point of drinking water to hydrate? It wasn’t staying in my system anyways.

By the time morning came, my parched voice croaked to David, “ferry. Get us tickets. Now.” It was Christmas Eve and I was packing it in. I was weak, could barely pick up my bags and couldn’t face the idea of another night on this island (with no doctor!), facing continual, gut-wrenching pain.

koh rong

We had to kiss our island paradise goodbye!

Luckily we were able to get a couple of tickets, the last ones, on the speedboat no less. Problem with the speedboat? Even bumpier! They were handing out sick bags to any passenger in need. I gratefully took one, steeling myself every time the boat soared in the air and landed hard on the water. Please, if there’s a God, let me survive this journey without soiling myself, I begged of the heavens.

Eventually the dreaded journey was over, we landed on the overcrowded pier and were mobbed by tuk tuk drivers. “Hospital,” I wheezed. A fellow backpacker that heard me advised us to go to the international clinic instead. “Trust me,” he said with wide eyes, before scurrying off to catch the ferry.

We piled into the tuk tuk with all our bags and payed the rip off fee of $5 USD to take us a very short distance. I hardly cared about bartering with the driver at that point. Help was all I desired.

We arrived at the sterile clinic and I internally blessed it for being a tribute to Mr. Clean. The Russian nurse took my details, my passport information and my symptoms. “Salmonella, is my guess,” she said. “Happens all the time.”

The chicken. The mother trucking chicken. Really, what had I been thinking? Ordering chicken on an island that doesn’t have electricity? Unless it was killed that day, how was it being refrigerated? It wasn’t pink, I’d checked, but I’m betting the rice, the fruit and the toast weren’t to blame. The mother trucking chicken.

They took me through to the three-bed ward, laid me down and hooked me up to an IV of saline. The nurse took my blood, and it’s the first time I’ve never winced at the drawing of blood, I was so tired and weak from dehydration. The Russian doctor came to check on me. Results of the blood test? Yep. Salmonella! De-bloody-lightful.

All they could do for me was pump me full of fluids and give me some antibiotics. Over two hours, the little tube dripped saline into my arm as I napped away next to a couple of local patients. Lying there in my elephant-patterned fisherman’s pants, I knew I looked like the typical idiot tourist, but I could have cared less.

During this time, David heroically found us a place to stay for the next couple of nights while I recovered. A couple of hours later when I was well enough to leave, we zipped along in a tuk tuk, my bag filled with antibiotics and more bottled water, and we checked into our new hotel.

The next few nights, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, were a bit of a wash. We spent Christmas 2014 in our hotel room watching Arthur Christmas on my laptop, listening to the bomb-like fireworks take off over our hotel roof, and eating pasta with tomato sauce from room service. Yes, we splashed out on a $50/night hotel with air conditioning, room service and even a casino… in case you feel like gambling.

I’d gambled on the chicken. That was enough for me.

Before you feel too sorry for us, when we returned to Canada in February, David cooked us a fabulous Christmas dinner… for Valentine’s Day. We made up for all the food I could not eat and then some.

How did you spend your Christmas, 2014? Was it marginally better than mine? 

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2 Responses to How Koh Rong Went So Wrong, So Fast

  1. Irma October 20, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Oh Victoria! So glad you got to a Dr. in time before you got too weak. But on the plus side, you didn’t gain weight like the rest of us over Christmas!

    • Victoria Smith October 25, 2015 at 5:51 am #

      Oh man! It was crazy. BUT… memorable! Our Christmas in February more than made up for the lack of a holiday dinner.

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