Even in paradise, we can still slip down into hell.

It’s 11PM, and Emma-Kate can’t stop coughing in her bed. She’s had a runny nose all day, and now no one can sleep. Clinton and myself are worried like crazy.

You see, just before we took the speed ferry from Sihanoukville to the remote island of Koh Rong, we met a very nice couple from Switzerland who told us that there was a dengue fever outbreak on Koh Rong. We are not worried about malaria, we have our tablets. But dengue fever? All we know about the dengue fever is that the symptoms look like the flu. Well, that’s what we think.

So is Emma-Kate having the dengue fever? On this secluded island, there’s no hospital. It’s late at night, and our minds only focus on the worst!

Clinton decides to walk all the way to the only place where we can get answers at night. He walks 2km to the nearby Sok San Beach Resort, that has electricity 24/7 and has good wifi, and looks up on the web what are the real symptoms of the dengue fever. He comes back in a rush (bump his head so hard, he almost had a concussion) to make me read the description.

I feel a little reassured when I read that the dengue fever symptoms aren’t like the flu, but the cold. There’s a big difference. We’re not talking about a runny nose here, but body aches and fever. The worst part is: the dengue fever can be fatal.

I get out of my bed and climb on Emma-Kate’s, trying not to wake her up. I gently touch her forehead with the palm of my sweaty hand to see if she has a fever. She seems hot.

I get out of her bed, and Clinton asks me how she feels. I tell him I’m not sure, with a shaky voice, that she’s a little bit hot, but not much. I go back to touch her pale skin again. No, she’s not hotter than Clinton. She doesn’t have a fever. The dengue fever begins with a fever. Emma-Kate doesn’t have dengue fever. What a relief! We can now fall asleep, reassured.

Next morning, at breakfast, we talk about Emma-Kate’s ‘flu’ to our new friend, the waiter at Thy Sok San restaurant (restaurant I recommend by the way: the food is delicious and the owners and the staff are very friendly!). We still don’t know exactly what it is… it looks like the flu we get back home, but we are in Cambodia! We never know what we can get here.

He is so empathetic. He tells us that’s the flu, all the kids have it here once in a while, and he will get us what we need. He immediately leaves. We wonder where he went. After 2 minutes, he comes back with a little see-through bag full of pills, all different colors and shapes. He advises us to cut them into smaller pieces and give them immediately to Emma-Kate. There’s white pills, pink pills, orange pills and yellow pills. Clinton takes a white pill, cut it in 3 equal parts and give one to Emma-Kate. As she is swallowing it, we look at each other with suspicion. Do we really want Emma-Kate to take pills we don’t know what they are, where they’re from and what they’re supposed to do? They could be ecstasy, for what we know!

Then we start thinking out loud. In Canada, we cannot give any medicine to a child younger than 6 years old. Only homeopathy and Tylenol. Here, you can get all the pills you want. Our friend means well, but we don’t trust the medicine. We have to know what it is before we give more to Emma-Kate.

We are so disappointed in ourselves. Why on Earth would we agree to give to Emma-Kate something we ignore all of? We should think more before we act.

After breakfast, we decide to visit the lady who gives our friend the medicine. She only speaks Khmer, but we manage to get pictures of the pills she gave our 2-year old. By the way, she’s not a doctor. She just has pills in her home. Very reassuring!

Quickly, we try to google what are those pills. Internet being amazingly slow, it probably takes more than an hour. At the end, only 1 pill (the pink one) is ok to give to toddlers. The rest of them, they’re not useful or frankly dangerous. Unfortunately, the only pill we gave Emma-Kate, the white one, is the worst one. It is meant for people who had surgery and can’t cope with the pain. It is recommended to stop using this pill altogether because of its side effects.

The worries come back rushing to our heads and hearts. My heart is pounding. What will happen to my precious little girl? Will something worse than the flu happen to her? I am the worst mother of all! I put my child in danger!

We decide to wait and see. We just wish everything will be alright. Just like a little kid who puts his hands on his eyes and pretend nothing will happen. I mentally shut down the worse case scenario. We wait and see. We wait.

A couple of hours later, everything seems to still be alright. And for the next days, Emma-Kate is fine. She’s safe. We are so happy and relieved nothing bad happened to her!!!

The lesson we learned: don’t act fast, think first. Always think first. And trust our instinct. Instinct is our best friend, especially when we travel!

By the way, our stay on Koh Rong was amazing, and it sucked too! And not only because of this misadventure!

I adored the beach. It is the most beautiful beach I have seen so far in my life. The sand is white, powdery and make a nice whistling sound when we walk, and the beach is large. The water is crystal clear, turquoise with different shades of blue. It’s so serene and calming. There’s no jellyfish, no coral reef nor much fish, so snorkeling isn’t much interesting. It is touristy, but not too crowded. We could totally have our own stretch of sand to ourselves. The locals are very nice, welcoming and friendly. The food is good, although they don’t serve a lot of Khmer food. Since the wifi isn’t working properly, it’s one of the last few places in the world where we have no choice but to disconnect from reality, unwind and relax. Serenity, calmness in a pristine environment. Finally, we could do everything barefeet: all the restaurants and things to do are located on the beach!

 

Why do I think it sucked? Well, you are talking to a neat freak here! Even though the beach and the sea is very clean, it wasn’t the case in our living area. We stayed at the Sok San New Beach Bungalows, and those bungalows are one of the best among the ones situated in Sok San Village. There’s the Sok San Beach Resort, at the other end of the beach, but we’re not talking about the same budget here. We had somewhat comfortable beds with old bed nets, a western style toilet that flushes and a shower with sun-warmed water. We didn’t have a sink: we had a faucet, and the water just fell on the floor or cumulated in one big garbage bin that we had to empty once it got full (toothpaste spits mixed with handwashed water and every other thing… think of an old egg smell here). We had 1 fan for a big room that worked from 3PM-11PM, no AC. Since the nights were hot, we had trouble sleeping a little bit. They never serviced the room. I had to take out the garbage myself (that includes the toilet paper that we are not supposed to flush and I had my periods during that time too). I borrowed a broom one day to sweep the floor, since we brought a LOT of sand in our bungalow. We had to shake our feet before getting into bed because they were filthy. I was sticky all the time, didn’t like the fact that water went everywhere in the bathroom, my feet were dusty and dirty all the time, my hair was a mess because I couldn’t wash it well and it was so humid. We didn’t have a decent mirror, and I lost a pair of contact lenses. Finally, food and water can be quite expensive here, if you compare to other Cambodian destinations. A big bottle of water cost $1 and decent sunscreen $16 (we bought $4 cheap 50FPS sunscreen, but got sunburned with it!)

 

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is: Koh Rong is paradise, but not for 6 days (well, not for me!) That’s how long we stayed there, and I would have left at least a day earlier. It was enough dirt and sweat and sticky for me.

But Clinton didn’t mind all those things (except the absence of AC). It was paradise for him all the way. Good for him! And you can’t say I’m high maintenance 😉

I met amazing people here! One of them is Pamela. She’s a Canadian who’s traveling the world with her husband, and she’s the one who produced the Cirque du Soleil’s 4th edition of Les Chemins Invisibles! I saw that show in Quebec, and it is spectacular! She was very kind to Emma-Kate and played a lot with her! She even interviewed me as a travel blogger: she might start her own life project too!

By the way, if you come to Sok San Beach, from Sihanoukville, you have to take a ferry. I recommend the speed ferry, that costs $20 return and take about 1h to get to Koh Rong. When you’ll get off the ferry, immediately go to the ticket office to reserve your seat on your return ride. They’ll stamp your return ticket. Then, you take another boat ($5 per person, 1-way) to Sok San Village. The ride takes about 45 minutes (it’s not a fast boat, and ours stopped along the way to refuel… Cambodian style: a man jumped from the shore and swam to our boat with a bin full of gas!). I still think Sok San New Beach Bungalows are your best option at the village. It cost $20 per night for your own bungalow. We met other travelers who slept elsewhere and didn’t have a shower or it was so noisy they had a lot of trouble sleeping. At least we had a shower, with good pressure. Forget about wifi and AC and electricity 24/7. If you want those, go to Sok San Beach Resort, and pay at least $95/night.

Another upside of this place, we didn’t have to worry too much about our child being abducted. First, no one can leave the island fast, and second, almost all the local kids sleep in open-air houses, on the front porch.

If you are a Survivor fan just like us, you will recognize Koh Rong gorgeous beaches of its 31st and 32nd season. When we went at Sok San Beach Resort to have wifi, we met one of Survivor’s location manager: Seng Prum. He is such a nice man! He told us so many interesting things about those 2 seasons of Survivor (US edition). For example, they shot Survivor Kaoh Rong (Koh Rong) before Survivor Cambodia – Second Chance, but they aired Cambodia before Kaoh Rong. Odd, isn’t it?

 

I also learned there’s 45 different countries that have their own edition of Survivor. France, Denmark, Bulgaria and Sweden also shot a season of their Survivor on Koh Rong! When they are shooting a season, they completely close the island to tourists and visitors. Guards are making sure no one can come on the island unless they are authorized. More than 200 crew members and more than 400 local people are working on filming, editing, producing, etc. That’s a lot of people!

One day, we decided to trek a little bit behind Sok San Beach Resort, and we are pretty sure we found where they filmed the food challenge in Survivor Cambodia! We were ecstatic!

I have to admit Koh Rong is paradise, but my advice to you: if you are a neat freak like me, stay only for 4 days. Unless you are willing to pay for a luxury stay at the Resort!

Did you ever stay on Koh Rong? How was your stay?

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