I caught a tin boat with Shea and Sylvia (friends I’d met who work on Koh Rong) from Koh Rong Samloem to Koh Rong so that I could catch the ferry to Sihanoukville at 9am and then a bus that would get me to Phnom Penh in time for the PP hat tournament party that evening. This being Cambodia, time estimates are always wildly off and never rooted in fact, and our ride that was supposed to pick us up at 8am radioed us at 8:20 to say they were on their way.
Shea grimaced and asked, “How set are you on making that 9am boat…?”
Twenty minutes later, the little tub arrives, and we throw our things in. Catching my ferry is gonna be close.
By 9am, the pier is in sight, but we still have a little ways to go.
me: What are the odds I make my boat?
Sylvia: Yeah, they’ll stop the boat for you. But I don’t even see itat the pier yet.
<a minute passes>
Sylvia: Oh, there’s your boat.
me: Crap, I can’t make that.
Sylvia: No, you’ll make it. 100%.
Sylvia is awesome. A Korean about my age who lived in Atlanta for eight years before starting her travels in 2010, she’s been on the road for 3.5 years with no signs of stopping anytime soon. But I’m starting to wonder if she’s been in Cambodia too long and her adamant “100%” is like their time estimates: overly optimistic and pulled out of thin air.
Sylvia: Uh oh. It’s leaving…. not 100%.
Sure enough, the ferry is pulling away from the dock, and we’re not even close.
The Khmers in my little boat hail the ferry with shouts and waves which also successfully attracts the attention of all the tourists lounging on the upper deck. I’m sure it must have looked like our “boat” was in trouble since we’re all standing up, yelling and flailing our arms about. The ferry keeps on its path, but then my bathtub of a boat moves to cut it off. The ferry kills its engine, and we circle around it and catch up. My bags are indiscriminately chucked aboard as a bunch of curious tourists watch. I resist the urge to scream, “Avast!” as I hop from one boat to the other.
I offer to pay for my ride in the little boat, but they have already pushed off and are jetting off to their destination. I wave and shout goodbye — the whole sequence has taken less than two minutes. All of the tourists are gawking and wondering where I just appeared from and how it’s possible that I could just randomly hop aboard a passing boat, but all the Khmers couldn’t have been less impressed. Their looks say it all, “This is Southeast Asia. There are no rules.”
In short order, I learn this isn’t even the ferry I meant to catch — mine is still at the dock! This ferry is going to the same place, but I end up having to pay an extra $10 on top of my ticket from a week earlier.
$10 to pretend to be a pirate? Well worth it.