Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Heavenly Monotony of 5 full days on Koh Rong

Day 1

5 am.

OMG, even with the noisy crowd right next door, I slept 10 hours !   That bottle of wine really did its job, LOL.

First signs of relief in my expression

The crazy Italian's new restaurant 

Time to walk to breakfast .....

Homemade Papaya jam and honey on fresh pain au chocolate;-)  What more could a glutton ask for?
Where the Rich lounge....

The way back to my hut

I'm moving rooms today.   On my last swim before the move, I manage to lose the key in the ocean. Ah well.  Good thing they have spare keys ;-)

2 - 8 pm

Drinks with Julian

I'm floored by the exquisite taste of the Chicken Cordon Bleu, that Julian's wife managed to cook from scratch.   Friggin AMAZING.   The last thing I remember is finishing my Sok San Beach Tea, a well-mixed STRONG bastardization of the Long Island variety ;-)

Day 2
4:30 am

There is a light on in my hut 

Breakfast at the French resort is already available at 7 am.   3 cups of their strong coffee make me not run for the hills but in search of the relocated toilet.  Feeling much more relaxed, I call Grandma, who sounds alert and awake, but clouds my mood with tales of falling, of Nurses NOT appearing at all (unlikely, and I've heard similar stories from my demented mother), and of the elephantine nurses STEALING diminutive Grandma's clothing).   Nothing new in the paranoid tone of those illusions but it reaffirms my decision of not calling every single day.

I get back to my place around 8 and Julian must have already taken the ferry.  He is moving apartments in Sihanoukville today and tomorrow.  That means that I will have two afternoons off from drinking !

10:30 After shopping for cookies in town (LOL) and doing my second ocean laundry of the day, I'm bored.  

Didn't Julian mention an Israeli restaurant 3 km South-East of here?  Now there is something to do ! On y va !

Oh what punishment !

I get to where I imagined the restaurant to be and all I find there is an abandoned resort.  That's it. I'm not going any further.  At times I feel as if I'm going snow-blind.  The sand's reflectivity is outrageous.
I'm overheating and I imagine my skin colour turning into that of a freshly boiled prawn.  In this, I'm not TOO worried about my back.  I can always lather it in thick swaths of Nivea.  But I'm worried about my scalp.  The ever-diminishing hair cover is providing ever less protection against sunburn there.  And putting Nivea THERE just does NOT sound like a good idea.
Gravestones or gravestone-shaped markers are not usually a good omen, LOL
Must turn around !
And why not, the backward view is also quite nice ;-)

The husband of the Khmer couple walking below will 5 minutes afterward display the option of getting lunch for free. While his wife rests under a tree, he walks along the beach, spots a suitable spot, and with a flurry starts digging crabs out of their homes.  
On the way back I run into an Asian, possibly Chinese wanderer walking in the opposite direction.  He points first inland and then at the ocean and says: " Buy House here, see this every day !".  I have the tact NOT to say "Yup. That's EXACTLY  what I did".  But it reconfirms that I did the right thing ;-)
A total of 4 brief ocean immersions seem to be sufficient to prevent sun stroke.  

A Styrofoam boat !

I'm back at noon. I'm baked. I'm thirsty. I'm HOT. I'm hungry.

A G&T and a Tuna sandwich quickly fix most of those malaises.

Back in my room I can still see the outline of the backpack on my back, by way of the areas that have not turned bright red. 

1.5 hours of sleep resurrect part of my will to live.

Fighting the after-nap-grogginess with cold instant coffee bears no noticeable results.   I’ll go buy more Panda Ersatz-chocolate cookies.  When I’m still 75 meters away from the store, something shapely in a LOOK-at-ME blue dress with complicated shoulder straps pushes its hips and chin into position and starts walking toward me.   Too Much, Girl is all I can think, but have the decency to nod at her when we pass each other.  She starts saying something but I don’t stop. Not sure whether that’s because I just don’t like over-dressed women or whether something about her throws me off balance.  My eyes forward again, I notice her family or friends sitting in a store along the way side, eyes and mouths open, seemingly encouraging her with silent “Go Girl GO !!!” encouragement.

I get 6 packs of Panda cookies.  This store doesn’t have any orange juice.  I find a freestanding glass display case containing orange juice on the way back though.   Complicated blue shoulder straps are visible behind the orange juice Tetra pack.  Here we go again.  But now my brain finally kicks in.  

HE turns the corner with a flourish and a “Hello again !”.    I instantly think of his soul-sister in Manila.  I'm very flattered, but:  Why me?  Yes, I’m gay, but I like my men to look like men, LOL. Find yourself a straight man whom you can turn, Gurl !
But a few days later, Julian educates me about the true nature of the men who like lady-boys.   Let's just say it has to do with keeping up appearances and still getting what you want inside you but can not tell your mother about, LOL.

Sitting on the pier with a glass of wine, I notice that today's new arrival is sitting at the next table.  A conversation starts and keeps going for 4 hours. A 35 year old Italian working in Germany shares my feelings about both Germany and Asia exactly, LOL.  He already has reached the same conclusions that I have only acquired recently.

Day 3

The crazy kids crowd next door comes home from their drinking binge at 2:15 am.  But Julian's wife has turned off the electric lights for the bungalows (NOT by chance, me thinks ;-), so the kids hit the feathers very soon after.

I can never get enough of dawn .....
How darkness turns into a new day almost un-noticeably but unstoppable

I was going to give my Julian's wife a chance today to get my breakfast money. But when the WiFi still is not working properly at 7:15 am, I mentally sum up all the other benefits of breaking the fast at the french Resort (MUCH better coffee, yogurt, custom-made omelettes, pain au chocolate, etc etc.) and start walking.

11:45 Back home, one swim, a couple of G&Ts & mini naps later, it's time to switch to wine ;-)  Maybe a Tuna sandwich?

14:45 OMG, I can't believe I slept so much ! I need COFFEE !

Naturally I switch to wine quickly.   And I am confirmed in my habit of checking the BSFA & Arthur Clarke Award winner lists every year for new authors and books that might be worth reading.   The long way to a small angry planet is a fabulous read.  The description of a ship crew walking through a space port in search of needed provisions is an only slightly camouflaged quip at the experience of overly timid Western tourists visiting a lively local Hong Kong (or Cambodian or Vietnamese, etc etc) market street for the very first time in their lives.  A good fun read.

The rest of the afternoon is spent reading, drinking, only interrupted by brief conversations and brief bursts of imagining, researching, and booking places to stay in the days ahead.

The fact that My Hotel in Phnom Penh is booked on the perfect day forces me to book a day later, which gives me the overdue opportunity to finally visit Takeo

Takeo; obviously NOT my picture (yet ;-)

One of the girls in the Teenage British crowd shouts out and points at the sunset. Since I was just on my way to my room to get smokes, I bring the camera as well ;-)

It's pitch dark at 6:10 pm.

Day 4

5 am is definitely NOT too early to get up.

My camera decides to malfunction just in time for the sunrise. 
Good thing I still have my cell phone.

During my regular breakfast session (GREAT Americano and fabulous internet; amazing freshly baked chocolate muffins ;-) I answer my e-mails ('MY room" in Song Cau now has been taken off for that December stretch just to be on the safe side ;-) but forget to call Grandma.   Now that is something she will have to get used to; after all: how many people call their mother or grandmother every single day??????? 

I have my first G&T before 9 am.  Hey, I've been up since 5, LOL.

10 am.   That was a nice mini-nap ;-)

Time to switch to bottles of resort-owned wine.  

10:30 Martino (a strange name for an Italian but he confesses that his mother named him after learning the story of the Cologne Roman folk hero of Saint Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who cut his cloak in two to help the poor) leaves on an earlier ferry and drops by to say Good Bye.   Yes, we should have exchanged e-mail addresses.   But we didn't.   STILL some maturing to do ....

Another terror attack in the US.   No, not funny, but I know people who JUST returned from a visit to NYC but who would adamantly refuse to visit the much more interesting city of Istanbul because of terror fears.   ts Ts TS !

Noon:  The tender spiciness of a Green Seafood Curry prepared by Julian's wife fills my stomach and send me right back to nap # 2 or 3 today.

A lazy day.  

I think what woke me up was the loud noise issued by the 2 village geese.   The reason for their squawking becomes obvious when I stumble out of my hut and see two Cambodian kids (could they really be shorter than the geese?) chase fowl with short sticks.   And they're having a GREAT time (the kids; the geese I'm not so sure about)

TOO many legs !

Later I see four of those diminutive kids in HUGE bright orange life-vests climbing all over a large block of Styrofoam that the wind blew into the harbour.   Doesn't take much to make these kids happy. 


My planned travel from Sihanoukville to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam (less than 95 km as the crow flies) will take 5 or more days with stops in 4 mostly unknown locations.  I just read online that a new Fast Ferry service will connect the two destinations starting in 2018.   Estimated travel time?  Can't be more than 4 hours, LOL.  But I like the idea of taking the slow boat and road for now.  It allows me to get an idea what these parts unknown look like.  Once I know, I might be convinced to take the fast ferry next time. 

ANOTHER nap? OMG, I'm turning into a SLOTH !

Upon becoming conscious, I order another seafood green curry with rice, jest around with Julian's wife for a while, and almost miss another decent sunset.

New guests arrive; 2 French couples with demanding and loud children about 7-11 years old.  NOT my crowd.

I keep drinking, planning my next steps on this trip, and take a few pictures of the Moon.  

Amazing how clear the air is in these parts ;-)
OMG, check out how clearly the craters at the bottom edge are visible.  Galileo would have killed for my Point&Shoot camera !

Day 5

Waking up almost every two hours is probably due to the rickety noisy fan in my room but it gives me the opportunity to appreciate the flawless display of stars in the sky above the ocean in front of my hut.   It’s been a while since I was in a place where the night sky can still awe a human being and I’m glad to be back in one. Just looking at it forces one to understand why the ancients believed in a giant glass sphere to which they believed the stars are attached.  I can see that glass sphere in the sky right in front of me.  But how it can hold THAT MANY stars is still beyond me.  Vancouver’s display of ten or so stars in its night sky just doesn’t cut it.

The teenage restaurant server starts her calisthenics again at 5:30.   She does it on the pier, so that rules out me heading to the front of it.  She seems to take it seriously, like all teenagers.

 I call Grandma during breakfast at the French resort.   She actually seems content and happy.  Knock on Wood.

My car/ferry ride for tomorrow is confirmed.  I'm heading back to Sihanoukville tomorrow morning.  The next 5 days are planned and booked; after that it's still Qui sait?

Time to board my Boat Excursion.  

This is the 3rd time I've been here and it's the first time that I board this boat.  

What does that tell you?  

 Either it's not worth it or I'm still a buffoon.  We'll find out today, LOL.

en route to WHERE ?

Swedish co-passengers
Looking at the densely jungled land from the boat, I expect King Kong or a Tyrannosaurus Rex to raise their heads out of the foliage any minute ...
Behold a Cambodian Sea Eagle

you need a dirty mind to see it (NO, it's a tree !)

i LOVE Asian smiles.  'cause they're REAL

After a while the boat just stops and drops anchor.  Are we supposed to swim to the beach now?  No one knows.  The about 18 year old (maximum) captain and his about 10-13 year old First Officer hand us snorkeling masks. 

Snorkel to the beach????   

Is that what we're supposed to do now?
Ah, what the hell. 

Man overboard !

I put on a mask, jump over board and stick my head under water.

WTF ?!?

I find myself staring at an intricate coral reef maybe 2 meters below me.  Large rock-solid-looking fin-like structures, HUGE brain-shaped rock-coral formations, topped by the waving hundreds of fingers of anemones.
I don't have an underwater camera.  This is a stock photo !
Striped grey & white, almost circular and long fluorescent green tropical fish weaving their ways through the whole arrangement.
  I'd be laughing hysterically, if I wasn't breathing through a narrow plastic tube.   I've seen stuff like this on TV.   NEVER would I have imagined hopping into the water ANYWHERE and finding myself right above such a thing.

After spitting out  3 breathing tubes full of seawater, I climb back on board while the people equipped with water-proof cameras keep going.  Time for my afternoon nap anyway ;-)  

It's the boat's motor starting up that awakes me.  But we don't go far.

Next we are small handed plastic drums with fishing line wound around them. At the end of the fishing line is a metal weight (mine is a big hardware nut) and a hook adorned with a bit of squid.  Time to catch dinner !

To cut a LONG story short:  The Swedish lady catches TWO fish.  Her older daughter catches one fish.   I feel quite a few nibbles and have to replenish my bait.  THEN I HAVE ONE.   I"M SURE OF IT.   I pull in the line.  THERE IT IS !  The beautiful brown and white striped fish is about 50 cm below the ocean surface when I give my line a sharp tug (isn't that supposed to make sure the hook stays in the fish?).  That is  it took to MAIM my fish but to also set it FREE.   Fish swims away and I watch it go  with a dumbfounded expression.  It's NOT that easy to catch your dinner !  But I swear, it was THIS BIG !
My favourite actor, LOL

My SPECIAL version of 'Catch & Release' must have been an OMEN.  NO ONE catches any other fish after that.   None of the guests, that is.  The Captain & his 1st Mate (the two kids) were catching fish ALL THE TIME since we left port, LOL.

That becomes evident when we make landfall.   The boat stops WAY AWAY from the actual shoreline at this shallow beach.

The First Officer (11 year old in PINK) giving instructions on how to take the beachhead 
  Good thing I've watched PREDATOR and RAMBO.  I carry sling the back-strap of my backpack over my forehead and wade ashore Stalone- or Schwarzenegger-style !  I didn't watch those movies for nothing, LOL.  

Of course, since I also carry a bottle of wine in my backpack, I might as well be Captain Jack Sparrow !

Anyhoo, the entire landing party makes landfall without a single casualty. 

Being from Canada, I can't resist starting to build a tropical Inukshuk as soon as my feet are dry ! No rocks here, so cuttle-fish bone, coconuts, and an old bicycle saddle have to suffice.

The Swedish-German bilateral landing party then starts collecting trash on the beach, separating glass bottles, light bulbs, and syringes into an old metal drum and dumping the rest of the trash onto some tarp the Mother of all Swedes finds on the beach (There goes someone's home).

Marooned !
Meanwhile the two kids (apologies, The Captain & his First Officer) start grilling the fish.

Given that the FOUR guests caught THREE fish, the TWO crew members must have caught the AT LEAST SEVEN OTHER fish that are served to us because we have 10 fish in total on our plates.  

Dinner done, it's time to kill some time until dusk ....

The First Officer (right) playing with his floating coconut (if you don't have a beach ball ....)

The Captain inspecting the hull for damage from the landing assault ..... or peeing

This should have given me a hint ....

Sunset with Foot salad

Soon it's time for yet another stop.   It's 'swimming with plankton' time ! Having been in these parts before, I know full well that it's IMPOSSIBLE to see the faint glow of fluorescent plankton under a FULL MOON, but I hop in anyway.    FIRST TIME hopping from a boat into the ocean in the dark only illuminated by a full moon.    The Swedes force a goggle on my head and insist that the one tiny air bubble rising from my leg hair and sparkling as it is being illuminated by the moon light (the water is unbelievably transparent here) is actually a single Plankton ANIMAL.  LOL

NOT, but splashing around in the warm moonlit ocean is great fun. And I had to pee anyway ;-)

Happy Bon Om Touk !

No comments:

Post a Comment