Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I really do like to be beside the seaside!

The last few days have passed by in a haze of sun, sea, sand, strolls, seafood bbqs and shandies. Lauren and I checked into a mushroom shaped dorm on Otres beach aka the most chilled out stretch of sand I've ever seen. We headed straight to the beach (a gruelling 30second walk acoss the 'road'), ordered a shandy and before we'd even sat down we'd somehow agreed to have our legs threaded. I'm still not sure how it happened. A family of three set about removing our hairs one by one in a very public manner repeatedly ensuring us they'd be 'soft like baby's bum yes'. I'm not sure what Cambodian baby bottoms feel like but I hope it isn't how our legs ended up. It was essentially the slowest (and sometimes a bit painful) shave we've ever had, but when people stroke you in public and announce it's serious you are shamed into saying 'ok'. (They really weren't that bad, but any hair they see glistening in the sun is horrible to them and I was just relieved I hadn't been offered a chin thread too). The worst part was
Pushy lady: 'How long you been cambodiyaaaa?'
Me: 'just a couple of days'
Pushy lady: 'yes I thought so because you skin so white still *annoying tittery laugh*'
At this point I nearly fumed that I had been working on my tan for nearly 3 months...

Otres was a joy - it was sunny, there weren't too many tat sellers (the mother of the threading family did keep coming up to me and touching knees saying my skin was cool and good which was disconcerting), the sea was warm (you didn't brace yourself wading in) and contrary to it's neighbour, there were far less old-fat-white men with young Cambodian girls. (One of the guesthouses we tried when we arrived only had rooms with a girl...). Days were filled with tricky decisions like 'should we dip in the sea?' and 'how would you lie on your front in that comfortable satellite chair?' and 'is it time for another shandy?'. After a couple of days of beach life we managed to gee ourselves up to go back to serendipity to look into some island trips. We booked a boat to Koh Rong leaving the next day, some snorkeling for Lauren and a couple of dives for me.

Koh Rong is one of those idyllic little jungle islands ringed by white sandy beaches with crystal clear water. Our boat was basic, but we were fortunate enough to be on the same one as a bar owner who was bringing seat cushions over to the island - which made for a most comfortable nap. As we approached it looked lovely - everything very rustic and thatched, no cars etc and I thought how it was the first island that wasn't a disappointment after the joy of the Gilis. On closer inspection it was far more basic than the Gilis. There was no road, just the beach, the bars had electricity but everything was run from a generator that was only on from 5.30pm-10.30pm. It is still fairly untouched, there isn't a way to walk safely around it (unless you fancy a bit of jungle trekking and after hearing that 10of Cambodia's poisonous snakes were resident we passed) so there is a short stretch that has everything.
Our accommodation here was CoCo Bungalows - basic thatched 'bungalows' with no mod cons, open to the elements (walls and ceilings have no need to meet) and as we soon found out, a few added extras. Before I'd even put my bag down Lauren and I had 3 children and a cat. The three little girls were overjoyed to be presented with skittles and a snapping watch and soon we had 6 children all sitting on the porch sharing out the small bag of candy.

We went to see what the island had to offer, had a lovely seafood BBQ and returned at leisure to our residence. The 'bathroom' was along a 'path' (the sort of uneven paving that Accident Direct would love) about 100m from the bungalow. I use the term 'bathroom' in the loosest sense - there was one bare bulb outside, rendering the inside almost completely dark which added to the damp feeling (as did the giant snails and mushrooms growing on the wooden walls). The toilets were a pour-water-in-and-flush-yourself type (there was a frog in the bucket) and outside by the bulb and the sinks (with suspiciously coloured water) were a family of arachnids the size of hands. Needless to say it was not a calming pre bed routine. We stumbled back to the room and opening the door I saw four separate rats scuttle in different directions. Four. The room was a bit like a giant hamster play pen with beams and poles everywhere, but rats clackiting along a pole at dado height right by your bed is not what you need! And obviously the cat was nowhere to be seen. We both got into one bed for safety and slept in the very centre being sure not to touch the mosquito net on any side. Once we'd been brave enough to turn the light off it wasn't long before the sound of something falling over made us jump. The head torch was on in a flash and we scanned the room...the Julie packet (some wafers we'd had as snacks on the boat down to sihanoukville) was on the floor and there was a rat in the bin. We used a broom to move the bin outside and attempted to go to sleep. Our night was interrupted by all sorts of miniature scampering and fighting squeaks - I woke up at one point to find Lauren with the headtorch watching two noses poking out of the corner. Our mosquito net protection seemed worryingly thin (and trapped a mosquito which was juicy by the time we found it in the morning). Morning came round soon enough!

As we walked along the jetty we saw a little boy who had just caught a little fish. As we we drew the breath to saw 'awww' he swung the line behind him, over his head an smashed the fish on the floor (imagine an overarm throw). An anti-awww moment. We were a little speechless. Our day on the boat was good fun, but a second waterproof camera proved itself not to be waterproof and I have been spoiled by learning to dive in Indonesia as despite our dive master guide saying how amazing the dive had been, it was very average.
When we were back on the island we decided to go and watch the sunset from the beautiful briny sea - it took much longer than expected, but we waited for darkness to fall so we could see the phosphorescent bacteria. It was very cool and we had lots of fun larking about (until realising it was actually quite chilly out of the water).
The evening passed by in much the same way as the others and although we could hear the rats, we didn't actually see any which sort of made us feel better. Until the morning when one of our rodent friends was brazenly sitting on the wooden surround of the bed. You can imagine how shrill I was.

So we checked out of Casa del Rat and set sail for the mainland (sadly minus the comfy cushions). We'd booked to stay in another shack style dorm in Otres (there isn't much choice) as Bryony was joining us again. Sadly she'd eaten a bad shrimp and was unable to move anywhere with a shared bathroom so came to meet us the day after instead, and 2 became 3 once more. Our last couple of days were spent much like the first, with sunset swims out to fishing boats (which with a bit of team work you could ungracefully fall into and jump off again).

With my Asian journey coming to a close we reluctantly booked a bus to take us back up to Phnom Penh. We spent our last morning on the beach and as we went in to change the heavens opened. Our cue to leave! One wet and bumpy tuktuk ride later we were deposited at the bus station. Everyone loves a bus journey. Yawn.

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