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Monday, September 23, 2013

Koh-Rong - off the map

Koh-Rong is two hours off the coast of Southern Cambodia, technically somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. To anyone else in the world - it's Timbuktoo or Narnia, not many will ever get to go there but believe me it's worth it.

It's basically a like a beachfront village. There is no five-star accomodation here - in fact I think the tree-top hut April and I inhabited for our stay ($15) was about as classy as it gets. The only disconcerting part was that after we'd walked down the wooden quay to the beach (after getting off the boat) we entered Coco's (after removing our flip flops - everyone in the bar is barefoot) and the first thing I hear is a Dublin accent.... Almost 11, 000 km from home...sure where else?
Our hut - Fabulous, although we were convinced there was a polar bear from "Lost" underneath it one night. This may have had something to do with copious amounts of alcohol and some hallucinogenics... we didn't plan on the hallucinogenics by the way.... but on a remote island in South East Asia...well, let's say you're always going to get more than you planned for.

There is very little electricity on the island. Coco's had a generator but all the lights outside the bar go off around 1am. We made our way back to the hut in the dark or by candlelight, we also heard alot of other people falling around the place in the dark late at night.

The few days spent there were passed in a hazy bliss, massages overlooking the sea as the sun went down.... delicious noodle soup served in a shack which had a roof but only two walls (people lived there and dogs and chickens ran all around our feet), snoozing in the sunshine after swimming in crystal clear waters, drinking suspect cocktails at Coco's and dancing to questionable Euro-pop with other backpackers who'd found the island, eating fresh fish that the man went out and caught right in front of us in the ocean - with a spear no less, watching youths learning to become flame-throwers....It was all a little surreal.
My favourite little pup - BBQ!

Sandflies and puppies and Phil, the traveller from Manchester who was completely spaced out, we didn't know if he'd been there 4 days, 4 months or 4 years. I had breakfast with him one morning where we had a long discussion (mostly him - I was still recovering from casting Harry Potter spells in the bar the previous night) about how it would be if we could all read eachother's minds. Phil eventually came to the conclusion that it would be a bad idea. Excerpt as follows:
Phil: It would be bad, really bad....(spaces out for a bit - I'm still looking at him) bad, man, ye know?
Me: Yeah
Phil: Like I'm a nice guy, a bright guy and I know alot of stuff, but sometimes...sometimes I just think - I'd like to kill you, ye know?
Me: Yeah (Note I didn't even argue here, maybe I too was spaced out)
Phil: Not you personally but you know when you meet someone really stupid.....stupid, stupid (pointing at his head)
Me: Yeah
Phil: Well, like that, you're like Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! in your head like, and I wouldn't want people to know that
Me: Yeah, I know what you mean Phil.
And then he lay down on the bench again, staring into space, with one hand up shaped like a claw. He was an interesting guy.

Standards and habits that you have at home need to go by the wayside when you're traveling. April managed to wash her hair each day in the cold water, but I mostly just had a swim in the sea and a sponge down afterwards, my hair was in an interesting condition after three days but my skin was ultra soft! I lived in a bikini and sometimes threw a ti-shirt over it.

All the children on the island are schooled in one room - which has a roof but is otherwise open air. We could hear them learning their colours in English as we passed down the beach. Absolutely charming. These people are poor though and rarely go to the mainland, we would see them washing their clothes in the sea and the clothes lines hung across the trees. They are so friendly though, always smiling. The children would run down the beach after us and giggle shyly if we said hello or waved.

There's wonderful diving and snorkelling off the island. You can even go at night, as the sharks come out then :) We were content just to read and swim and take it all in, the longest walk we managed was about twenty minutes.

There will be gecko's and mice in your room, and possibly other things too, but I thought of a hut on a lake in Thailand two years previously and just decided to go with it. There's no point stressing over these things when you're traveling - you just won't enjoy it as much. Which is not to say that I didn't sleep in with April, and all her luggage, whilst on the island (I found fresh droppings in my bed....when my mossie net had been up...) but then there's more stories in there.

Koh Rong is due for redevelopment soon, which is a real pity. I think they are going to stick some five star resort on it, and you can see why, but they will definitely destroy some of the wonderful magic they have going on there.

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