It’s not often that we have to be in a certain place at a certain time. When we need to catch a flight, Tom insures we’re there about 8 hours early. If we need to catch a bus, there’s usually another one we could get if we were to miss it. There was however only one boat heading to Lonely Beach on the island of Koh Rong on the day we were headed out there and so it was kind of important we made it on time. We’d stayed overnight in the anything but charming city of Sihanoukville so we could catch a boat from the port which was about 20 minutes away. We arranged for a rickshaw to pick us up from Dao of Life, a wonderful vegan restaurant and one of Sihanoukville’s redeeming features. (Note: we really did not spend enough time in Sihanoukville to properly review it but first impressions were that it was an extremely touristic built-up purpose-built city lacking the soul of everywhere else we had the pleasure of visiting in the country.) After a hefty stack of pancakes we jumped into a van/rickshaw hybrid and headed out to catch our boat.
Remember I said there was just the one boat? Yea well, that became an issue when, 5 mins from the port I realised I had left my rucksack containing my laptop and all my valuables at the restaurant. A bit of speedy maths told us that we’d need an extra 35 minutes to retrieve my bag (if it was still there) and get back to the boat. All of a sudden time was not on our side.
It’s in situations like this that you realise the value of all the nothingy words you have to dump when using pidgin English. It becomes incredibly difficult to convey a sense of urgency and importance.
For example, had I left my bag somewhere in England, I might have said to the driver
“Oh my God, I am so sorry but I’ve left my bag back at the restaurant you picked me up from! Argh! What an idiot! Um, we’re gonna have to go back and get it. I’m SO sorry. It actually has my laptop in it so er can you like get there as quickly as you possibly can? I’ll pay you whatever it costs. Can you do a U-y here? Shit, what a dick. So sorry about this!”
Then I’d call the restaurant and explain. If I couldn’t get through I would have used google maps to call the place next door and ask them to pop in.
In Cambodia where I couldn’t speak the language, the exchange went something like this:
“SHIT. Turn around! Turn around Please! Bag!”
“Bag at restaurant”
*frantic miming and pointing*
“OK. Boat. I call driver”
“OK, thank you.”
*Brain speeds up to 100 miles an hour but rickshaw continues towards port at a painfully moderate pace.*
“OK now we go back! Now! Back to restaurant! Bag! Computer!”
“Back to restaurant?”
“Yes please! Computer very important and expensive”
“Very fast please”
I then proceeded to call the restaurant where naturally the phone was out of order. Google maps identified a few nearby places but of course they had no idea what I was on about and why should they?
I survived the journey back by trying to convince myself that people who go to vegan restaurants wouldn’t steal my bag.
Fortunately, in this case, that turned out to be true and my bag was just where I left it when we returned to the restaurant.
When we finally made it to the boat where the other 6 people had kindly waited for us, I apologised profusely and did the typical British thing of saying what an idiot I was in as many different ways as I could. No one seemed in the least bit bothered though and a few minutes later we were far out to sea, bobbing over the waves.We had spent literally hours searching for somewhere to stay on the Island of Koh Rong. We wanted somewhere affordable with beautiful views and not too many people. After trudging through booking.com, airbnb and trip advisor, we finally found Lonely Beach. Its seemingly deliberate lack of online presence was alluring, as was its description. Limited electricity and water. Bamboo huts. Only accessible by boat. YES.The boat driver stopped the engine a little way from the shore where a couple of guys had waded out to meet us and take our bags. We all hopped out into the crystal clear water and made our way towards the completely empty white sandy beach ahead of us.For the next few days we lived in paradise in a gorgeous little hut among the trees, a stone’s throw from the calm blue sea. We ate delicious food, collected shells, rocked in our hammock and watched magnificent sunsets.A little solar bulb was our only source of light and as promised, we had no electricity.We had been advised not to keep any food in our rooms or at least to hang it up high so that local creatures couldn’t get their mits on it. We hung a small triple wrapped bag of food from a carabena which we hooked around some rope which was hanging across the ceiling and the next morning awoke to find something had cleverly nibbled a hole through several layers of plastic and canvas and helped themselves to the contents. On another morning we discovered a team of ants hungry for soy milk had not only identified a completely unopened carton (which was also wrapped in the protective plastic it came in) as containing a food source, but had managed to eat their way through the wrapping and gone to town on the milk.As well as the little huts, there was also a communal space where people ate, drank and just generally hung out. There was lots of lovely artwork and an all-round warm and friendly atmosphere which was largely down to the owner.During our stay, we met a super lovely Scottish couple called Niamh and Vince. Despite falling out of a hammock and doing her back in, Niamh stayed in good spirits. Occasionally we bumped into each other on the beach but like, seriously, there was no one there.We’d been told about the phosphorescent plankton that lit up the water at night and that we’d have to wait for pitch black to see it properly. The moon was pretty big at the time of the month that we were there, so we had to wait for it to set at about 3am before it was dark enough. Just before 3, a bunch of zombies (us) emerged from our huts and started splashing about in the water. To our absolute delight, the sea sparkled and we left trails of glitter wherever we moved. It was totally spectacular.Our little bathroom was mostly outside and we had a water supply that we used for flushing the toilet and showering. It didn’t have a lid over it, so occasionally we had to fish out the odd fly, but it was a very pleasant and mindful way to use water. On our last morning however, we had a particularly large guest who had underestimated how shallow the water had become. A beautiful rat had obviously gone in for a drink or a wash and realised he couldn’t get back out again. The poor creature was desperately thrashing around and trying to climb up the walls. Out of desperation, we threw a bamboo broom in for him to climb onto. He quickly climbed on and after a few more minutes of trying to jump out, the little guy realised he was out of the danger zone and just lay down catching his breath. Tom went down to the beach and got a big piece of bamboo and we created a ramp for him to climb up when he was ready. He was in no rush. Poor guy was pooped.