Yesterday I arrived back in Sihanoukville from Koh Rong. The boat trip back was really choppy – the divers told me that it’s been uncharacteristically stormy for the last couple of months. Jonni and Louisa were on my boat – nice to catch up with them agai, although poor Louise spent the whole trip looking decidedly green…
Whenever I am on a boat or near the sea, I think of my dad. Even on rough sea crossing, you could rely on my dad being out on deck, almost certainly tucking into a ham sandwich and cup of tea, while everyone else felt queasy. And I think of him whenever I take a walk by some water. My dad was born and bred in Whitstable, a fishing village in Cumbria, which I had the pleasure of visiting with him last year. Given his roots, his love of water is perhaps not surprising, and I seem to have inherited it, too.
I decided to tag on another couple of days on the beach before heading off again, and have found a beach hut right at the end of quiet Otres Beach outside Sihanoukville. It is at the top of a hill top overlooking the beach, with some steps down to the white sand and tiny restaurant/beach bar below. I swear I haven’t yet played my guitar, but the rats are following me around… As yet (touch wood) they haven’t made it into my hut, but I hear scampering outside and have spent half an hour blocking all visible entry points to the bungalow. I will not miss this aspect of the quartergapyear experience. But, this is a taster of the last couple of days:
It was such a lovely day on the beach today. As I arrived, there was an extended family of Cambodians playing in the sea together – the women were fully clothed, the men in swimming shorts and the children pranced around naked. As I approached, they were howling with laughter as they burried one of the small children in the sand up to his neck – he was taking it well – and once that amusement had passed, the men were finding small fish in the sea and throwing them at the women and children to make them shriek, and everyone was splashing around and having a fantastic time. It made me think of my own family and some of the pranks me and my brother and sister have played on one another (continue to do so, actually..). Happy days.
Tomorrow I catch an early bus for Kampot, an old colonial town on the river 4 hours east of here, where the architecture survives and there is lots to be seen and done. I’m planning to take a day trip into Bokor National Park to visit the old hill station that the French built to escape the heat and humidity, and there is some wildlife spotting to be done there, too. I’m pleased to announce that I am booked into a real building with floors, walls, ceilings, etc, so I am very much hoping to shake off my rodent companions.
I have spent some time this afternoon working out my exit strategy for Cambodia. I can’t leave without seeing Eastern Cambodia, so will head there after Kampot for a few days, first stop Kompong Cham which offers lush countryside, historic temples and much more, and then on to Sen Monorom in Mondulkiri province, where there is amazing wildlife to be seen. While there, I am hoping to visit the Elephant Valley Project to see these wonderful creatures in their natural environment rather than giving pleasure rides at Angkor Wat. Watch this space…
As I near the end of my time in Cambodia and begin to plot the final leg of my journey through Thailand and scuba heaven, I em inevitably starting to think about life back home – not just thinking about the people who are still there that I love and miss, but also about what life will have in store for me as I start a new chapter. This trip has definitely cleared out the cobwebs and provided the transition time and space I needed. Who knows what my life will look like this time next year – the uncertainty is both a little scarry, but also exciting and invigorating.
I am also wondering where my travels will take me next – not necessarily for this long (well, not in the short-term anyway), but my wish list of places I need to visit before I die is growing by the day and I am determined to get through it, too. So where next? Probably Burma again, Borneo, Philippines (apparently the diving is incredible), Mongolia, train journeys through India, rural China, Western Australia, anywhere and everywhere in South America, Egypt, Morrocco, Ghana, California state, Grand Canyon, and that’s just for starters. Everytime I meet someone new or read another book it inspires me to add to this list. So many places, really not enough time, but I’ll give it my best shot.