Cambodian Beach time – Koh Rong, Gulf of Thailand

I love being able to write the words; Koh Rong, Gulf of Thailand. Romantic and foreign. Koh Rong is a large island about an hour’s ferry ride from Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Sihanoukville is a coastal city that hubs an airport, roads, and departure point for ferries going to the islands. It has fallen victim to Chinese investors reshaping the waterfront with hotels and an unbelievable amount of casinos on the shoreline. Billboards, shop names, signage now are all in Chinese. Changes are recent, within the last 1-2 years and very disturbing to local Cambodians, i.e., loss of jobs, property and autonomy.

The beach at Sihanoukville, cranes in background

I and we as a group have been questioning the effect of the good we’ve done this past week. It is a very corrupt government, politicos siphon foreign aid into their pet interests. Rarely does it cycle into the people’s education, health care, sanitation or housing. Our mission and others bring some benefit or relief and simultaneously enhances the commune leader’s or member of parliament’s, a.k.a. His Excellency’s reputation and electability. It is both an important and appalling awareness that there is no escape from misuse of power no matter the border. So easy to go to this frustrating mind-set having had lots of practice at home in the US.

Forgive me for shifting into a here and now vacation like focus. It’s called relaxing and slowing down. At the most gorgeous beach.

Long Beach, Koh Rong is 7 km of pristine white sand, coconut palms, some newly planted and others long lived, the clearest water with just enough turquoise coloring to remind you that it is ocean water. We are at Ryta Beach Resort, about 1+ years old and owned by Cambodians. What gives it Resort status? There is the beach, a few thatched canopies, hammocks, spotty WiFi and occasional electricity. No cabana services, or Mai Tai’s delivered to your hammock, no plastic kayaks, volleyball or Sports TV channel. There are only four of us on the beach right now and no one else in view anywhere. Gentle breezes and pleasant solitude on a gorgeous tropical day; it’s my kind of Resort .

Late afternoon we walked the 3 km or so to Soc San village. Several huts, shops, restaurants. A felafel place, an authentic Italian place called “Eat, Pray, Love” ( no kidding). We decided on Moon, eating on the beach, Spanish music playing, low lighting, our feet twirling in the sand. I had squid and shrimp Pad Thai and Steve had chicken with cashews. We saw a squid and octopus catch from a fisherman on his motorbike yesterday morning and we watched a couple of women peeling cashews and chopping them up in the village.

A Cambodian farm to table. Washing my meal down with coconut water from a coconut chopped minutes before. Foodie Bliss.

Delightful walking about the village of Soc San. Lots of dogs and chickens, children and families out and about on a gentle hot night.

We took a water taxi back. By now it was pitch . And we could hear an engine spluttering in the dark and hoped it wasn’t our ride. We walked out on a pier that seemed sturdy. I used my phone light to see and there were big gaps, holes, uneven and missing boards. Steve was glad he couldn’t see. Stepped off the pier onto the very boat we hoped to avoid. These long boats are hand made and tough. They have two large engines up top in the stern controlled by the boatman with one hand on a rope for the throttle and the other on the rudder. They are loud when opened up; ours sounded like an old man with catarrh . Long thin metal shafts about 12′ long connect the engines to a tiny propellor maybe 12″ in diameter. The large engine with its spinning belts, skinny shaft and teeny propellor seem cartoonish, jerryrigged by kids playing with a Lego Star Wars kit. Yet the day before when our group boated around the entire island we drag raced another boat through sizable waves.

It was neck and neck

During the dark ride home we slung our arms over the side into the warm churning wake and saw sparkles flying up and down our hands and arms. Bioluminescent phytoplankton. A hoped for treat. Now we loved our old boat. The boatman slowed down so we could really enjoy the phenomenon. What a lucky night.

Now as I write, our early morning alarms are set, we leave this place to catch a ferry to Sihanoukville for our flight to Siem Reap and the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat.

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