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Published: December 30th 2018
The small craft bounced across the waters of the Gulf of Thailand. I had boarded one of the many small boats heading to Koh Tonsay, or Rabbit Island, from the Kep pier this morning. On the ride over I spent my time alternatively watching the sun dance off the ocean ripples and talking to the attractive French girl opposite me. As the island came into view, I scanned its shoreline looking for secluded beaches that I could wander to later. I hadn’t made any previous bookings before arrival. I was told that locals would come up to you as you got off the boat with offers of places to stay.
As soon as I hopped off the boat, I was approached by a Khmer man who said that he ran a group of bungalows and a restaurant. For $10 I could have my very own bit of island paradise. I asked to be shown a bungalow first. It looked fine to me. I am never too fussed about accommodations and a bit of rustic living appealed to me. The bungalow had loose wooden floor boards and a thatched roof with a little porch overlooking the whole local scene. I was
informed that all the electricity on the island would shut off around 10pm. Perfect. And not a sarcastic perfect either, a real contented perfect.
By that time, I was starving so I settled down at a table directly overlooking the beach. I ordered a plate of fried noodles with vegetables and pork. The portion was indulgently huge. I definitely would not starve on this island. After polishing it off I was ready for exploration.
My short goal was to find a secluded beach where it would just be me and the wilds of the sea. My long goal was to see if it was possible or even enjoyable enough to wander around the whole perimeter of the island. I heard that some visitors try this and as such there must be a path. On the far end of the main area where I was staying I discovered a wooded path that seemed like a reasonable place to start. As I walked, I was soon very much on my own. I registered a strange cooing sound coming from the underbrush. The sound was a bizarre cross between a gorilla and a dove. I quickly moved on.
path eventually opened out onto a clearing. I rolled and tripped along following the island’s coastline. I came to a huge secluded wide beach without a soul on it. I would venture further, but I made up my mind that this was to be my place of bliss. I kept wandering for about twenty more minutes, but everything after that was just fields of large rocks in place of a beach. I dove into the water at the farthest point of my journey for a swim in the wilds.
As soon as I felt I had earned my wilderness stripes I made my way back to the wideswept beach for another more relaxing swim. When finished I reclined on the beach with my head resting on a log taking in the solitude and remoteness. Later on, an old local man with a wispy grey beard walked by with a long pole balanced on his shoulder. A dog scampered along behind him. I decided it was time to amble back.
Back in front of the bungalows I splayed out on a beach lounge chair and observed the surroundings. Some people were getting massages on the beach under makeshift huts.
Others were sipping drinks back over at the restaurant. The people that interested me the most were two beautiful Cambodian girls who had recently arrived on the island. They were both wearing these elegant dresses that popped with vibrant color. One in bright fuchsia and the other in bright orange. The two of them and a Cambodian guy in a yellow shirt kept taking pictures of each other along with numerous selfies of themselves. They would then studiously stare at their smartphones, presumably to make sure that they looked absolutely flawless. I figured that they were working really hard to make someone jealous.
I went back to my room, unbuttoned my shirt, and reclined back on to my bed. Just then the sky opened and a steady rain began to shower down. The whole area fell into a deep atmospheric quiet, all except the drumbeat of rain thudding all around. A more contented nap I could not remember.
When I emerged from my slumber, I saw that the rain had stopped. It was 4pm. I wandered down to the shore to see the final call for the public boats back to the mainland. The day trippers noisily clattered
all aboard. After the boats had vanished into the distance all that was left was an even deeper peaceful silence. ---Journal Interlude #1:
“There are more Cambodian visitors on Koh Tonsay than I thought there would be. They lend an atmosphere and authenticity to the place. Their sharp nasal tones can be heard happily reverberating all among the bungalows. The Villa Kep Resort was more of a zen stillness. I would describe this as an island forgotten about by all but a few. There is no way this remains untouched like this.
Once Sihanoukville is once and truly tapped out, the locusts and tourist hordes will descend upon this corner of the earth too. They will bring with them their casinos and beer pong. The only thing that can derail this country’s touristic potential is possible civil unrest. It could happen with Hun Sen desperately hanging onto power with the full backing of China’s might.
The lap lap of little waves centers me and brings me to a happy zone. There ain’t nothing here. Just a bunch of bungalows and a humble restaurant. I can imagine that tonight will be a dark quiet peacefulness. No electricity. Just
an open window and a mosquito net.”---
The orange and fuchsia girls appeared to be part of a larger party that was gathering at one of those large wooden platforms that Cambodians seem to love so much. By this time, they had switched out of their fancy dresses into more casual outfits. I had thought that they had planned to stay for the night, maybe I would introduce myself and see what the group was about, but shortly after 5:30 the whole party hopped into their own boat and they too jetted off for the mainland. I was left on my own to write and take pictures of the stunning sunset. ---Journal Interlude #2:
“There is an excitement growing in the back of my throat. Little bursts of tingly anticipation as the sun falls in the sky as I know the non-electric night darkness is coming. An idea floats into my mind that this night will be different from the rest. After a brief cloudburst the only people combing the beach here now on Koh Tonsay are the Cambodians. Little local children roam the water’s edge looking for shells. I am somewhere where I am supposed to be.
Quiet and immobile.” ---
After dinner I wandered down to the shore again to watch the dark night sky. The sky was so clear. You could see the full range of the starfield and even the small sliver of a crescent moon was able to cast a dazzling pale blue light. Back in my bungalow the power to the whole island was cut off for the night. I was left in a dreamy darkness. I fell asleep to the distant sounds of fishing boats prowling the night for their life sustaining catches.
* * *
The roosters worked out their noisy cries at the dawning of first light, or way beforehand me thinks. I went again to my restaurant and had a restorative breakfast of pancakes covered with sticky Khmer palm sugar and lime juice, washed down with a jam smoothie. Afterwards I puttered around awaiting the inevitable arrival of the gabbing day trippers. I napped, dozed, and lazed until it was time to pay my bill. The owner of the bungalows/restaurant wished me farewell and said that a boat was ready to take me back to Kep.
As the only passenger the boat was all
mine. I sat near the center of the boat gazing out at what could not be a more perfect sunny day with nothing but soaring blue skies and gorgeous white clouds. I put in my earbuds and focused on the song, as I zoomed away leaving paradise behind me.
See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
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