Cambodia (Sihanoukville – October 20th)

I don’t have much to write about the 19th or the 21st because they were travel days. But the 20th was a full day of sight-seeing.  NOTE: I’ve tried including a couple of videos in this post; it’s a first so I’m not exactly sure how they’re going to work or if they’ll even show up.  Please be patient as I work out the kinks.

We got up early, got ready for the day, and then went to a nearby temple where there was a family of monkeys. Our local guides called the monkeys down from the roofs of one of the temple buildings by giving a sort of “oooaaaa” sounding holler. The monkeys didn’t come down all that quickly, but once they did, it was a feast! Our guides had brought watermelon, cut apples, and salted peanuts. We all were able to feed the monkeys and have a friendly conversation…. haha, just kidding about the conversation. Anyway, we had to be cognizant of the alpha male of the group. One of the guides approached him with some food and the alpha sort of lunged towards and hissed at the guide at the same time making him jump back and away.

One of the pagoda/temple buildings where we fed the monkeys. 

Super close!  

There were babies!  They were so cute.  

We took a group photo on an elevated deck by one of the temple buildings. Over the side of the wall of that deck, there was a large mound of garbage; evident that that side of the temple was used as a garbage dump. That sort of thing makes me so mad! But if you don’t have the appropriate disposal facility, all that plastic waste has nowhere to go. Let’s be honest, it’s probably 99% plastic because natural material biodegrades and doesn’t last forever.

My tour group has been bumping into another tour group that is traveling sort of in tandem.  Their tour ends in Hanoi; mine continues back to Bangkok.

Garbage just on the other side of the wall behind the group in the photo above. 

We subsequently made the drive to Ream National Park, about 40 minutes away approximately. We got out into the park and drove down gravel and dirt roads. Then, as we approached the trail head that we had to take, our apparently super-minivan made a left turn and crossed a small bridge constructed of small cut logs; I sincerely doubt its structural integrity but we made it across. This road was an unfinished, ungraded, dirt path towards deep rain forest.

Thankfully we didn’t go too far on it before they parked and we were told to get out. One of the guides led us through this short forest trail where was saw this creepy black worm-like snake creature slithering through some weeds.

The above should be a video! If it doesn’t work or play, please let me know.

We continued down this trail and it opened up into a more off-roading, 4-wheel-drive road that led to a fishing village we were going to see. As we approached the village, the amount of trash on the ground increased dramatically, the smell of fish and animal poo hung in the hot and humid air. I personally was sweating like a pig.

We walked into the village and saw ducks, chickens, a building that was set up for making rice whiskey complete with home-set-up distiller, fisherman coming in from the ocean and unloading their catches. The group was given shot glasses to try rice whiskey that the villagers had made. To me it looked like slightly clouded water; not terribly attractive and since I don’t drink whiskey I didn’t test it. My travel mates said it wasn’t too awfully strong though. I’ll take their word for it.

One of the 4-wheel drive trails through the rainforest to access the fishing village.  

There was so much trash on the ground!  😦

Rice whiskey-making building complete with cooked rice laid out to dry a bit before the fermentation process takes place.  

The guide purchased bags of chips and gave them to us to hand to the village children. While some probably think this was fine and dandy, I was pretty uncomfortable with it. We had just finished feeding monkeys at the temple and to me it felt like the same concept, handing food to village children as though they were exotic creatures that we could feed just for the experience of it. I ended up giving my small bag of shrimp-flavored chips to a little boy who was playing with his sister at what appeared to be the village well. We walked further into the village and saw the one-room school where the children went to learn. It was called “Jesus School,” a school funded by a christian Korean charity. The school had one teacher and only the most basic teaching tools; some posters on the walls and I didn’t really see any books but perhaps the kids had them at home since we did visit the school on the weekend. There were two classes a day; morning and afternoon.

One Room School House

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Some of the teaching tools.  

Further into the village, we started smelling this awful rotting fish smell that made my nose curl. Then we saw it: the villagers spreading out this pile of small pink-ish sea creatures. Apparently it was loads of small shrimp that they make “fish sauce” out of. We walked towards the end of the homes and there was a rickety-looking pier with a small building at the end of it. The view from that pier facing out towards the sea was beautiful; looking back towards the homes and the villagers working waterfront was riddled with plastic garbage.

The pink color on the mats in the approximate middle-center of the photo is the small shrimp being laid out to dry (I think) for the fish sauce.  Stunk to high heaven.  

Another view of the shrimp-drying setup.  

View facing towards the open ocean and away from the houses and trash. 

After a few photos and a group picture, we started walking back to meet the super mini-van. Once we were all packed up, we headed to the Kbal Chhay waterfall. My theory is that the locals developed a working village around this waterfall as a result of tourism, but I haven’t asked to confirm whether that is true or not. We had some time between arriving and lunch being ready so the guides brought us down to the waterfall to get wet and cool off because the day was really, really hot and sunny.

Kbal Chhay water fall.  

For lunch, our guides prepared fresh barbecue which, for the vegetarians, meant vegetable kabobs. They put peppers, onions, tomatoes, and fresh pineapple. Now, I didn’t expect pinapple to taste so good on a vegetable kabob, but it did… it was incredible! You’re just going to have to trust me because I didn’t take a picture. Subsequent to lunch cleanup and a little more swimming, we packed up and headed to a beach near the town where our hotel was (Sihanoukville). The water was so warm; almost bath water. It wasn’t hard to get into at all. But a thunder and rain storm was approaching and we were only going to be there an hour so it was hard to settle down or set up a spot to hang out. Besides, my towel was all wet by this point and hung onto the sand for dear life. Everybody just ended up standing around for a little bit until it started to rain which hastened the packing up and leaving part of the day.

Beach time!

Tiny crabs filtering sand and creating those tiny balls around its tiny hole.

I was so thankful to get to the hotel, shower, and pick up my clean laundry; after a long day of sweating profusely and bathing in unknown waters, a shower is so amazing. We had dinner at a pizza place called “Olive & Olive Mediterranean food”. Super yummy pizza! We had extra and since the next day (the 21st) was a travel day, we saved it for breakfast (yum, cold pizza). Oh, and the power went out for a few moments a couple of times while we were waiting for dinner to be served. A few times so far, while eating dinner, it has been pouring rain but stopped for enough time to let us get back to our accommodation, thankfully.

Yummmm pizza. 

Something I learned, or realized, about myself during our breakfast before we headed out that morning: Sometimes I get into what I’ve started calling my “characteristic funk.” I’m not angry, I’m not nervous, I’m not scared, I’m not happy or sad…. but maybe it’s a touch of each. It leaves me in this in-between state of not being able to enjoy other peoples’ company and just wanting to be alone so that I don’t bring down the attitude or spirit of the group. What I realized is that I believe this comes on when I have a situation in which I don’t know how to prepare. I am the type of person that tends to plan things pretty far in advance, but if I’m not sure what to expect, how can I appropriately prepare? For example, going to the fishing village, our guide called it a hike …possibly easy, possibly not..; we were going to get wet at some point during the day, etc.

So, several questions just start flying around my mind:

– To wear or not to wear my bathing suit underneath my clothes?

– If I don’t wear my bathing suit now, where and how will I change? Will I have to shimmy in and out of it while wrapped in my towel somehow?

– Do I wear my hiking boots? The hike isn’t supposed to be that hard. Will my boots be overkill? Will they be too hot.

– If it rains and they get wet, will they take forever to dry? They’re pretty new and I’d like them not to stink to high heaven if I can help it.

– If I only wear sandals, will they be sufficient?

I know, I think way too much. But I’m so glad I came to this realization because now I know what to expect from myself and can ask our guide how to prepare if I need to. I also told myself that I usually over-prepare to begin with, so with all that in mind… I should be pretty darn set! I just need to recognize it coming on next time and deal with it so I’m not grumpy.

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