Sunday, December 7, 2014

Paradise with Ants: Last Afternoon at Lazy Beach

Paradise wasn't perfect.  Of course we do live in a fallen world, but the beach here is probably the loveliest I've  ever experienced.  Clean sand, clear water, gentle waves, no crowds, and perfect temperature of both air and water.  A little trash floated up each day-- there is trash everywhere in Cambodia -- and staff and visitors picked it up.  The beach, the privacy, and the reefs for snorkeling at each end were all wonderful.  Our bungalow was the next to the last one, and a good walk along the beach from the bar and restaurant.  It was also one of the most private, meaning we could hose off at the outside faucet and remove our bathers there, and even sit on our porch and be hidden from all but a small patch of beach where few people passed.  Hornbills ( a new bird for me), flitted through the trees and one perched for a long time.   We also saw a black squirrel with white-tipped tail -- almost like a skunk!

We had a metal box with padlock in which to put our valuables (money, credit cards, passports, binoculars, camera, iPad and phone and Kindle, camera, and a bottle of gin.  We needed no money, just gave them our room number at the bar.

What wasn't perfect?  I was often hot, and longed for air-conditioning, especially when it was humid and no breezes blew.  Our bathroom was full of ants.  Also our porch.  After yesterday's rain, there were mosquitoes.  There is also a resident mouse -- probably several.  We did have an electric fan to blow after sundown when the electricity went on until just before sunrise, but it was hard to adjust  to be comfortable. To reach the bathroom we went down two steep ladder-like steps, a bit of a challenge.  The toilet flushed with water dipped from a large tub we refilled from a faucet above it.  The shower was all in one with the room, so everything in the bathroom was always wet.  There was cold water only.  I much preferred to rinse off at the outdoor hose, although it wasn't long enough to make a decent shower.  We had resident mice, and there was a leak in the roof when It rained, plus fine yellow dust constantly sifted down through the thatch.  The floor was wide boards with wide spaces open to the ground a couple of feet below.  For $60 a night (fairly expensive forCambodia), this was more like an expensive campground than a beach resort.  No credit cards, a website, but no online booking.  We had to get someone to call, then call again two days before we arrived to confirm,. The sheets on the bed feel more polyester than cotton, and are wrinkled, scratchy, and hot.  When one of us moves, the whole bed shakes, and we've done a fair amount of tossing and turning.  We pay for drinking water.  We brought a large bottle with us.

We bought a bottle of white wine and some Sapphire Blue gin and tonic water before getting on the boat, but how to get ice?  We ended up putting the wine bottle in the dipping tub, which at least made it less than hot, and got ice from the bar in glasses on the first night, as there were none in the room.  It was mostly melted by the time we walked back here.  The next evening we brought a ziplock bag.  It also didn't last long enough.  Finally, last night we asked if there was a thermos or ice bucket, and bartender Matt offered us a whole bucket of ice, which we wrapped in the clean towels we'd just asked for, and finally had more ice than we could use.

There is no room service, and in fact little service of any kind.  You order your food at the bar, although it is brought to your table.  Everything costs extra: breakfast, all meals, drinks, mask and snorkel rental, and the boat ride to the island and back.  The bar/dining/lounge area has books and games, and there is a ping pong table in an adjacent thatched roofed building.  One disadvantage, which we've found everywhere in Asia, is that there are a lot of smokers, so we are always trying to find a place upwind from someone.  The dining room is open from 7:30 a.m. Until 9 p.m., with no set mealtimes.  At the end of our 4th day here, we are ready for other food, although the food has been quite good. If you want your room cleaned, you have to ask before 10 a.m.  We have swept the floor ourselves with the little broom, easy since the sand drops through the cracks.  It would have been wonderful to have had a thermos of hot water to make coffee or tea in the morning, and to be able to sit on our porch to watch the sunrise with a cup in hand.

The staff, mostly young men, probably mostly from Australia, with a support crew of Cambodians is friendly.  I still don't know who actually owns this place, however.

The snorkeling, particularly at the far end of the beach closest to us, is quite nice. This morning we went all the way to the end of the point on this end, seeing some very nice coral and quite a few fish, with quite good visibility.

Yesterday morning, after quite a night of rain, lightning, and thunder, we took the path through the jungle for 20 minutes to a beach on the far side of the island.  There were many more people there, and several different resorts that did not look nearly so good as Lazy Beach.  The beach, although longer was not as pretty or open to the sea as this one.

We look out onto the Gulf of Thailand, toward the west.  Tonight just at sunset a huge cruise ship passed.  Otherwise we have seen mainly small fishing boats, some made of chunks of styrofoam bound together.

I have absolutely loved floating in the warm sea.  I would stay in forever, but tonight I'm feeling a bit hot from so much sun.  Now it is night and the moon is almost full, so maybe I can slip in for one last swim without having to struggle with my bathing suit.

Oh, no.  After a perfect sunny day, with perhaps somewhat lower humidity, I now hear thunder and see lightning flashes. I may have to forego my moonlight dip.

Tomorrow morning early is the boat back to the mainland (Sihanoukville), and then the bus ride back to Phnom Penh, where I've reserved a room at the old Bougainvillier Hotel on Sisowath Quay for just the one short night before our 8 a.m. flight to Kuala Lumpur where I haven't yet booked a hotel.  I suspect I'll have many moments of wishing to be back here floating in this lovely sea.

5:25 a.m. Friday, December 5.  I finally went to sleep despite continuously flashing lightning and loud thunder.  It is still lightning this morning as the sky begins to lighten barely perceptibly.  I remembered how the tide was out farther than we'd ever seen it when we walked along the beach late in the afternoon, and I thought of the tsunami that hit Indonesia over New Years a few years ago.  I suspected a tsunami would wash right over the low parts of the island and completely cover the area between us and the beach on the other side.  Would the boat be able to go in the morning?  Will we make it to the bus to Phnom Penh, and to your flight tomorrow?

The dark is lingering longer than usual.  I cannot see any details in the sky.

Postscript;  I did slip out for a dip in the early morning darkness but the sea was gray in the dark, not shimmering turquoise.  It was a long day of travel with a two-hour layover between boat and bus.  The Mekong Express VIP bus was much more comfortable than the Golden Bayon bus taken earlier, and it had free wifi on board that was actually worked most of the time.  Kent read his book, and I put on my headphones and listened to music.  We got stuck in Friday evening traffic once past the airport, making us an hour late arriving.  Tuk-tuk to hotel Bougaivillier, nice old place on the Quay with great bathroom and four poster bed.  Time there was too short.  After showers with hot water in a real bathroom, we drank up the last of our gin with a can of tonic from the room fridge, shared a small margarita pizza on the rooftop bar, then had a brief walk along the Quay.  All too soon, 6:30 a.m. departure for the airport, and farewell to Cambodia and hello to Kuala Lumpur.  

King of Cambodia

A bit blurry, but loved this scene from our final tuk-tuk ride to Phnom Penh airport.

Note: We have been happy with Air Asia, a no frills Southwest Airlines of Asia.  Clean new planes, on time, nice enough seats, especially for flights of under two hours, and easy to book online.   We've managed to be under their weight and carry-on limit without paying to check luggage.  

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