January (offline) experiences

It’s been way too long, I know. I was completely offline for a respectable amount of time, my computer broke and it is an effort to type anything with the letter ‘m’, so bear with me. I have loads of stories to tell from Asia, maybe I’ll get through at least a few of them. Bear with me for the length!

New day in the countryside.
New day in the countryside.

 

The past month I visited a Cambodian hospital due to a swollen eyelid thanks to a mozzie bite, spent 4 days offline and barefooted in paradise beach, took the infamous night bus to Siem Reap, saw sunrise at Angkor Wat, spent 10 days getting into meditation at a retreat…and a lot other stuff after that. Starting from the beginning: Koh Rong Samloem.

Pier to paradise.
Pier to paradise.

One (private diving) boat daily from Sihanoukville, taking people diving and then to Paradise beach or back to the party buzz of Sihanoukville. I stayed in Koh Rong Samloem for 4 days, diving and not doing much else, and it was sad to leave. I also experienced my very first night dive, which was truly an experience! Due to a malfunction in the BCD I had to change gear with the dive master, in pitch black. Being able to do that made me want to continue my diving to master level! The visibility was pretty bad, so if you are a hc diver I cannot really recommend it. But it is a good excuse to get to the quiet side of the island (only two restaurants and about max. 30 people). Oh and the hospital trip – 50 dollars and completely useless, since it got better on its own. Better to be safe than sorry, though.

Daytime activities.
Daytime activities.

From the Sihanoukville I had to take a night bus to Siem Reap, which was scary after reading all the negative reviews online. Virak Buntham, the infamous company I chose, was only one hour late from scheduled arrival. I had a sleeping “bed”, too bad there was already someone sleeping in it. Apparently this Chilean chilled out dude had taken a few valiums (smart!) before take-off, so when he woke up in the morning he had no idea he’d been spooning with me all night. If you ever have to take the night bus, remember to: 1. Be prepared to freeze to death, 2. Have no wifi no matter what they promise you, 3. guard your belongings with your life, 4. be prepared to be woken up several times for pee stops.

 

THE sunrise to remember.
THE sunrise to remember.

I spent few days in Siem Reap trying to figure out my next moves and why my credit card was not working. I ended up being myself and since I am always prepared, I bought a flight to Australia, and a boat ticket to Battambang town to have something to do after Hariharalaya retreat. If I had regrets, I’d regret both of those choices. Besides wondering about my future choices, during those days in Siem Reap I visited the Angkor temples. Together with few thousand others we shivered in pitch black 5am coldness, waiting for the sun to do what it does every day. It was beautiful. At 1pm, after 5 other temples, I was beat.

Tiny bit of climbing.
Tiny bit of climbing.

The next morning I left for my “enlightenment journey” aka Hariharalaya yoga and meditation retreat in the countryside. The following 10 days were spent completely offline, structured loosely and timed by a gong. Daily yoga and meditation practice, delicious vegan food, some extra activities like dancing meditation, magic show and werewolf game – these 10 days spent together with some 30 people from all over and all walks of life went by fast and ended in tears. Luckily we had our crew re-unite in Siem Reap for a few days; some of the best times I’ve had on my whole trip!

Fire ceremony.
Fire ceremony.
Perfecting the headstand.
Perfecting the headstand.

After a few days of pure chillin’, we took a minivan from Siem Reap  with a couple of friends to go to Phenomenal Phnom Penh, a city I was thinking of skipping due to all the sadness I thought would have to encounter. It did break my heart to see kids begging for food, or selling stuff on the streets. Buying them one meal might help for a day, but there’s always another day, another kid…we stayed at a fairly partyish hostel, but ended up spending most of the time chilling in our (private) room, listening to music. Great food, great conversations – I ended up liking Phnom Penh, but mostly because of the company. I know myself well enough to know I hate change, but this time I really hated it. After a fair amount of tears and a night without sleeping one second, I took a tuktuk to the airport and even tried to cancel my flight. Since that didn’t work out, here I am now, looking to the beautiful city of melbourne from the 22nd floor where I have been staying for the past 3 days. And the story continues…

Culture shock!
Culture shock!
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Island Adventures

Hello friends!

I have had the luxury of proper internet for the past days, so I have been able to post more often. Since coming to Cambodia I’ve been staying first at the party river, then at party beach, so I need a change of scene. Tomorrow morning I will take a boat to Koh Rong Samloen island, where I will spend at least 2 or 3 nights, do a few dives and what ever activities I come up with (I’m thinking a hammock and a jungle hike). No wifi on the island, so I will need to keep myself occupied other ways. When returning to mainland, I’ll jump on a night bus to Siem Reap; I decided to skip Phnom Penh altogether, it just doesn’t seem that appealing to me.

Perfect beach, once again.
Perfect beach, once again.

I can’t say I really enjoyed my time in Sihanoukville: Otres beach would have been more isolated and quiet place to stay, but I opted for staying closer to downtown. Sihanoukville is truly the party capital of Cambodia, where small children wander amongst the drunk westerners on the beach, and the locals live in poorly built shacks next to the tourist bungalows. The contrast between the truly poor and the backpackers is so big, all the restaurants near the beaches sell burgers, pizza and french fries. At night the beach turns into Pattaya: local women with strong makeup sitting next to Western old men with empty eyes. Young people drinking from plastic cups and spilling drinks all over the place.

Nature, reminds me of Japan.
Nature, reminds me of Japan.

So I’m off to the island, we’ll see how I like it! Oh, and I just googled the bus company that I’m taking to Siam Reap. Terrible reviews and warnings not to use them. Hopefully I’ll survive with all my stuff; yesterday one girl at the hostel lost all of her valuables when riding a tuk-tuk. Luckily she was traveling with a friend, so she could borrow money. Hopefully I will be luckier than her.