From Kep, we took a boat shuttle out to Koh Tonsay, a.k.a. Rabbit Island, to take the relaxing to the next level. It is not much more than a collection of basic bungalows run by several Khmer families on a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. While most people simply alternate between sitting on the beach, swimming, eating, and of course drinking, my idea of relaxing is catching up on this blog. I did at least bring my productivity to a hammock at the water's edge, so the office view was quite soothing as I typed away. That is, until the battery died mid-afternoon several hours before the generator was fired up for the evening. Then I was simply forced to enjoy a sunset and happy hour beers that were cheaper than those on the mainland.
After returning to the mainland from Rabbit Island, it wasn't long before we were headed out on another boat to a neighboring island in the gulf. In Kep, we had been in discussion with an organization called Marine Conservation Cambodia about the possibility of volunteering with them. They invited us to check out their research base on Koh Seh (Horse Island) for a few days to learn more about them. As the boat pulled in to the pier, we were greeted by a tribe of outgoing kids wearing homemade cardboard masks. We had happened to arrive just as Halloween festivities were, a trick or treat circuit to all of the bungalows, and a not-so-scary story campfire. Almost all of the kids had grown up in Cambodia, so the phrase "trick or treat" had to be explained to them. It didn't stick, so by the time they got to our bungalow, I had to prompt them with "What do you say?" while holding the candy bowl above my head. They all put on their sweetest smiles and in unison said, "Please!" It was perhaps the only time I have ever told a child not to say please! "Nope, don't say please, say trick or treat!" The evening was a great introduction to the island and we felt instantly absorbed into the family atmosphere.
The next couple of days we snorkeled along the reef, cleaned up a small section of the beach covered in plastic pollution from the Cambodian and Vietnamese mainlands, and chatted with the staff and volunteers on the island. We got a good vibe from it all so, while watching a brilliant sunset, we decided that we should commit at least a month of our journey to contributing to the efforts here in any way we could.
However, with limited internet connectivity on the island, we weren’t quite ready to jump in right away. We needed a bit of time to be ready to disconnect, so we returned to Kep. After a nice evening at the Treetop Bungalows, we cycled a couple of hours west to the riverside town of Kampot, a pleasant haven for a plethora of ex-pats to run restaurants and bars all catering to each other. Our visit coincided with the first annual Kampot Writers and Readers Festival so town was a little more lively than usual for that time of the year. In keeping with Cambodian style, it was still a laidback affair with loose organization, but in principle it was a really cool idea. After attending one disappointing session about travel writing, I decided that it wasn’t worth sparing the time to try the other events though. I had a lot of my own travel writing to catch up on!
We had picked some simple and cheap riverside bungalows a ways out of town center as a quiet place to work. It was peaceful for a couple of days, despite loud construction of new bungalows right next to ours beginning at 7am. Unfortunately, the weekend came around and an obnoxious group of partiers showed up that we dubbed “The Glitter People” as they were for some reason covered in silver glitter. The Glitter People joined the music pumping at the bungalow competitors next door, then returned in the middle of the night unable to remember which bungalow was theirs. We know this because a couple of them stood in front of ours and stupidly debated about whether or not their bungalow had two bikes parked in front of it….um, no dude, not your cabin.
We relocated into the town center the next morning, which allowed for several days of café hopping, literally spending all day working on the computer, only stretching the legs and getting a change of scenery as the next meal or snack time approached. We found the best spot for coffee, amazing mango and passionfruit sorbet, and even authentic Italian pasta and gnocchi cooked up along local food in a row of food stalls over the course of our daily wanderings. After a day or so of errands and shopping to prepare for the isolation of island living, we cycled back to Kep and headed out to Koh Seh to begin our month with Marine Conservation Cambodia.