Island Time

Island time. It’s a time frame. It’s a state of mind. “Don’t worry, we’re on island time.” There’s a good reggae song in there somewhere. It’s knowing that there’s no need to rush, and that nobody else is going to go for that anyway. Some of the things you’re used to, like reliable wifi and ice cream, are more difficult to find, so a living-in-the-now approach seems appropriate, at least, those thoughts pass through your head as you furiously write on your laptop or charge your mobile. Just be patient. You’re on island time.
Like here on Koh Rong – it’s on island time. You get the feeling that the families here aren’t looking that far into the future, or the past. Today is today, and tomorrow is tomorrow, you think about tomorrow when it’s here. Life seems much simpler this way. It allows you to enjoy the things right in front of you without the burden of all those different time frames.
Today starts in the afternoon (of course!) and you snorkel the cool waters and coral of the nearby blip of island so small you don’t think it has a name. And you see things like rockfish, and yellow-and-black-vertically-striped-fish, a coquillage or giant clam, underwater plants that resemble brown hops, and a menacing display from the many inky-black anemones parking their white-ringed and fearsome-looking spikes on the sea bed.
After an undetermined amount of island time, your captain takes you to what is presumably his special spot, IMG_5865gives you a fishing line on a spool, baits the weighted hook with squid, and tells you to “fish on the bottom.” And soon as you please, you start reeling in sea life,and so does the boat captain, some small, some big, some strange, and soon you have a little assortiment des poissons that your boatman will cook for you later.
After a couple of hours or so (who knows?!), your angling prowess has secured dinner, and as the sun descends in the western sky, you motor over to catch a beauty on Koh Rong Samloem, while fishermen haul in the final catches of the day in the foreground. This sunset perhaps rivals the corker you saw on Long Beach the previous night, the one you barefoot-trekked to Koh Rong Samloem sunseton a jungle path that resembled a set a famous fictional archaeologist might have swashbuckled through.

Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem

But the topper and the capper is a ride out to Koh Kon,
Koh Kong
Koh Kong
just off the coast of Samloem, where plankton exhibit a delightful property when you pass your hands through them – they display a wispy and tendrile-like luminescence. Now, real hadoukens and lumos spells are at your fingertips with merely the proper flick of the wrists. You play and play in the water, and when you tire, you ride back under the stars, which are peering over the edge of the fading daylight, and ever-so-slowly rotating, movement that gives you a much better idea of how to tell island time.

Koh Rong

Travel to Koh Rong today. What is Koh Rong? It’s one of many destination islands off the coast of Cambodia, and one of the largest in the region. The transportation to the pier and the wait for the boat to arrive were all typical of how things run here – no real plan or organization to speak of and everyone just sort of does their own thing, and things usually manage to happen. Today, it was a “slow” ferry to the island, but to be honest, it didn’t look much slower than the fast ferry. But, the minute the boat left the harbor, the seasickness began for many aboard and never abated, at least on the top floor of the “backpackers ferry,” as it was called. Pretty sure our slow boat stopped to offload some of the sick passengers on what was billed as the fast ferry.
Pretty soon the island came into near view, and after running into friends yet again, which really seems to happen often these days, we tramped off together, no one really knowing where we were going or what we were doing, perhaps one person had a vague idea, but no one really knows.
First we went west along the shore of the island,

koh rong kids
koh rong kids
and we saw a pair of dogs stuck together who couldn’t separate after having (obviously) doggy-style sex,
stuck-together dogs
stuck-together dogs
and there was a tiny beach or two a kilometer west of the port, but we eventually had to reverse course
this is not long beach
this is not long beach
to go to the real gem, Long Beach, which turned out to be the best adventure of the day. Early on, you ascend at a measured and even pace, with no particular obstacles other than outcropping roots or jagged rocks, nothing that can’t be managed in the vertical position and without the use of hands. At some point we came across a man openly selling weed, a cashew farm, and even tried some of the cashew apples, which had a texture between a plum and nectarine, and a taste somewhere between an apple and prickly pear. The trail got progressively more technical, but as the ocean came into view over the top of the mountain, it became obvious that a very steep and rapid descent was imminent, and it did not disappoint, as attached ropes and vines served as the main defense against falls, any type of which would be painful, if not catastrophic. Going barefoot was perhaps not the best idea for this hike, but in some way, your feet have greater purchase when they can touch the object onto which they will land, even if they don’t have the protection that a shoe would provide. Some species of white monkey inhabits the trees on the last few tens of meters of the cross-island trek, which could be observed jumping from branch to branch, and dropping some kind of nut or empty shell husk to the ground, oftentimes with a proximity that seemed to belie intent.
And what a beach, Long Beach, pure white sand and a perfect view of the last rays of sun.
sunset on Long Beach
sunset on Long Beach
The sun going down with longtail boats in the foreground is a feature that I often saw on Thailand, and often took pictures of, and it is no less noteworthy tonight. The water is also a clear bluish-green, one of the nicest waters I have had the pleasure to swim in. But at nightfall it became clear that the taxi boats parked there were the only way back to the other side after dark, as the steep ascent and lack of shoes would make the return trip much more dangerous and much less plausible, so back to the island we went, in a boat that at times I wasn’t sure would make it because of the swells, and because the motor seemed underpowered, even for what was maybe only 5 or 6 people. But in half an hour or so, the young, energetic boatman with the purplish-pink watercraft put us safely where we wanted, tying a neat little bow on the first day of Koh Rong.

Kampot

Kampot. A gem of a little trocadero nestled in the southwest corner of Cambodia. When I arrived on Sunday, it was the heat of the day, and the town appeared to be asleep, with dust the only thing stirring in the high sun of the afternoon. Today was a trip to Kep on rented motorbikes, two on one, and one on the other. The highway was more like a country road, mostly gravel and dirt with a strip of asphalt running down the center. In town was a little apron of sand

Kep Beach
Kep Beach
which beckoned with its greenish water and we joyfully acquiesced. From there we saw a statue of seated woman
seated woman
seated woman
and headed up the island
Welcome to Kep!
Welcome to Kep!
to find the crab market, which we found later, but not before going in the opposite direction first,
Kep Independence Monument
Kep Independence Monument — we accidentally found this
and then to find only the worst sign, possibly ever, which marked the departure and arrival departments of the local Rabbit Island tourism industry. Upon finding the crab market, we messied ourselves with grilled local crab
Kep crab
Kep crab
before I bought some local pepper to send back to my sister. Maybe 20km later, we were back in Kampot, an easy, breezy ride which was made just a little simpler with a scarf over the nose and mouth.