Because travelling is hard work
23.11.2010 - 23.11.2010 31 °C
“Must be high-tide” I think to myself as I sit down on the patio floor of the bar, my feet hanging over the edge so it’s submerged in the water. The water is still warm this time of the night but it is cool enough to take the edge off the hot night air. I move my feet around in the water and smile as I remember Dr Fish, the skin exfoliating, feet softening fish in Siem Reap.
It had been a nice relaxing afternoon and continued into a nice relaxing dinner on the beach. We had dined on some fresh BBQ Seafood and at $5 for a whole fish, I decided to go all out and order two main dishes. I had finally figured out that although traditional Cambodian dishes were tasty, it was usually in small portions. I guess it’s just a carry on from the days when food was scarce, or maybe I’ve just been living in the US too long? Nick and I had shared a mixed ‘Bucket’, an alcoholic cocktail of god knows what. All we knew was that it was the cheapest option and it came in a bucket. SOLD! The girls had ordered a bottle of white wine, which came out already uncorked and looked like a urine sample of a person who had spent 2 days in the desert without water. One taste and they sent it back and stuck to the beer. I guess learning the finer side of wine and dining was low priority for Cambodians. The little kids that we ever present had convinced Nick to buy a hand-held fireworks launcher and Nick in turn convinced me. So we lit our fireworks like little kids and drank beer like irresponsible adults. What do they say about fireworks and alcohol? You can put out fireworks with beer, but hard liquor is only good for taking away the burning pain?
So now here I sit on a patio looking out towards the Gulf of Thailand. We had decided to check out one of the bars on the beach and there were only a couple that actually had patrons. It was definitely not peak season and so it wasn’t very lively. The bar is full of backpackers and had learnt that those working behind the bar were working purely for accommodation, very common for backpackers. I start reminiscing about my early days of backpacking. Back then, you’d probably find me on the dance floor doing the caterpillar rather than sitting down being all reflective. Mind you, I’d already had quite a few tonight so the caterpillar wasn't out of the question. It just took the right kinda music and some misguided confidence. I guess it’s part of, dare I say it, Peter Pan growing up.
Sam named our pet dog Presley, after her first love ‘Elvis’. I therefore have the naming rights to our first born, 'Guinness', after MY first love...
Sam thinks I’ll never grow up. I always tell her, unconvincingly, I will do so when the circumstances call for it. We had moved from the 1 bedroom apartment to a 2 bedroom house earlier in the year with the plan to start a family. The conversation would always go something like this:
Sam: You’ll never grow up Al. You realise you won’t be able to do this anymore when we have a baby.
Al (Peter Pan): Urrgghh, I need Ibuprofen and coffee...and don’t worry, I know things will change when that happens. I’m just enjoying it while we still can. I think I left my card behind the bar?! *WHACK*
Sam doesn’t really beat me up but I bet sometimes she wishes she did. Obviously, the circumstance I refer to to is having a baby (Sam named our pet dog Presley, after her first love ‘Elvis’. I therefore have the naming rights to our first born, 'Guinness', after MY first love...). The Chicago summer was fast approaching at that point and we were told by everyone that summer in Chicago was simply awesome and Sam loved good times with good friends as much as me. We had always lived every day as it came but we both know at some point, both of us had to grown up, right Mrs Pan?
snorkeling in overcast conditions is like watching a black and white movie on a small laptop in car with bad suspension
I am now comfortably cool and so I shift my thoughts. I sometimes think about what it would be like to live the simpler life, to 'Down Shift'. Sell up all my worldly possessions and move away from the city, away from the crowds, away from the pollution...away from the Rat Race. “The problem with the Rat Race is that even if you win, you’re still a Rat”. I love that quote. “I could do it” I hear myself saying, but it’s probably the alcohol talking. It’s so much easier to think about doing something like that when you’re on holidays but why is that such a bad thing? I could do it. Sometimes it's situations like this that bring up those inate feelings and thoughts that get lost in all the debris left over from life's mundane...crap.
“There you are”, I turn around there’s Sam followed by the others. “I sent Rod into the bathroom to see if you were sick or something!” She was probably thinking another Peter Pan moment. “No I’m all good. Come and jump in the water and cool down”. We all do and start walking down along the beach and back to our rooms. “So, did the bar staff go naked?” I ask Nick, referring to a rumour that they would do so at midnight. He shakes his head with disappointment. These younger Backpackers are getting soft.
The next day we are off on a small boat for some snorkeling and more R&R on a small secluded island called 'Bamboo Island'. I'm really hoping to see some Pandas. More than likely not. The day isn’t starting off well with clouds slowly eating up the sunlight. It's actually getting quite chilly and by the time we get to our first snorkeling site, I am in no mood to jump in the water. I had done enough of it to know that snorkeling in overcast conditions is like watching Finding Nemo in black and white on a small laptop in car with bad suspension. After a while, the rocking of the boat is too much and go in just for a bit of a swim just to escape the boat. There is more enjoyment at making fun of the European guy on our boat who is swimming in his boxer briefs. You’d think that you’d pack some board shorts or even Budgie Smugglers (Banana Hammocks, Speedos) at a beach resort but this guy came only with his hole infested boxer briefs. I guess his suspiciously young Asian lady friend doesn’t mind. On another boat, we notice an old guy wearing leopard skin budge smugglers. There’s always gotta be that one shameless guy on a boat.
The sun is finally out when we arrive on the island and we grab the volleyball to have a bit of a ‘volley-about’ on the beach. The beach is relatively empty as we enjoy a freshly cooked BBQ fish lunch. Our guide leads us to the other side of the island through a short jungle walk and we are greeted with absolute bliss. There is a small tiki bar but it is empty and there are half a dozen small huts dotted along the beach front. The water is crystal clear and the beach is lined with palm trees. There is no one else here except for us and I’m thinking I could stay here forever. We find a place with a bit of shade and once again, relax. We spend the next couple of hours just doing that, as we work on our tans and move into the water when it gets too hot. Now THIS is a holiday.
On our way back, the clouds start rolling in again but roll by just as quickly. It’s late afternoon when we arrive back in the village and I head straight for the beach chairs to order a beer and some BBQ pork skewers. I leave the coleslaw as I’m not a big fan of eating salads when travelling to poorer countries. I have an iron stomach but salad is just too risky. The children come around again begging for money but instead I give them my coleslaw. The older one takes it and shares it with his younger partner in crime as they both move down the beach to the next table. The younger one looks back at me with coleslaw all over his face. Most people would be saddened by this but instead I smile. These kids are not poor but to us they are. It’s all relative. They probably get 3 square meals a day but not the kind of 3 ‘square foot’ meals you and I are accustomed to.
So we spend our last night in Sihanoukville just chilling out (surprise) on the patio of a restaurant with a beautiful view of the beach and pier. We did have two casualties today as Nick fell to some kind of food poisoning. It’s almost impossible to identify what may have caused it when travelling through countries like Cambodia. I have never been a victim of food poisoning whilst travelling and I didn’t want to start now. The other casualty was Sam’s thongs (Flip Flops), again. Lucky I packed a spare.