From one bamboo hut in Otres to another on Koh Ta Kiev, except this time it truly was paradise.
Stood on the other side of the road from our horny noisy neighbours in Otres, our boat driver picked up a six pack of beer and said ‘this way’ pointing at the ally to the beach. I was half hoping the beers were for us but turns out there is no law for drink boat driving!
45 minutes later we were approaching the island but the captain (if you could call him that) didn’t know where the campsite was. I was a bit worried as there were no reviews of this campsite online in the last year and Trip Advisor said it was closed. Moving slowly along the coastline, we had to look for people and huts through the thick trees lining the shoreline. Eventually we found signs of life, there were clothes hanging on a wooden frame on the beach and as we drew closer, meandering through the overhanging trees and roots in the water I started to get excited.
Approaching Koh Ta Kiev looking for life
We climbed out of the boat in to the shallow water with our bags and said goodbye to our drunk captain who signalled he would be back in two days to pick us up, we had to hold him to his words and hoped he remembered. We started following a rough path through the edge of the jungle to the main hub of the campsite. We were greeted by two young girls, one of whom was walking around in a bra and yoga pants most of the time. The campsite was totally off grid, with no Wi-Fi or data and electricity only running by generator from 6 – 9pm, it really was something special. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, it had such a community feel to the place. Below is a video that takes you through the campsite from the main hangout area to our hut.
There were some downsides to this amazing slice of heaven though. Showers were indeed bucket showers and the toilet… well, let’s just say I didn’t use it once in the 3 days we were on the island. We had the worlds biggest bath right in front of us, although I am afraid of the sea so this was another challenge for me. The first night I had a baby wipe shower but by the second day I really felt like I needed to wash in water so a little bit at a time I went in. It took me many attempts (most of the day to be honest) but I eventually waded in up to my waist, it was clear so I could see my feet and I was starting to enjoy myself, at least until something touched my foot, then I was done, running for the shoreline adamant I didn’t need the sea in my life.
The toilet situation was a whole other ball game, Lewis aka. Dora the Explorer (I’ll explain that name shortly) built me a toilet behind our hut, can’t say it was his finest work but it done the trick. Between that and the sea, oh and my SheWee which I finally managed to use, albiet wrong resulting in pee all down my leg, I was covered on the toilet front. God, I’m really starting to sound high maintenance here!
I mean, it wasn’t luxury but at least it was cleaner than the toilet
My favourite part of the whole island stay was the communal eating. You put your dinner orders in before 4pm and then make sure you are back on camp just after sunset to eat. They bring out your food one by one and you all eat together sat on hammocks or blue peter style benches around the campfire. It got even better when they didn’t have enough staff to cope with the menu so they picked two dishes, chicken fried rice or egg fried rice. This was so much better as I hate making food decisions, it was so good to have the decision taken away from me and not only that, it felt a bit like home so brought me some comfort. We only recently moved out, so home for me is coming home from work to sit down with my whole family and eat dinner together, what ever my mum has made. No orders are put in, she cooks what she has time to cook on the day and you eat what you are given. This was exactly what camp life was like and I loved it.
Some of the delicious food we ate on the island
Fried fish baguette
Mixed fruit salad with museli
Banana Nutella crepe
The best part, coconuts!
The only downside was the hygiene. Given the situation with the toilets and showers, I couldn’t help but think were people’s hands clean? Without hot water, how do they wash the cutlery and plates? If they don’t have electricity, where is the chicken kept cool? These were all questions I knew I couldn’t answer. I obviously ate the food anyway, for those that know me in my adult life you will know I love food and it will take a lot to stop me eating. What most people don’t know, and something I have never really talked about before, is there was once a time where I would have happily not eaten and starved myself because of these worries. Recovery is a long process, I am so grateful that I love food again and so incredibly lucky to be able to.
Before I was diagnosed with OCD I had no idea what was happening to me. I was 11 years old and couldn’t process all the intrusive thoughts I was having. One night after my mum had put me to bed, I had convinced myself that I had been possessed by a devil (idea probably came from a horror movie) and whilst tears were pouring down my face, I repeatedly banged my head against my bedroom wall to try to make it all stop. Throughout the year leading up to my diagnosis I stopped eating. I felt like I didn’t deserve to eat the food my parents had provided for me. I felt unworthy and guilty and sick to the pit of my stomach. We were not allowed packed lunch at school, something to do with making sure pupils ate healthy, except I didn’t think the plates were clean, so I never ate, along with the gut turning worthlessness and guilt I felt, so my mum used to pack me crackers with a little pot of butter on the side (I refused to eat them if the butter was spread for me). Of course, I eventually stopped eating them too and one day I remember my best friend Rachel saying to me that I needed to eat my crackers, I was getting too skinny. This was mortifying as I realised people outside of my home knew. Eating disorders are often linked with OCD (OCD & ED) usually because of the rituals involved in Anorexia and Bulimia but in my case it was more the feelings and emotions of not knowing as opposed to an ED. As soon as I was diagnosed with OCD the weight on my shoulders lifted instantaneously and I started, albeit slowly, to find my appetite again. I will never apologise now for eating ‘too much’, nor will I let a dirty fork get in my way… after all, that’s what anti-bac wipes are for 😊!
We pretty much spent most of our time chilling out on the beach, relaxing in hammocks and reading books, it was the ultimate relaxation retreat and just what I needed. I was perfectly happy chilling on our own stretch of beach with no other soles around but Lewis, who has ants in his pants, couldn’t sit still. He decided to spend his beach time patrolling the sea for all the rubbish that floats around, Cambodia unfortunately has very dirty sea and beaches which is so sad because it is so beautiful there. He fished out plastic bags, medicine bottles, fish hooks, drink bottles; the poor fish swimming this coast line have no hope, and this was the cleanest part!
On our last full day I could see Lewis was getting a bit bored, he kept wondering off and coming back with some new invention like his double washing line made from jungle vines and a walking stick which made him look like Gandalf. This is where he adopted the name Dora the Explorer. Eventually Dora decided he wanted to go for a hike around the island through the jungle. Now I have a terrible phobia of spiders, I can deal with almost any other animal or insect, but spiders are my enemy. I used to wake up in pools of sweat as a kid from having nightmares of spiders crawling all over me, it wasn’t unusual for me to hallucinate in the middle of the night either, this went on until my early teens… told you I didn’t sleep well. So it was safe to say that I didn’t join Lewis on the hike, I didn’t feel too gutted about being defeated by my fear because the campsite was just so calming and I had blog posts to catch up on!
I was worried about Lewis going on his own though, so we agreed a time for him to be back by. I felt that by having a specific time, I could hold back the worrying until that time had passed. As I saw him walk away from the campsite, disappearing into the jungle, my calming idea of chilling in the hammock wasn’t quite so calming. My mind started to wonder, what if he falls and breaks a leg? What if some jungle tribe kidnap him? What if some big ass crazy bear or monster mauls him to death? At this point I was imagining the TV series Lost and my mind was completely away with the fairies. This is why I have never taken drugs; my mind is crazy enough without them!
As the time drew closer and closer to 4.30pm (the agreed time he would be back) the panic started to get worse, I started planning what I would do if he didn’t show up. Would I alert the two girls? Do they even know the jungle well enough after 2 weeks of working here? I have no phone signal so can’t call the mainland. I wonder if they have a radio? Should I stay here in case he comes back? Or should I go looking for him myself? Oh god, this is real, this could very easily happen, I should have gone with him. I told myself to stop worrying, Lewis is like Bear Grylls but without the abs, he grew up in Australia, he loves to do things like this, he will be fine I kept telling myself. I practically chanted this in my head until I fell asleep. Not only 15 minutes went by and I heard footsteps outside our hut, my heart leaped when I saw his tired face appear through the curtain. I was firstly relieved and then secondly embarrassed at the nonsense I had put myself through. I asked myself why I put myself through it but then argued that it wasn’t really irrational, these were very likely situations that could have happened… well except for the monsters mauling him to death, I agree that one was a bit irrational. But the point is, it is sometimes hard to define when to stop worrying. What is realistic vs. unrealistic? Where is the line drawn when you have an anxiety disorder?
On our last morning we packed up and said goodbye to the beautiful island, just as promised our drunken captain turned up on time (this never happens in Asia, time is non-existent) and off we sailed. As the island grew smaller and smaller I felt sad to be leaving, I didn’t want to go back to the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
We had one more night in Otres before the bus ride back to Phnom Penh where we would wait another night for our long bus journey to Vietnam! Our time in Cambodia had come to an end. It was the first leg of our 3 months in Southeast Asia and it had been a big learning curve. I still didn’t feel settled in travelling life and wondered if I ever would. We had seen some amazing sites and some horrible ones and wondered what was awaiting us in Vietnam.