Friday, 2 December 2011

The South Coast is Paradise

Paradise Found-Kep
Fringed with tropical beaches, pristine mangrove forests, secluded unspoilt Islands and night life to fulfill the apatite of even the hardest of hardcore party goers makes the south a little bit special but be warned its going to make a few people a little bit jealous. 

On the 29th October we left the capital city of Phnom Penh for the Sunkist beaches of the south coast, still unsure of what we would find. I never knew anything about this region until I began reading up on it in the Capital and words such as; beauty, tranquility, palm trees, sunsets, tropical Islands and pinacolada's, sprang from the pages like long lost friends and done more than wet the whistle, I was more than in. We promptly booked our tickets and off we went in search of paradise, and believe me we wasn't to be disappointed.

We arrived at a little seaside resort called Kep, famed for spectacular sunsets, fresh crab and old French colonial villas that speak of happier times, line the beach and stand like ghosts from another age. The villas were destroyed by the Khemer Rouge and are now just abandoned blackened shells said to be haunted. They are very strange indeed and would make a great set for a horror film. We stayed in a slightly better French guesthouse on the beach, the perfect location to explore the area. Kep is a place were the locals enjoy their holidays and we arrived during the weekend so it was alive with locals relaxing and eating the local delicacy, fresh crab. This is what Kep is most famous for and it certainly lives up to expectations, its beautiful. We went for a walk to the local crab market to try it out, on the way encountering a local troop of monkeys, meandering about as the sun was going down. I tried the crap with Kampot pepper (famous in any French restaurant worth their salt). It must rank as some of the best sea food that I have had, its so fresh, aromatic and tasty. Fantastico!!!
Outside one of the old French Villas
The closest palce I have ever been to paradise is, Koh Tonsay, better known as Rabbit Island. It lies about 45 minutes from Kep and has the feel of an Island you would read about in a Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe book. There are virtually no foreigners to be found on this tropical hidden secret. Coconut tress fringe the beach, crystal blue waters lap up against a lone fisherman's boat, the sun glares down from the west, and all there is to do is laze on on the hammock on your raised bamboo shack and sip an ice cold beer. Perfect!!!  

Its a very peaceful and tranquil place and the perfect place for relaxing and just forgetting about the world around you. As night approaches, we would sit and watch sunset glow over the mountains or a storm raging in the distant ocean mesmerised by the lightening strikes that flicker and light up the sky for a split second like an ancient foreboding. At 9pm, what little light there is on the island goes off as the generators stop, the insects come alive and then like clock work the dogs on the island howl in competition with each other as the shadows created by the bright moon move and take on strange ghostly shapes creating this very mystical atmosphere. I remember during the first night looking up and just being amazed by the all the stars shinning so brightly in the sky; I have never seen so many stars and it feel so timeless.

Exploring the island

The beauty of Koh Tonsay

Paradise-Chilling in my hammock

Its hammock time again outside our bamboo shack

Sun Set over the mountains

Sun Set Glow
We got speaking to a couple from London, England and one of the locals on the island had asked them if they would like a boat trip to another island about 45 minutes away. The island inhabits only a small fishing village, its very remote and doesn't see many tourists. This sounded great, because Cambodia is no where as developed as its South East Asian neighbours and therefore was the perfect chance to see the real Cambodia before this changes forever. We travelled to the small island on a small fishing boat over beautiful blue sea the way the local do it. First our local guide took us around the back of the island to do some snorkeling in waters that no one else has the chance to go to making the experience feel so much more secluded, and the viability was great meaning you can see many variety of fish and coral. We then went a short distance to where the fishing villages are located. As we approached all the children came running out to greet us; all they wanted to do was play, they were fascinated taking pictures of each other and then looking at themselves and laughing. I had a walk around interacting with all the people and looking at the methods they used for fishing. They mostly use cages for catching crab, and crab remains litter the entire village. They took us into their homes and cooked us dinner, at least twelve big fresh crabs steamed and served with rice and chili source. It was beautiful and the whole day was an amazing experience as we were well and truely off the beaten track.

On our way to the fishing village

Our guide leading the way to our snorkeling location straight ahead

The children of the island

The boats used for fishing

Talking with the children

On our way back to Koh Tonsay

From Kep we traveled by a pink tuck tuck to Kampot, a charming riverside town, that has a sleepy relaxing atmosphere. Just like Kep it has a french colonial feel (and some great french cafes) and is a destination worth going just to lay back and get fat. From here we traveled further up the coast to Sihanoukville to party for a week. This is Cambodia's most happening beach destination and is a great place to party all day and night. We only planned to spend a day or two here but ended up spending a week; its infectious, vibrant, addictive, crazy, its gonna suck you and spit you out, right up my street kind of place and in the words of my American friend; 'its bloody god dam good fun man, awesome!!!' 

Inside the famous tuck tuck on our way to Kampot

'This is the life'- on the beach of Sihanoukville

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