Kep, Cambodia

Kep is a quiet seaside retreat not so much discovered, as yet, by the tourists. Its beaches are not that great. The seafood is more than abundant and crab is their specialty. We splurged ($25) on a guesthouse with peach colored bungalows and thatched roofs. A deep blue pool is surrounded by terra cotta tiles. Organza curtains flutter around the bamboo gazebo. It’s hot and humid here, but this was one of our best days in Cambodia.
Lush is an understatement for this tropical region. There are jack fruit and mango trees. The palms fronds flap their leaves together in the ocean breeze. A fragrant six- foot jasmine like bush grows nearby. The mountains inland are a national park.  Cambodia is still more 19th than 21st Century. The young man that lives down the trail beyond our resort passed by this morning on a farm wagon still pulled by oxen.

David and I rented a motorbike this afternoon and cruised the newly resurfaced roads near the ocean. There are many 1-3 acre parcels where once stood  lovely seaside mansions during the French Colonial era—some of them designed by architect, Le Corbusier. They were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s and 80’s. Many peasants have taken over the parts that are livable. Beautifully crafted stone fences and elaborate iron gates still remain. Mature landscapes have returned to their wild and natural inclinations.  Someone or agency is busy clearing the lands and hanging for sale signs so if you know of anyone looking to build their seaside villa on a bargain piece of land, this might be it. Of course, to get here, we endured a two-hour spine jarring tuk tuk ride on a road in process where, when someone passed us, we had a brown out of red dust.

Yesterday we ate Green Papaya Salad and Crab cooked in Coconut and Lemon Grass sauce.

I love the Cambodian people especially in the countryside. They don’t need to meditate—so easy going and ready with smiles. When I ask a driver how much to pay for some extra service he gave us, he smiles and says, “Oh, you decide, madame.” No haggling.

The Khmer women of both Cambodia and Thailand are well, lush, lovely, perhaps the most delicate and graceful creatures we’ve ever seen.  When I think of the history of this country, my mind says, “who could possibly want to hurt these people?” 

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Kampot River Ride

DSC00537Les Manguieres is a resort I found on the internet . . .”one of Cambodia’s best kept secrets”. And indeed it is. The resort is on the Kampot River about four miles out of the town of Kampot and about 15 miles from the ocean. It is best known for its red, green, white, and black peppers that grow on nearby plantations in the foothills of the mountains.

The assistant manager of the resort, a Cambodian woman who looks about 16, helped us arrange a biking and kayaking excursion on our first day there. Our plan was that we would ride their bikes about 3-4 miles through the local village; then meet the resort’s boatman who would ferry a kayak up river to us. The bicycles were rusted, one gear Chinese specimens probably manufactured during the Ming Dynasty, but they worked.

With her carefully drawn map in hand, we rode through the village accompanied by curious young boys pointing the way to the confused looking “farangs” or foreigners. We arrived at the local school just as the kindergartners were getting out. It looked much like our schools, but parents waited on motorbikes squeezing up to three little ones on for a ride home. “Hello!” Hello!” they called; little hands waving. It was my movie star moment as the gappy toothed kindergartners gathered around my bike to see themselves in the pictures I took. Their innocence and unadulterated joy was worth the price of the plane ticket.

We rode on to the third bridge where our boatman was waiting. With a chorus of birds to accompany us, we paddled first into the mangrove backwaters that the locals call the Green Cathedral; then out into the open river for a much needed dip. A smiling, toothless grandmother came out to wave at us, and other local children splashed into the water as well. I know I sound a little spoiled but the Cambodian version of a kayak is more like a small bathtub which works if quick turns aren’t required.

The main diet here is fish as well as rice, watermelon, mango, pineapple, and bananas and of course, pepper. The broad, salt water river is teeming with fish of various kinds unlike our own. It is so hopeful to see a river that actually feeds its community.
the green cathedral

Wired and Tired

image016161616After the plane ride and a clean hotel in Bangkok, a long day on the mini bus. I met a German couple who agreed to share the cost of one as the driver promised a shorter ride than the bus. The towns and acres of agriculture fly past the windows faster than my eyes can grasp them—rubber trees, coconut palms, and lush tropical landscapes. Exquisite temples! There are old ladies in big hats with umbrellas on their motorbikes and new subdivisions of narrow two story houses. Bridgestone is everywhere – we assume harvesting rubber. Thailand reminds me of the Midwest in the 50s so much booming economy –more middle class—everywhere motorbikes and cars and all the fixing and tires and hubcap sales that go with them.

The roads are like little roller coasters up and down With all the cramming into small spaces, scrunching and being jolted awake by a bump in the road our incredible bodies hang together—bones still attached to muscles. I am in awe of them.

We are in the S town of Trad on our way to Cambodian border. First stop in this town was our favorite massage therapist who used to know cousin Alden –they were monks together in N. Thailand. And of course a good bowl of Thai soup for breakfast with its many textures and flavors–lemon grass, kaffir lim leaves, chillis, peanuts, lime, fish sauce and many undetermined ingredients.

Baan Jai Dee guesthouse offers no luxury accommodation. Traditional Thai construction with well varnished teak floors and walls so thin we can hear the neighbor sneeze. We come here because the proprietor is such a gem. She has framed many small pieces of Thai weaving and embroidery on the walls. Her husband collects books. There is a central room where people from all over the world congregate. Tomorrow hope to get a bus directly to Kompot, Cambodia.

As We Leave the Ground

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January, 2013

San Francisco, CA

As We Leave the Ground—The Journey Begins

The seat belt clicks and I stash my books into the magazine pouch in the seat in front of me. The luggage compartment squeaks and rattles overhead. Newspapers crackle and I can hear the soft whispers of passengers around me.  Surrounded by strangers, I feel separate and a little scared.

David, my husband, is smiling from across the aisle. We chose to sit separate and have some space alone to unwind, listen to music and read. Already he has his headphones on—no one to disturb him. He is always so in the moment which is both admirable and annoying at times.

I am so glad to be leaving the complications of our stress filled modern lives and the huge expectations of “entitled” offspring. The financial collapse of so many of our friends and relatives in the past few years; the karma we all knew was coming but is not so easy to live with and be around. I feel worn down like my old carpets. There is so little fluff left in me. Both David and I need this rest.

The houses on the ground grow smaller and smaller. The urgency of the leaves that need raking, the dripping faucets that need fixing shrink in importance. The miniature cars below scurry along freeways going somewhere, who knows where. We soar higher and higher into the blue stillness until it all disappears. The details that were so important are either handled or no longer important. I can smell the coffee brewing, and a sigh of relief escapes my lips.

Traveling, to me, is not to escape the world or to indulge in luxury cruises or environments. It is more a way of embracing the world more fully.

The beauty of any flight is that we soon leave behind that sense of who we are—the I, me, mines. Our everyday existence fades as if in a dream– a glimpse of freedom—the adventure begins.

 

I’m a soul in wonder! I’m a soul in wonder!  Van Morrison