I can recall countless moments during this trip when I prayed for respite from the suffocating heat and humidity of southeast Asia: during a midday move from one guesthouse to another in 100-degree Chiang Mai; in muggy Phayao where my skin felt like a sticky fly trap upon which bugs landed and got stuck; lying in my hammock in hot Don Khone and relishing the breeze from each side-to-side swing; desperately seeking out 7-11 locations in Bangkok to catch a few blissful blasts of aircon; eating baguette sandwiches under insulating blue tarps in Luang Prabang; trekking through the ancient ruins of Angkor, both marveling and melting at the same time. Again and again, I wished for a cooling off of some sort – wind, rain, a breeze, something, anything to cut through the hot, heavy air. And so, when Chris and I dared to spend a week on islands famous for turquoise blue waters and blindingly white sandy beaches, it shouldn’t have surprised me that the weather gods tee-heed from above and bestowed upon us the full force of monsoon season.
We spent a week on the stormy southern islands of Cambodia, ferrying from the port city of Sihanoukville to the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, then back to soggy Sihanoukville. Our time on the islands, although not the idyllic beach experience we envisioned, was tranquil and fun. We couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. Each morning greeted us with overcast skies, dark clouds and sheets of rain hammering down from all directions. We ventured out optimistically wearing swimsuits underneath our rain jackets, hoping for the slightest bit of sun. At night, we were treated to insane lightning shows against pitch black skies; we fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding our palm-leaf thatched roof only to be startled awake by booming claps of thunder or clucking chickens finding shelter under our bungalow.
Despite stormy weather, we found a lot to entertain us on the island. We strolled along Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville (Chris got stopped by Thai media to provide some thoughts on why he liked vacationing in Cambodia). We trekked cross-island through muddy trails on both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem to explore barren white sand and yellow sand beaches. We ate beach BBQ every night feasting on barracuda, salad, potatoes and Klang beer (every restaurant served some variation of this mix). We played 10,000 (dice) and chess dozens of times as we waited out torrential showers. We walked along the beach and ducked into restaurants for coffee or 50-cent beers when the rain fell too hard. We played with the many beach dogs and puppies populating the island. When the rain stopped one night, we waded into the warm water and people-watched from our swimming spot. On our muddy hike to Lazy Beach, we saw jungle wildlife: monkeys, hornbill birds and even a fast-slithering cobra. (Yikes!)
Our time on the islands was not what we had expected or hoped for, but it was memorable all the same. At the very least, we put our Seattle rain jackets to good use!
Click below for more pics of food, dogs and stormy beaches for your browsing pleasure: