It’s funny how quickly things can change in such a short amount of time. I’m talking freak downpours; to weddings; to the tide.
Change. It’s something that worries me about travelling to the other side of the world. What will I miss out on back home? In the space of the few days I have been away, I have already missed my sister going to college, my other sister entering her final school year, friends getting job promotions – and for every one of these things, I have missed out on the chance to be there and celebrate with them.
M’Pai Bai in Koh Rong Samloem has in the last few years developed extraordinarily fast. Island life isn’t as pure as it once was with no internet access, local bars and daunting jungle. Wealthy entrepreneurs have moved in and built modern bars and bungalows which have separated the once fully integrated village.
In the height of “no season”, tourists are sparse and there’s a real sense of everyday life in the village. Territorial dogs guard their family home; children laughing and playing; ripe fruit trees and a constant hubbub of construction works preparing for the influx of tourists to start coming in October.
One thing I do think is amazing about the ‘development’ of M’Pai Bai, is the determination and skill of those that choose to build here. To-ing and fro-ing mainland for supplies takes time and serious moto (moped) skills. I’ve lost count the number of times I saw absurdities like seven or eight mattresses piled high, and even a family of five squeezed onto one. How can I forget the three meter long death sticks balancing on one guy’s shoulder, recklessly weaving in and out of traffic?
We’re so used to seeing huge cranes and machinery building super modern and high tech skyscrapers in the city, that it’s easy to forget what one can do with their own hands. Take Seapony for example, a wonderful bar and bungalow built entirely by Jake’s friend Emma and her husband Nee. Dried palm leaves are used for shelter and anything wooden you come across has been cut, sawn, sanded and crafted by local people using their limited, makeshift tools. It’s a back to basics, rustic authenticity that the West so often tries to replicate.
I wish I could freeze time. Everyone is so happy, the beaches are clean, there’s a good amount of business and still a sense of what things would have been like sans tourism. Change is bound to happen, it’s just not always for the best.
Eat: Fish amok at Tigers for dinner, pretty much everything is $2 and for a lunch easily transportable to the beach, Fishing Hook’s $1.25 wrap is… *heart eyes*
Drink: At Chill Inn during happy hour (1200-1400 & 1800 for the rest of the night!) for $1 house spirit and mixer as well as $0.25 beer!
Do: Go fishing! Then take home your catch and enjoy the freshest, tastiest BBQ ever. We went out with Nee and his brother from Seapony for a more local experience, highly recommend!
Stay: Obviously I’m bias here, but Seapony was so clean and comfortable. It’s always nice to have a friendly face to chat to in the morning and the village experience here is like none other on the island. The review is coming soon!