Cambodia provided yet another excuse for a holiday last week, as the celebration of National Labour Day meant schools were closed. No one should labour on Labour Day right? A week or so before, Brian had the idea to get a group of people together and head to Kampot. I was more than game, as Kampot is my favourite place in Cambodia (see blogs “Escape to the country” and “Two weekends = two mini breaks = expat lifestyle” for previous adventures there).
The original group was: Me, Rachel, Brian, Sophorn, Narin, Phaline, Gazza, Tony, JB, Dean, and Jason. I don’t have a picture of just us but here’s our expanded group shot!
Most of us known each other from dodgeball, and friends and relatives joined as well. It was an awesome group of fun-loving people and from the moment we met up on Friday afternoon, the laughs never stopped. OK it wasn’t the best start. Somehow the van we had booked for the entire weekend had forgotten about us, so we hung around until they found a driver for a spare van. It is quite possible that our chauffeur was picked up on the side of the road… we had to stop off to pick up his overnight back from his mum anyway, and then got stuck in traffic. But eventually we made it to Kampot town. Eating at a restaurant which boast the best ribs in Cambodia, the Rusty Keyhole, was a great way to start the weekend.
We were staying in Arcadia, the backpacker place that features heavily in my “Two weekends” blog. It’s an awesome place, set on the Kampot riverbank, complete with dorm rooms, a great bar, and “adult river toys”. We didn’t arrive until close to 10:30pm but checked in and immediately set up a table for various beer games. Here I would like to point out that until Rachel forced me to go to a bar for (free) beer on her birthday less than two weeks ago, I had never been a beer drinker. Luckily for last weekend, this had changed. Everyone got really into the games, with flip cup and slap cup being the most fun! Other people staying at Arcadia came and joined our group because we were clearly super cool and having a lot of fun!
The teams ended up being guys versus girls and I will admit that on Friday night the boys had us beat overall! Various items of clothing were consequently removed. Not that it mattered at all because by 2am, Rachel and I had decided that now was the time for a skinny dip in the river! Carefully hiding our towels for fear of some prankster stealing them, we undressed and dived into the gloriously warm waters. It was only once we’d swum to the pontoon, floating lazily in the middle of the river, that we noticed there was a floodlight mounted on top of the bar aiming exactly at the ladder up onto the platform. So, in our drunken state, we decided that it would be a great idea to try and climb onto the pontoon from the darker, more secluded side. Only there wasn’t a ladder … or anything to hold onto or brace against. After several attempts, I somehow managed to haul myself up and then pull Rachel on board too! A short break to get our breath back and we figured we had to climb up the tall ladder and jump into the water! It was an exhilarating, freeing, and bonding experience! We then lay chatting on the pontoon for half an hour before swimming back to shore, finding our towels and clothes where we left them (thanks guys), and dressing to rejoin the group. The drinking continued …
Saturday’s day trip was to Kep and Rabbit Island. I hadn’t been to the latter since March 2009 so was really happy to be returning. It’s a small, undeveloped island, reached by a choppy 20 minute boat ride. Our group now included Pascal from the Netherlands, and Stina from Sweden, who had joined in our beer games the night before. We stopped at Kep’s famous crab market, where some people bought lunch, and then headed to the boats. After being told that we could not fit 13 people in one boat, we conceded and booked two. It still only cost us $4 each return! There isn’t a jetty at the popular end of the beach so you just jump from the bow into the shallow surf.
We ate, we drank, we laughed, we sunbathed, we played frisbee in the sea, we bonded. The afternoon was so relaxed and fun, and on the island we were joined by two friends from Phnom Penh, Ellen and Brittnee, who’d been planning to stay on the island. They came back to Arcadia with us and joined in the Saturday night festivities which was awesome! The boat back from Rabbit Island left a little earlier than planned as the wind was picking up and the crossing can be notoriously choppy in bad weather. Despite not being allowed to hire a boat for 13 people on the way to the island, our vessel back comfortably took 12 … I feel a bit like we’ve been scammed! But to be honest I was just glad that we made it back without having to swim. It was not a fun crossing, although Rachel playing Lonely Island’s “I’m on a boat” and “I just had sex” tunes certainly distracted me from our impending capsizing.
We nipped back to Arcadia to shower and change before heading into Kampot for dinner! Rach and I had been craving a bacon and cheese sandwich and a pork schnitzel respectively from one of our favourite restaurants in Kampot so we headed to eat there. We were joined by Mervin, a good friend from Phnom Penh, and his friend part way through bottle of wine #2. Mervin came back to Arcadia with us and the group was reunited for more beer games! This time though, the girls kicked ass! We had great time making up forfeits for the guys (don’t worry boys, what happens in Kampot stays in Kampot). There was more swimming, despite repeated mentions of water snakes. Apparently drunk Ruth has less of a phobia than sober Ruth.
The most random part of the trip happened on Saturday evening as I was stood at the bar waiting for my room key. I suddenly heard, “Oh my God, Ruth Lemon”. Turning, I saw Mati, a girl I went to primary school with but we’d lost touch after high school. It was great to see her again and catch up (and discover that no one calls her Mati any more, sorry Matilda!). Naturally we had to take a selfie to send to our parents! Mati (I can’t help it) joined our group for the beer games that night and we have hesitant plans to meet again before she leaves Cambodia.
Sunday morning saw people eager to watch a boxing match in which I had zero interest. So whilst they headed to a bar, I sat in my favourite cafe in the whole of Cambodia (Ellie’s Bakery), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, good wifi, and read my all time favourite book, Atonement. A perfect end to a perfect weekend.
The best memories are made by the people you’re sharing them with and this weekend brought together a phenomenal group! Some I knew well before, some I had never met, some I hadn’t seen in seven years, some I will never see again. But it worked, and I am thankful to every one of you who made this weekend one of the best of my life!