Simian Madness

A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I decided to take a week off, for a short trip to one of my favorite quiet tropical beaches around the Cambodian/Thai border, just a few kilometers away from the beach I wrote about in “Beach Beyond The Guidebooks” We decided to go to this beach, because the Beach Beyond The Guidebooks beach did not have any water or electricity, and this time I was determined to be conveniently clean, and be able to recharge my laptop.

It is a very beautiful beach with many types of restaurants within walking distance, usually cooked by the nationality themselves, things like French Food, Chinese, Italian, Cambodian, Mexican, Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, American, and there is even a Canadian restaurant, I never knew such things existed!

The beach itself has a white powder like sand, the kind of sand that sort of jumps up and separates as you step down on it, there are lots of little crabs running around, who will run and hide in their sandy holes as you approach. The sand continues right deep into the ocean where on stormy days, waves decent enough to surf on, break in the shallow bay.

The two of us ended up renting a normally vacant, thirty year old or so teak house part way up a cliff facing the beach for about twelve US dollars per night, it was clean, had air con, electricity, hot water, and also a very large balcony, with a beautiful sunset facing view, below you can see exactly what I saw from my patio every day. I found I spent a lot of time there on the patio, every morning, afternoon, and evening was a stunning one, but all was not perfect in our little the house on the hill.

View Of The Beach From Our Balcony

View Of The Beach From Our Balcony – Click to Enlarge

Now as you can see in the image, everything pretty much from the water up is covered in virgin rainforest, the kind of stuff that is hard to see these days, because it is first growth, ancient, rainforest, that has probably been there since before the dinosaurs. The area around and above this house was all ancient rainforest also, and in that forest not only are there foot long grasshoppers, centillions of ants, giant moths, scorpions, crocodiles, huge lizards, pythons, cobras, bear, boar, deer, and wild elephants, but there are also some little, annoying, chaotic, but always amusing monkeys.

Monkey Behind Us On The House

Get Off Our Turf

The house had been vacant for a while before we got there, and I think the troop of monkeys that fed daily around and above the house had pretty much decided that we were invading their turf. Mostly they just left us alone, and we hadn’t had any real problems with them, we watched them each morning for a few days, and listened to them calling at one another from a distance in the jungle, but on the fifth day, while returning from a swim on the beach, we found them around and on top of our house, some of them were actually standing right in front of the door. They are fairly large and a few of them together defiantly demand some respect. We approached them slowly and they backed away from the door slowly, eventually we could get in the house. As the monkeys were still running around on top of the house and around the doors we decided to stay inside a bit until they left.

After a while we went out on  our balcony and looked around to see where they were, I brought my camera to take some picture if I could. Some of them were on the trees above us, and some of the others had run over to another house down the hill a bit. After a short while there was a huge bang on the roof, a very large branch had dropped a hundred meters or so from the trees above us where some monkeys were, onto the roof, putting a fairly large hole in it, after a while we went outside again to try and get some pictures, and look what decided to come down and inspect the freshly made hole.

Monkey On The Roof

Are You Seriously Going To Blame Me For This?

There was quite a bit of movement on top  of the house again, so we took shelter back inside, after a few moments, they dozen or so monkeys started screaming, then things started banging all over the house, as the monkey had all decided to throw  branches and fruit at the house for a while. After a  couple minutes of this, all calmed down, and we were once again able to go outside, they had finally moved on.

Later that evening when we were heading out for dinner, we discovered they had stolen one of my girlfriends shoes. We looked around for it for quite a while but it was no where to be found. The shoes were not very expensive, and thankfully she had brought another pair so it was not that big a deal. We enjoyed our evening  and went to sleep to the sound of the monkeys occasionally fighting with one another in the trees.

In the morning I woke up itching, to my horror I soon discovered fire ants all over the bed, I jumped out and onto the floor only to find out there were millions  more all over the floor also, I had never experienced quite so many ants running all over me in my life, nor seen so many in such a small area as I did that morning, and fire ants are some of the worst ants around as they are very aggressive. I jumped in the shower and quickly got the ants off me, then turned on all the lights so as to see a safe passage through the house without getting too many more on me. I went outside on the balcony to see the reason for the invasion. The fruits the monkeys had pelted the house with had attracted all the ants. It is amazing the amount of trouble a group of monkeys can cause in just a matter of minutes. We left later that day, as was planned, though I am sure the monkey were all high fiving each other as we left, thinking it was a victory well fought.

I will return to the beach a few more times over the next couple of years, although the monkeys were an occasional pain in the behind, they provided entertainment, and I am glad they were there. I plan on staying in the same house, and we will probably see them again soon. They probably won’t be there much longer however, as there has been some roadway development on the bluff, someone has begun building condos on a hill, and a five star hotel is being built right in the center of the beach, so soon the trees will be gone, and with it the monkeys, the beach will become spoiled, and in order to find an unspoiled beach, we will be forced to go back to Beach Beyond The Guidebooks once again, hopefully by that time they will have running water.

Beach Beyond The Guide Books

A Little Bit of Asian Heaven

My Hidden Beautiful Secluded Island Beach Near Cambodia

I have just spent the last two days traveling in South East Asia  by buses, trucks, then boats, 4×4 and finally hiking, to a nice island beach very near the Cambodian border. I would like to be more specific but unfortunately, paradise found and shared with the general public soon becomes paradise lost.

This location is not for everyone, the only accommodation available, are simple wooden huts, featuring only a mosquito net and a bed. There are no bathrooms or showers in the rooms, no electricity, no Internet connections, and unfortunately no place to plug in and charge up my laptop. Still though the view is nice for $8 US per night.

I came here to write, but as the power remaining clock ticks away on my laptop, now at 51 minutes, I realize I probably won’t be able to write very much.

This place is not yet in the Lonely Planet, and although Google Earth does of course show the location. You can not find it yet by name.

I would encourage anyone traveling, to try and really  get away from it all sometimes, to far out and away locations like this. I have sometimes been the only person at a place that you might think was the most amazing place in the world.

In order to find a place like this of course you will need to know where to go. The best way is to get a Lonely Planet guide book, and start looking for areas where it seems the road has stopped and no locations are listed beyond it.This is your launching off point. Almost always the “last” hotels will have a small tourist centre, offering boat rides, 4×4 or safari tours that will take you beyond the guide books.

View From The Beach.

No Need For Umbrellas When You Have Trees.

These are not the secluded place a travel agent would offer, these are truly secluded places, far beyond the newspapers and or most television shows. They have no phone lines, or cell phones or Internet connections to even make a booking if you wished to.

You must bring backpacks, not suitcases, with everything you need, and only what you need, often hiking is involved, and suitcases are just not very good on long dirt hikes. If you are really feeling adventurous bring a tent. I would also recommend bringing a knife, lighter, some flashlights, and medical supplies.

This particular beach is not quite as secluded as some places I have been, for instance one time I lived for just over a week with just my girlfriend, on a tropical island with nothing more than a tent, hammocks, matches and some fishing line. Thankfully the fishing boat did not forget to pick us up, as our cell phones were out of range to call for any help. I wouldn’t encourage any risk taking whatsoever if you are in completely secluded a place like that, minor injuries can actually kill you if you are not careful before your week or so is up.

I found out from experience, I enjoy having things like restaurants to serve me when I vacation, so I don’t generally get really lost too much these days, besides meeting at least a few other travelers each day is often the best part of the trip.

Poem I wrote in Cambodia while under fire.

While watching a large battle in Cambodia, and hoping no bombing or gunfire would hit me, I wrote this poem.

Yes, I know it is very dark, but I was in a weird time and place.

The ticking is but all I hear,
it is our gauge till death appears.

Forever now I’ve watched the clock,
whenever will my glancing stop?

Off to Cambodia

Well off to Cambodia tomorrow, this is really one country I don’t particularly like to visit. There are some fantastic temples in the Siem Riep area that are mind blowing and it is a very green and naturally beautiful country, but the poverty, corruption and overall sadness of the place is overwhelming.

The country is rich in minerals so it is in the interest of many countries to keep it destabilized so the smuggling of gems is easier for the gangsters. You wouldn’t believe the list of western and eastern countries that support their civil wars. Gems for Guns you know, good money for the bad guys .

If you don’t know anything about Cambodia’s recent history, there was this wacko guy during the Vietnam war era, Pol Pot. He decided that the country should become totally rural so he would kill anyone that was educated, and anyone with glasses, since he felt they could obviously read. Then he brainwashed the children and everyone was made a farmer.

Anyhow after something like 25 years of brutal civil war, and halve the population of the entire country being killed, it is a sad place to go. There are a lot of unexploded ordnance around and landmines still and many people including children are missing limbs. It is so corrupt, if you are a gangster driving a car you don’t even need a licence plate on it. The cops wont stop you for fear of being killed.

Anyhow I probably wont be able to post tommorow, see you all in a couple of days.

The Difference of Actually Being There

I have a lot of friends back home I talk to daily via the Internet, and all of them it seems, have a pretty strong image in their head, of what they think my life is like here in Asia. Sometimes I think they imagine me surrounded by guys in pointy bamboo farming hats, firecrackers going off in the streets, and ninjas hiding on the rooftops as I eat my rice with chop sticks.

People might think that Asia is poor and those around me are poor, but everyone that lives around me has far more money than I do. They own cars and houses, and all their necessities of life, and are usually debt free because they tend to not buy on credit here.

Just because I am in Asia, it doesn’t mean you can imagine anything about what my life would be like, your mind wants you to, but its impossible. The same if someone told me they were in North America, it is just too little information. For all I know the guy is living in an igloo in the north of Canada, or the slums of New York, or maybe even in a penthouse in Mexico City.

I find too many people when I mention where I am, imagine something in their mind of my life and actually believe it. Reality and imagination is just not the same thing.

Asia is the largest continent on earth, as you change your latitude and longitude, the local plants and animals change, as does the food. The languages, clothing, religions, politics, and customs.

Before I go to a new country, I have usually watched news about it, or maybe some television programs on it before I go. I try and educate myself about the country I am going to visit so as not to do anything that might be considered rude. I look at pictures and surf the Internet to read about them. The amazing thing is though, every new country I get to, is nothing like I imagined it would be, even after all my research.

I came to the conclusion quite quickly that “I know, I know nothing”.

Honestly with the vast amounts of knowledge in the world, not to mention the infinite things on the earth humans have not understood or documented yet, let alone other planets, the total sum of all my knowledge is so infinitely small, I know nothing. None of us do.

I remember one time back in 95 while I was in Vietnam, I met a guy in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City)that showed me these amazing pictures from Cambodia, of these ancient temples that were being eaten by the jungle and a bunch of the ones the french had done a good job of restoring including the Bayon and Ankor Wat.

That was enough encouragement for me to jump on the local bus that was leaving to Cambodia the next day

There is a long story I could insert here, but I will save that for a later date. I will give you the very short version now.

Even though I read newspapers everyday, watched the news on television, and had read books on Cambodia, I didn’t realize that the bus I was taking into Phnom Phen was actually taking me into an active and live war zone, we passed through military check points over and over again on the long road from the border of Vietnam to Cambodia’s Capital City Phnom Phen. Almost everyone, including children were carrying Machine Guns and Rocket Launchers, and gunfire could often be heard in the distance.

I had time to contemplate my lack of knowledge as I sat down at my guest house located on one of Phnom Phen’s lakes. I didn’t realize I was going into such a dangerous place. I came to the conclusion, that this particular war had at this point gone on so long, it just wasn’t news worthy anymore.

While I was sitting there contemplating, with other fellow travelers, we were actually watching tracers from large artillery firing across the lake in our general direction.

Over 5000 people died withing three kilometers of us that night, we could see a clear view of the fire that was killing them as it crept up the side of the lake towards our guesthouse. We had a knife ready to cut away the dock we were sitting on, if the fire got too close.

There is a difference between going to a place and actually experience it, when I go to a place, I do not travel in large packs of camera wielding tourists, where my guide speaks English as do all the people with me, as do the people at the restaurants and hotels I go to. I do not stay in my little western bubble of being surrounded by people that are trained in how to deal with foreigners. That is not really going anywhere as far as I’m Concerned. I actually get a little upset on the inside when people say to me, oh yeah I’ve been there, and when I see their pictures, it is all inside a gated resort where the “locals” are wearing uniforms. When they do go out to see the sites it is in a large pack. Basically doing absolutely nothing that involves getting involved in another countries culture, if they eat what they think is the local food, almost always the resorts have “westernized” it so as not to upset their customers.

I remember someone telling me about this beautiful resort they stayed in in Jamaica, and the outside walls had barbed wire on them, and that for some reason gave them the impression that outside of their walls was chaos. Too much imagination and too little information. If they had been brave enough to walk outside the resort gate they would have really traveled. Why on earth they bothered to take an airplane to a foreign country is beyond me, maybe they just should have gone swimming at the local swimming pool and saved the time and money.

Anyhow, You haven’t been “there” when you travel like that, and you didn’t “Do” the country. Please take a step back and realize you traveled on a tourist trail and all the people you met were there to try and part you from your tourist money. You probably didn’t meet any normal locals of the country at all and learned nothing about them.

Now there are a lot of great travelers out there and I met them in every place I went that I would consider really traveling, so I am not saying I am unique or alone in what I would consider “real” traveling, far from it, but still people that do it are in the minority.

There is only one place you can see a good view of the whole world, and that is the moon, have you been there? Do you think because you can see it from earth and you have seen pictures that being there wont be any different?

Anyhow I don’t know where you are, and you don’t know where I am, so lets not assume we know anything.

Go to top