I didn't intend on staying on Koh Rong Sanloem island for as long as I did. I booked my guesthouse for 3 nights, which is typically how long I stay in one place. I instantly fell in love with the island and the people who live there. I had been traveling for 16 weeks and desperately needed to slow down for a bit and this was the perfect place for that. The laid back island vibe and the breathtaking scenery was seriously inviting. I didn't feel like it was important to do anything except relax and so that is what I did.
Andrew, who owns Longvek guesthouse where I stayed, was one of the main reasons I didn't want to leave. He is so friendly and cultured. We had endless great conversations where he shared story after story about his life and travels. He's funny, charismatic and easy to talk to. He is from Australia but has traveled and lived in many different places. He is environmentally friendly and always looking for ways to better the community of the island. He's a fantastic chef and makes delicious fire baked cakes a few times a week. He built a kitchen in the guesthouse with a double burner camp oven where he makes fantastic food. He is a lover of spices and has the largest collection on the island.
Most days I didn't do much to be completely honest, which was the beauty of it all. Andrew is also an early riser, so we would get up with the sun in the morning and have coffee together on the front patio. We would watch everyone on the street wake up and go straight to work. There are several new guesthouses being built, one across the street and one next door, to accommodate the growing tourism of the island. It was awesome to watch their progress from day to day. Cambodian's are very hard workers and I swear they never take a day off. They get up early to start work and don't stop until the sun goes down.
There are many children on the island and they all love Andrew, especially the ones on his street. The kids would come over daily and Andrew would feed them, give them fresh drinking water, let them wash their hands in his bathroom and watch his TV. He speaks to them in English to help them learn and plays English sing a longs on the TV for them. One very special girl in particular stole my heart and is definitely a favorite of Andrew's named Tahwin. I have no idea how she spells it, but it is pronounced Tah Win. Her parents own a guesthouse right around the corner from Longvek and her Dad, named Bora, would visit daily and is a good friend of Andrews. Bora speaks great English and I always enjoyed when he would stop by to hang out. He has been on the island for many years and is an integral part of the community. Everyday he would run ideas by Andrew about the community and its growth. I could tell he looks up to Andrew and appreciates his knowledge about health and building.
While I was on the island we baked several cakes. Lots of mango cakes, papaya, banana, and chocolate. Andrew is a beacon of knowledge and was always happy to share his tips and tricks. He made a delicious curry several times with apples and raisins, which was my absolute favorite. He made homemade pasta one night and a roast on his fire a few times as well. Mostly we ate vegetarian because there were several vegetarians staying at the guesthouse and Andrew likes to encourage everyone to eat together as a family at night. Andrew did go to town and brought back some bacon and cheese and we frequently had bacon for breakfast as our non vegetarian treat. The only meal I ate out, in the two weeks I was on the island, was on my first day when I arrived. It was so amazing having fresh home cooked meals. I didn't realize how much I missed that. It also felt great to cook a meal myself.
I really enjoyed helping Andrew out around the guesthouse. It felt really nice to be doing something productive. He has a shop vac so I would help by sweeping and vacuuming. He has his own washing machine so I was able to wash all my seriously dirty clothes, which felt like heaven to me. I swear nothing I have is clean anymore. It doesn't even smell or look clean when I get it back from the cleaners. I don't think they use soap, or at least not enough, and the water isn't clean so my clothes frequently smell like pennies. Hot water isn't a thing, so all clothes are washed in cold water. Dryers don't exist so the clothes never get any heat and I'm sure that's one of the reasons nothing gets clean. I took everything out of both of my backpacks and washed them as well, which felt amazing.
Andrew is one of the only people on the island that has wifi. The first week I was there I rarely got online and didn't do any work. The second week Andrew picked me up a sim card in town and I got back to work on the blog. Sim cards with data are so cheap in SE Asia. You can get one with unlimited data for a month for less than ten bucks. I can also hook up my computer to my hotspot when I am places that don't have wifi. When it would rain Andrew would download a movie or show on Netflix or Showbox and we would sit inside and watch TV while the storm passed. I haven't watched that much TV ever, that I can remember, and it actually felt great. I know that's very strange coming from me.
There were several other people who came to stay at the guesthouse while I was there. It was nice to have more company and we would get out and explore the island. Everyone always helped to make dinner and we would all eat together. At night we would play cards and drink beer. Andrew has many friends in the town that frequently stop by to say hello or come over to have dinner. Several times while I was there new people would stop by and new friends would be made. We even rescued a girl from a rain storm and she stayed for dinner that night, and came back everyday after that. She had caught bed bugs from a hostel on one of the other islands and was covered in bites and Andrew helped her empty and clean everything in her bag. He's such a genuine and kind person. She wasn't even staying at his guesthouse but he was so happy to be able to help her.
Although Andrew doesn't have any pets of his own, there are several animals who frequently visit. Bora has a dog named Mister Black, who would come by everyday and Andrew would remove the tics from his fur and he frequently would spend the night on the patio. There was a gorgeous black rooster with iridescent feathers and a huge red headpiece. He was infatuated with a hen and her baby chics and followed her everywhere. A giant gecko, named Gustavo always joined us for dinner at night. He would hang out on the wall and stare at us while we ate. Literally the biggest gecko I have ever seen. The photo doesn't do him justice.
Being an open air home, Andrew always has all the windows and doors open so the air can move through. When I first arrived I was worried I would get too hot at night, but that was never the case. He has several fans and as long as you keep the fans circulating the air then it's fine. It was actually really nice to live without AC for two weeks. AC is great, don't get me wrong. However, I'm pretty positive that most are not regularly cleaned around here and I notice when I'm in rooms with AC pumping that my allergies flare and I get really congested. It felt so nice to live with only fresh air. My sinuses cleared and I never once got a headache.
Sadly for me, my Cambodia visa was about to expire and I made my plans to move north into Vietnam. I typically would be sad to say goodbye to a place like this but I know in my heart I will be back soon, hopefully after my visit in Vietnam. So its not goodbye, it's see you soon Koh Rong Sanloem!
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