Recently my time has been all about the sea – and there have been days upon days that I’ve been completely captivated by it – and that is all – entire days, hours on end, just hanging out in the water. Ohhhhh, how sublime it is for me! Really, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that gives me as much pleasure as luxuriating in a warm ocean – perhaps it’s the womb-like quality of it – I don’t know, and I don’t need to know – all I know is that it is home to me like no other natural place can even come close to. And I’ve been blessed to be ‘stuck’ on Otres Beach to find this kind of joyful pleasure once again.
After I left Cinderella’s, which had its own kind of magic with its isolation and its right-next-to-the-sea-ness, (but its funky-ness began to wear on me after a bit), then I found another extraordinary spot – Mushroom Point. This place was more in the main beach area of Otres Beach; although even there, it’s still very quiet and relaxed – there are more restaurants and more people, but the same beautiful beach!
Mushroom Point is not directly on the beach, just a 10 second walk from across the street. But besides its lack of a beachfront address, it is otherwise just about perfect. It’s run by two Slovenian people, Arie and Mans (I’m sure I’ve screwed up the spelling of their names) and they just built this place in the last several months. Their eye for beauty and imaginative creativity, their attention to detail and the loving touch they put on every single thing they’ve created is truly inspirational to me. From the moment I arrived, I was greeted with their smiles, which lasted from the first thing in the mornings until they said “goodnight” in the evenings – they were ‘on’ every minute of the day and simply could not have been more helpful, kind and pleasant – I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced such a sense of hospitality before. I stayed in the open-air, fan-cooled dorm and at $ 7 a night, it was a steal – from the private bungalows to the single rooms and right into the dorm, all the beds in the place are round – beautifully appointed with wicker frames and comfy mattresses, pillows and mosquito nets. The standard of cleanliness was amongst the highest I’ve experienced on the trip. The dorm was cleaned every day, towels freshened, beds dusted off – again, service like I’ve never seen before. And they tripped over themselves offering everyone the very best they had to give – these people really are amazing!
The food – from the traditional fried noodles and veggies to the gargantuan spaghetti to the most refreshing lime and mint sorbet to the yummiest sweet and sour fish with vegetables to the baguette sandwiches brimming with fresh veggies, loads of lettuce and basil – every single thing that came out of that kitchen was fresh, delicious and served with plenty of love!
So, between the gorgeous beach and this gorgeous place, I was really in a bind – I could have easily imagined staying there … I mean, staying there, for a very long time! The beach can do that to me – and I had to give it a lot of thought – should I blow off my other plans, extend my Cambodian Visa and dramatically change the nature of the rest of my trip? Or, get my Vietnam Visa and proceed with the general plan I’ve created? It was not an easy decision. And I remembered my caveat of not leaving too soon, lest I regret such a move. But I also wondered how I would feel about letting go of these other plans ‘just to hang out on the beach’ – ? I realized with Otres and Mushroom Point, it would never be easy to leave – and if I truly wasn’t going to stay for a really extended time – then the day had come to begin to think about going. No, I would not forego the rest of the trip. It was time to move on.
So I went to Arie and asked her to arrange a bus ticket for me for the next day – she told me, “oh no, you can’t go, no, no, we won’t let you leave!” We laughed and joked about it and I said I really didn’t want to, but it was time. “Okay, I’ll make your reservation.” “Oh, wait a minute, let me see if I’ve gotten a response to my booking request for my next guest house and then I’ll let you know. Don’t get the ticket quite yet.” She grinned at me and teased me just a bit. I headed off to the beach, but it was a cloudy day and not particularly much of a beach day. We had had a few of these kinds of days and as I thought more about it, I decided indeed it was time to go – the weather was not so sunny, so if I was going to head out, this was the time to do it. I returned to the Mushroom and told Arie yes, go ahead with the bus booking. Both she and Mans were teasing me now and said they’d be sad to see me go. Ahhhh, but go I must. I began to pack up my things and planned to leave the next day in the early afternoon.
I awoke early to crystal clear blue skies and about the most perfect day imaginable. When I saw them in the morning, they both laughed and told me they had been praying to Buddha all evening to do something to make me stay. Yes, I agreed, they must have some kind of ‘in’ with the weather gods and goddesses for today was surely spectacular, making my leaving that much harder. I squared away my bill and Arie gave me my bus ticket. I headed to the beach for a few hours before my scheduled departure.
The water was warmer than ever – the sky was bluer than ever – and I was as thrilled as I could be to swim and float in this sumptuous sea. For the first day in a week, I saw jelly fish in the water. And for the first time ever, I got stung by a kind of fish Mans had told me about that lives just under the sand and stings sharply like a sea urchin. My foot bled for a bit and stung like crazy – I decided the sea, too, was helping me to take my leave.
Oops, my ambivalence is showing!
After my final preparations, the tuk-tuk arrived to take me to the bus. I was all set, except for one thing – I couldn’t find my bus ticket that Arie had given me earlier. I looked through everything – I couldn’t find it. This hadn’t happened at any other time during the trip. Mans went to find Arie and she giggled, “You left your ticket here when you went to the beach – I was happy, I realized that meant you didn’t want to leave!” She handed me the ticket – there were heartfelt hugs, we agreed to stay in touch and for the first time on this journey, I was leaving a place I could easily imagine returning to.
These were not people with whom I shared quote, deep, intimate contact. We didn’t even really converse much. But we hung out together, we laughed and we enjoyed the peace and quiet that filled the place called Mushroom Point at the most special beach called Otres. It was more than enough! I will miss these dear people – Arie and Mans – who knows, perhaps our paths will cross again!
I made my way to Kampot – finally able to pry myself away from the magnetism of that glorious beach heaven – and found Kampot captivating in its own way (more on Kampot another time!). Getting settled into my new guest house there, I was rummaging through my things, only to discover that my passport was missing. I looked through every single place it could be and many places it couldn’t – it always and only lived in one place and it simply wasn’t there – for the very first time in my life, I had lost my passport.
I went to the new guest house man, Norm, and asked if he could give me a hand in using his telephone and explained the situation. Without a moment’s hesitation, he handed me his phone and I called Mushroom Point. I had their card, which I kept in my last minutes of packing, choosing to keep it rather than leave it behind – the first one I chose to keep, as those kinds of papers accumulate into too much stuff and weight. But this time I kept it and now I really needed it.
Arie answered immediately and was more than surprised to hear me calling. She looked quickly in their lock box and sure enough, there was my passport – very odd that it was out of my security wallet (although I guess when I returned it to them after I got my Vietnam Visa, it just went back into the box and not into my wallet, which I hadn’t realized) – we enjoyed quite a laugh about this and I was so relieved that it was somewhere and not really ‘lost,’ although from the start, I was not particularly frantic about it, which surely I could easily have been – a lost passport is something one could certainly be frantic about!
Again Arie teased me, “Oh, I guess you’ve got to come back!” What to do, what to do? They would talk about it and call me back. Norm and I took a walk around Kampot and then he went off to meet some friends and handed me his phone so I would have it when Arie called back. I’ve just met this man and he’s given me his cell phone without a thought – okay, I thanked him and carried on in discovering Kampot.
I got a call from Arie about an hour later – it was settled – Mans had rented a motor bike and he was leaving shortly to make the 2-hour trip here to deliver my passport. Unbelievable! I spoke with him, gave him directions to my guest house and agreed to be waiting for him in two hours.
And about 2 hours later, I was walking back from town to the Homestay Café, my new digs, and there was Mans on the corner driving into town – I hopped on the back of the bike and we went together to listen to the live music I had been enjoying at a local restaurant. We spent the evening together, shared some drinks and dinner and plenty of laughs and more conversation than we had had the entire past week. I tried to pay for the cost of the bike, for gas, for his time. He would have none of it. At least he let me buy him dinner. But he wouldn’t stay, said he had to get back – I worried about him driving at night, but he insisted. I gave him my thanks – ohno, thank you, Christina – it gave me a chance to have a nice motorbike ride – and who knows, maybe we see each other again, soon … more hugs and kisses and he was off!
Such heartfelt and genuine generosity – I’m blown away by these folks! And very, very happy to have my passport again!
(He got back safe and sound, I’m happy to say – reported back to me on their Facebook page!)
Blessings from a magical place called Mushroom Point at the most magical of all places – Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia!