April 5, 2010

Rabbit Island on Easter

The pile of Kleenex and throat lozenges next to my bed is the surest sign of a good weekend. Instead my usual approach to the weekend (prepare for the coming week), I went along on a random trip to Rabbit Island, just south of Kep, Cambodia. Some of the volunteers have a strong urge to travel on the weekend, and I decided to try out this ambitious lifestyle.

Instead of the bus, which is far too scheduled for our group, we hired two taxis. At $40 one-way for each Toyota Camry, splitting the cost between 12 volunteers was very economical. Economical, but about as comfortable as water-boarding. In a lapse of judgment, the German guy (the only other person over six feet) and I were in the front together. It was human tetras to finagle all of our limbs into that seat. He ended up slumped forward, resting his arms and head on the dash. I used his back as a pillow, and I did my best not to knock the gear shift with my butt (though I did once—thankfully into 3rd).

Three hours later we arrived in Kep, shook out our asleep body parts, ate breakfast and boarded the boat for Rabbit island. Rabbit Island is one of the undiscovered gems of Cambodia. Still relatively undeveloped, the small and stunning beach area has bungalow huts for visitors to overnight in. A few restaurants serve up the usual beach fair, plus Angkor beer and fruit shakes.

Quiet beach, minimal activity, lots of food—I was happy. The little bloody wounds from the sea urchins made me rethink the sea volleyball game, but did not deter me from lingering in the hammock, journal at the ready.

I felt very indigenous sleeping in the little hut with no fan, watching the uber-geckos scatter in the moonlight. What a strange place for a high-maintenance girl like me. After breakfast (pancakes with lime and sugar), Christie and I took the swim of a lifetime. I wonder what's around the corner, she said, pointing at the far-off edge of the island.

A half-hour swim later, it was a surreal scene. On the other side, it was a deserted island (except for the monks who were on holiday). Palm trees galore, wild animal noises, plants, rocks, clear ocean, hot sun. Is this really happening? Christie and I were both thinking aloud.

Thankfully, it was. We were floating there, watching Rabbit Island on Easter Sunday. Our huts were no longer in sight, and there we were, drifting out to sea, drifting away from reality.

Later, we took the boat back to Kep, ate Kampot Pepper fried squid and repacked into our 1987 Camry. My nose was runny and I felt that feeling of an impending cold. By the time we got back to Phnom Penh, I was certain that I had caught cold from the first car ride. Even though I'm guzzling honey and lemon water today, Rabbit Island was worth it.