There’s something romantic about the idea of being a writer abroad. I know I’ve often fantasized about sitting in some cafe far from home, soaking up the view and sipping a drink, while working on a novel. It’s just been a dream, as I couldn’t imagine a time that I would have an opportunity to travel overseas again. Well today it’s not a dream. The opportunity that led me here is not what I could have ever imagined – or wanted. I won’t go into what brought me here, to Cambodia, but if you are interested you can read my post from yesterday. It’s now the end of day three since leaving Australia. Mostly it has all gone well, considering the purpose of why I am here.
Today we were on the move again. After five long hours squeezed into a crowded taxi, while it weaved in and out of heavy traffic, I have left the busy streets of Phnom Penh behind. Taking the turn off to Koh Kong, a different view flashed by the window: lush green forests and windy roads up into the hills. Other than a lone monkey walking down the highway, and the occasional cleverly laden scooter or truck, the road was empty. After the colours and noise of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia), an assault to the senses due to millions of people and vehicles, I welcomed the change of pace.
Tonight I am sitting by the river in Koh Kong province: soaking up the view, sipping a mojito and writing. If I glance up from my laptop, I can see headlights from the steady flow of traffic on the causeway that runs between the Cambodia and Thailand border. Next door is an outside karaoke bar, and beyond that is a busy bar with scooters lined up out the front. I have chosen a quieter spot to write. Cafe Laurent, lavishly decorated with local flowers and bamboo furniture, has a perfect view of the Gulf of Thailand. Occasionally boats go by, mostly with no lights on, put-putting softly through the night. Around me is a miasma of conversations, in languages from around the world; words I don’t understand as English is not widely spoken here. All of this makes it easier to write. The only interruption being the occasional waiter quietly inquiring if I would like another drink. I have everything I need to be inspired right here. The only thing that may cause a problem is my laptop battery and mosquitoes.
Of course I forgot to apply repellent. I’ve broken many of the golden tourist rules. On purpose. How can you really experience the full experience of travel if you are encumbered by rules. So I’ve eaten frog and local shellfish, assaulted my taste buds with spicy foods, sampled dishes at a road-side cafe, enjoyed ice in my drinks and brushed my teeth with tap water. The only rules I have ben careful about is to not wander into risky places on my own and keep my bag close. Although, perhaps repellent isn’t such a bad idea? These local mosquitoes may be minuscule compared to their Australian cousins, but they have the same sting.
Another thing I am mindful of when travelling is to respect the way of life of the people around me. Unlike some people. You know the ones I mean. The ones sitting behind you, in a local eatery, complaining about everything on the menu, remarking how appalling the staff’s English is and how inadequate the water pressure in their rooms was. I can’t understand why they even bother travelling abroad. Why go elsewhere and demand that everything is the same as where you are from? Then there is the ugly tourist; Australia has more than a few of these. The type that goes overseas for the sole purpose of drinking until they puke. They objectify the women, get in fights with locals and disregard local norms. Where I’m sitting, there is no obnoxious or ugly tourist in sight.
I arrived in Koh Kong at sunset, so am looking forward to seeing more of the region tomorrow. And discovering some of the places my brother had recently been in. The places he had spent his last days on earth. I’m hoping that this will make me feel his presence, and help me to understand why he was here, in this slice of paradise so far from home. Even now, listening to the sounds floating down the riverside from the karaoke bar, I am wondering if he ever stopped by for a drink or two. Perhaps tomorrow night I will break another tourist rule, and venture out further on my own. To sit in a crowded bar and have a drink in honour of my little brother.
Though tonight I write. Writers write. We write through tragedy, work out our feelings with words and made up worlds. We even write when don’t really feel like it. And we write in places far from home. Tonight I am a writer abroad. Besides the mosquitos and diminishing battery, there is only one thing that would stop me writing – staff wanting to go home. So now I must depart this lovely writer’s haven I have found, and make my way back to my hotel. However, I will be back here tomorrow evening. Its time I got serious about finishing my second novel, and what better time and place than here.