The universe provides. Yes, she really does, and I will explain the recent series of events that have bolstered my belief in that statement. Three days ago I woke up at the Golden Fisth Guesthouse in Siem Reap, the developing Cambodian town twelve kilometers from Angkor Wat. The temple ruins were as spectacular as I had hoped, with the murmurs of history humming beneath every stone, and I had spent two days biking back and forth to visit them. I had also spent an enjoyable couple of evenings at the Angkor What? Bar with some new friends. In short, now I was ready to leave.
I packed my bag (a process that has shortened from thirty minutes to ten), checked out, and spent a while deciding where I wanted to go next. The boat to Battambang, a pretty colonial town a few hours downriver and one of my potential stops, had already left. Not wanting to waste a day, I bought a ticket to Sihanoukville instead and spent a decently comfortable night’s sleep on the ten hour bus to the coast. In the interim, I began to hear rumors that Sihanoukville—praised for its pristine beaches and calm atmosphere—had been ruined by an excess of parties, neon paint, construction, loud music and loud tourists… exactly what I was not looking for.
I arrived at 7am and set out on foot for town, as per usual, stubbornly ignoring the tuk tuk drivers’ warnings that it was eight kilometers away. Eight means four, generally, which is manageable. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way, because after well over an hour I arrived not at the beach, but at the port. It is a large, dirty collection of warehouses, smog, street food I don’t want any part in, construction, and minimal signage. Frustrated and unwilling to retrace my steps, I formed a plan B. Maybe I shouldn’t be stopping in Sihanoukville at all, I thought. Maybe this means I should be continuing straight to the islands, said to be some of Southeast Asia’s finest.
I found my way to the passenger ferry area where a few tourists from the Czech Republic were waiting.
“Where are you guys going?” I asked.
“Is it a nice place?
“We hope so!” They laughed.
“Alright, works for me!” Tickets were twenty dollars and the boat left four hours later. I bought my ticket, found breakfast (hunted down breakfast, really), and played cards and chatted until 2pm—departure time. In the interim, I flipped through my friends’ Lonely Planet and realized the island was a bit beyond my budget. Oops! Perfect timing for Dave to step on the scene. The dreadlocked Aussie appeared around 1pm wearing angry birds shorts and carrying bags of supplies to the docks. I guessed that he must work on the island. He owns two guesthouses, in fact, one about to open, and that is how by the end of the two hour boat ride I had work decorating the soon-to-be Vagabonds Bar in exchange for room and board. And that is how, less than twenty-four hours after leaving Siem Reap I found myself behind the bar of Island Boys Guesthouse mixing drinks and drinking in my fully affordable new island life.
So if you don’t hear from me over the next week, it is because I am temporarily lost in paradise with a lot to get done. You can call it luck, fate or providence, but I am exactly where I was meant to end up, and I credit the universe.