Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 2

The last few days in Kep have been exactly how I imagined living in Cambodia would be. We get up as early as ever because the light pours into the single open plan room in which we live. It is the early morning and late afternoon hours that are the most agreeable so we plan to continue this practice even though I have never been a morning person. A stunning sunrise sometimes greets us and the doors are flung open to match the windows left open all night. No air-con is required as breezes and sometimes much stronger winds blow through the whole place, directly off the rice paddies, which surround it on three sides, while we consume a simple breakfast of yoghurt and fruit with coffee.

The mesmerizing rice paddy views are an ever present and calming reminder to live mindfully.

Next we either walk or ride to the market early in the day before the sun gets too searingly hot. Actually we mostly ride as once the sun comes out it is too easy to overheat. Funny how walking 10 kilometres a days was the minimum in Bhutan but now riding is way better than walking in terms of time spent exposed to the sun and the cooling effect the movement creates. Some days I'm shocked to see I have walked less than one kilometre, but I digress.

By mid morning we are home in our bamboo haven reading, writing or cooking up some treat. Currently we are revelling in having our very own kitchen again after almost six months of travelling and only occasionally being able to avail of other people’s. It's hard not to feel guilty about simply relaxing in the middle of the day but we are becoming ever more accustomed to allowing the weather or our own preferences to dictate our activities. Over the past few days we have both taken to not wearing our watches. 

In addition to the generous offer of allowing us the privilege of inhabiting this eco-friendly, low impact abode Madame also offered us the use of the pool in her own luxury beachside home along the coast. This has been a real boon and we have already cycled the seven and a half kilometres to her substantial family residence in the late afternoon a few times and certainly intend to do so every second day or so.

As I had hoped our quiet peaceful days are spent creating simple fresh fare and engaging in a healthy exercise routine of walking, cycling and swimming. Ian has dubbed this the “Keptathlon”.  Continuing the mindfulness and meditation practice I recently began in earnest has also become a priority. There is now time for the pastimes we have always enjoyed. We are getting to know a few locals and even hosted a lunch for the lovely young couple, who showed us around the various houses available for rent in the area. We have barely scratched the surface of exploring the local surroundings or the possibility of volunteering locally but that will come in the fullness of time and when we are securely entrenched with our one-year visas in hand.

After just over a week in Kep we truly feel we have landed on our feet and it's all going to be alright.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 1

Things miraculously fell into place on the housing front in Kep. On our final day there before returning to Phnom Penh, we saw a lovely bamboo house, which is situated about three  kilometres outside the main downtown area and fell in love with it immediately. The concern was that no one knew the rent or much about it and we had to just leave to fate how it would transpire.

After arriving in Phnom Penh we got the owner’s contact number and were told Madame would like to meet us as she was also in the capital. A quick phone call later and we were promptly informed that it was not available for rent but that she wanted to meet us anyway. Within a few hours it was agreed that we could stay there for three months while she was visiting Europe but her intention is to retire there to write her memoirs, at some as yet undetermined time in the future. The several meetings we have had since then to settle things, certainly suggest her life story would make an incredible book. She has also hinted that we may be able to extend that initial lease as she looks unlikely to retire from her business obligations any time soon. 

This arrangement suited us perfectly as we loved the property but were aware of a few drawbacks. Having an established verbal agreement before we set off for Bangkok was a huge load off our minds and gave us a clear idea of what we would need to purchase to set ourselves up upon our return, to say nothing of having somewhere specific to return to.

The house is both charming and unique having been designed by a Swiss architect. It is also well appointed and comes with a lot of bamboo furniture. Exactly our style and preference. The time frame also gives us a chance to look around for something else and trial living in the local community before we commit to a longer term lease.

After having spent a few days in Bangkok, we flew back and sailed through Cambodian immigration, this time getting the visas we coveted. We arrived in Phnom Penh in time to sign a simple personal “lease” agreement with our now landlady before throwing ourselves into the task of acquiring household appliances, essentials and treats to move into “The Bamboo House” in Kep. Knowing exactly where we would be living, enabled us to have a much clearer idea of what we wanted and needed while also putting off making many huge purchases, like fridges and beds.

At this point we really felt we had landed on our feet and the only major task that remains before us is to renew our one month visas for one year multiple entry versions. This can only happen just before they are due to expire.

By the time we checked out of the hotel in Phnom Penh we had a pretty amazing collection of assorted goods selected to make the best possible start in our ‘pre-tirement’ existence. The icing on the cake being two second-hand, Japanese, three speed bicycles.

With the help of hotel staff we rented van and driver, loaded our mountain of possessions into the vehicle early on Saturday morning and proceeded through traffic that was surprising not too congested, excited to be on our way to Kep.

Having thoroughly researched offerings in Kampot, we stipulated a required stop there to purchase two large cane shelf units we hoped would fit the decor of the house and enable us to store our plethora of electronics, books, clothes and miscellaneous other hoarded items collected from various points across the globe. I was dubious about being able to accomodate these large items inside the already packed vehicle but the driver was both encouraging and resourceful.

We easily navigated our way back to the property we had visited only once a little over a week earlier and launched into unloading and unpacking with enthusiasm in the worst of the midday heat. However our spirits couldn't be dampened at that point.

By the time we had unpacked and set up completely on Sunday afternoon we were already sure we wanted this lovely residence to be home for longer than the agreed to period but whether or not that is possible remains to be seen.

At the moment we feel blessed to be here and to have landed so firmly on our feet.