The Meanderthals

Languid lolling on Lazy Beach

Paradise with insects – that’s how Lonely Planet’s Guide to Cambodia describes Lazy Beach.

Here, brilliant white sand is commanded by legions of tiny crabs that scamper from onrushing waves and then rush directly into them when a human interloper wanders along. The crescent-shaped beach sculpted at the back of a small bay provides home to Lazy Beach’s 17 bungalows and one quietly active and high-quality restaurant/lounge.

Only steps away, the jungle commands most of the island, defying hikers in search of a rare find and providing a backdrop of intrigue that can be a little foreboding once the sun goes down.

Much of the island’s coast is unapproachable, with rocky shores buffeted by strong onshore winds that sweep up the steep inclines where brush leads to deciduous trees and into lush jungle beyond.

So once you’re done exploring the island, imbibing and eating and swimming and snorkeling, there’s little to do but lie about. Always one to go with the flow, I stretch out in a hammock facing the jungle, immune to outside influences and wrapped in nature’s good graces.

I stare at the exterior of our bungalow, a single-room thatched affair with two comfortable queen size beds within, an attached unheated water bathroom and a spacious covered porch. It is beneath the latter’s roof that I gently swing in the ocean breeze, feeling like a nap would be a good idea but reluctant to embrace a state of being which would ruin such an exquisite moment.

The rough-hewn boards which frame the bungalow’s exterior are washed white at the bottom by the elements; the sun’s insistent bleaching and seasonal tropical drenchings have vanquished the shellac which remains at the top of the boards near where the roof joins the wall.

There’s an empty hammock across the porch from me, a promising offer for Gabi, one of our friends who have joined us on this excursion, or another invited guest. Then again, it’s perfectly fine for it to remain empty, left alone to gently away in the breeze and add its own silence to the cacophony of nature.

The noisy bugs are the only significant winged assassins I have encountered on two trips to this perfect retreat, and they are more bark than bite. It occurs to me that Lonely Planet’s inexplicable description is like giving unfair weight to Rush Limbaugh’s annoying rants during a US presidential race. His ceaseless whining may create an audible buzz of which intelligent life is vaguely aware, but only if you focus on it and somehow fail to do the smart thing and tune it out, change the channel or just shut off the radio.

No, this place is very much not about bugs. It focuses precisely on the main attractions of wind, sun, surf and casual living among the flora and fauna of this Mecca of Chillness  – at least for now.

As word has filtered out about what awaits those who make the 2.5 hour journey by slow boat from the bizarrely hedonistic and hugely contrasting launch pad of Sihanoukville, so too has investment and development found safe harbor on these shores.

We were last here in November, and during a walk across the island to the formerly unpopulated beach we encountered exactly zero other humans and witnessed only a couple of small shacks on the beach where some intrepid locals were homesteading. Now, there are three collections of bungalows, so-called “resorts” set up to offer dormitory-style living for Full Moon revelers and tattooed backpackers finding paradise on a budget.

The neighborhood is changing, and once again not necessarily for the better. Development seems restrained and minimal, but there’s talk of bigger plans at the hands of a developer with deeper pockets and larger-scale ideas. Suddenly, there seem far bigger nuisances at hand than the few mosquitoes and sand fleas that Lonely Planet seems obsessed with.

Indeed, tangible signs of civilization are popping up at Lazy Beach, where two burglaries were reported in recent weeks. Now sunburned acolytes of nature’s altar are warned to lock their doors and windows when worshipping the day’s sunshine, where locks and closed windows were mere afterthoughts only weeks ago.

For now, though, we celebrate the casual perfection of this place, where owners Rich and Chris cast a long shadow over the wonderful Khmer staff of Rich’s extended family (his wife, Lina, is Khmer) while keeping a low-key presence which adds to the place’s easy-going nature. We arrived Friday afternoon, enduring a pitch-and-roll boat ride that caused one of our party to chum the waters with the vestiges of her breakfast, and by dinnertime we had all eased into an island-style state of relaxation. This is much closer to being asleep than awake.

When we first came here we wondered aloud what on earth we would do for two days. Now we lament the short duration of our visit and plot a return for a longer stay.

We have to drink more of this sweet nature’s elixir before it becomes spoiled.

So for now, I’m facing away from the sun and beach, enjoying the quiet sounds of nature as I savor life sans wifi, telephones and the accouterments of the big city which suddenly seems a world away.


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