It Could Be Anyone, Anywhere

  

It’s tough being a modern, independent, adventurous woman sometimes.  When I ended my last long-term relationship of 3 1/2 years, my protective bubble fell away. I’ve experienced how being outgoing, nice, and alone has made me a perfect target for predators, and has set my ‘bullshit detector’ on full blast.

At home or abroad, it makes no difference- it still happens.  While working at a nice farm-to-table bar and restaurant where I lived, I was walked in on in a bathroom (that didn’t lock properly) and trapped.  The guy got a swift knee in the gonads and I got away.  So did he.  My last 2 days in Thailand, a man I met who spoke 5 languages and was finishing up his degree, wouldn’t let me close my door after walking me to it.  He only left after I told him I’d raise my voice louder after every time I told him to go.  Guess he wasn’t smart enough to translate ‘No.’  Of course he had the audacity to ask me out the next day.  Get out of my life!  When someone offers to buy me a drink, my automatic thought is, ‘what do you want from me?’  I’ve come a long way from being naive and trusting.

While backpacking Costa Rica, I made friends with a local.  He offered to show me around the gems of Manuel Antonio, and I was excited to see the less touristed areas.  We trekked for a while, but once we were in a completely secluded area, he asked me to lift up my top.  I was out like lightning.  It was then (my first solo trip) that I had to come to terms with who I was to the outside world, especially while traveling: attractive, single, and easy to take advantage of.  It was depressing.  I wanted to make genuine connections, get to know another way of life, see the side of places I might not be able to on my own.  Why did there have to be an alterior motive?

This isn’t a ‘woe is me, I’m beautiful and life is hard’ post.  It’s a message to men that women, under no circumstances should be viewed as something to be conquered.  It’s a message to women that it could be a reality for you.  It’s a warning that the cool operator that says you have a beautiful heart and he only wants to respect you, might actually want to do the opposite.  I know this, because I’ve experienced that.

I’m truly thankful that these close calls haven’t gotten out of my control; I feel for those in which it has.  My heart seriously hurts for humanity when a gentle, beautiful, trusting person can be broken.  It’s not fair.

This isn’t a light post, I know, but it’s an issue worth talking about.  Many travel blogs only talk about the beautiful, positive side-and surely that’s true and real, but there’s the dark side too.  So much seems swept under the rug and replaced for something lighter and brighter.  I want to share my beautiful discoveries with you too,which I do, but I  also want to reveal the darker truth that few seem to talk about. 

My intention is not to discourage solo travel, but enlighten, raise awareness, and hopefully arm you properly.  It’s a big, beautiful, chaotic world out there worth exploring.  But not everyone is as trustworthy as myself and perhaps you.  Not everyone has pure intentions, and that is just the reality.

The hard part is acknowledging it is a part of life.  Have I put myself in situations where the probability of these instances are more likely to happen?  In some cases, yes.  Does it make it justifiable?  No.  But I refuse to change who I am and how I do things unless it suits me.  Why should I?

It’s upsetting and frustrating because I come from a place that wants to see the best in people.  Although I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve been unjustly disrespected and sexually harassed, it hasn’t lead me to put all men under the umbrella of unworthy.  But it’s happened enough times that I want to speak about it.  What gives?

To Be a Muse: Apsara

  

According to Hindu mythology, an Apsara is a celestial being of the sky, dancing beauties for the gods, men, and musicians.

I was mesmerized by these beautiful reliefs, statues, and paintings adorning walls and entryways from temples to night clubs.  They were everywhere in Southeast Asia, and I became more curious of their mysteries than the temples and museums themselves. 

At first I thought they were a depiction of a goddess.  After learning the name I researched ‘Apsara’ and was surprised to find that they were actually muses, beautifully poised into seduction.

I just wanted to post a little something about them to honor the inspiration women have created in art forms.  Their ubiquitous form can be seen throughout Ankor Wat.  I loved going to a locals club and watching the women dance with their hands so delicately and poised to the thumping music.  I couldn’t help but bring myself back to ancient times, imagining them as Apsaras, hypnotizing the men with their swaying hips.

  
  

The Other Side

There is reason for everything, and if the reason is not what you intended, search for it, be open, and it will find you.

I had asked myself, why am I here? Or more like, what the f*** am I doing in this place?!  What can I do?  What’s the solution?  There’s no time.

Then I remembered.  Write.  If I have anything in this life, it’s my voice (thank you, my feminist ancestors). 

So I did.  And I bashed Koh Rong hard.  I got it all out, and I was honest.  As soon as I did, I began to see the beauty.

After I wrote ‘Koh Rong Gone Wrong,’ my friend and I had breakfast at The Dreamcatch Inn.  The decor from wall to wall was all made from upcycled material.  This is what I was looking for!

   
   

Shortly after, we took a slow boat to Koh Rong Sanloem. Pristine.  The locals dubbed it ‘honeymoon beach,’ which my friend and I quickly realized.

When we sat down at a bar called ‘Octopussy,’ (her choice) and saw that everyone was in pairs, we joked that we should join ‘the other side.’  Nope.  Too straight.  So we admired and envied all the couples instead.

The next day we parted ways, and I went to M’pai Bai Village.  On the way, the supply boat I took to get there stopped at an eco village.  Yes!

Ok, ok, it’s not all lost, I thought.

Once I arrived in M’pai Bai village, walking down the rickety pier, I scanned the signs for hostels pointing either right or left.

Chill Inn ➡️

At the very end I found Chill Inn and was lucky to have a dorm room to myself for $7.50/night.  The electricity turns off in the entitre village at midnight, but not to worry- Chill Inn is supported by solar power.  It was the first time I stayed at a place in Southeast Asia with solar power. Again, I was delitfully surprised.

The next day I went jungle trecking with a few foreign workers from the village.  I was with 2 Germans and 2 Dutch, trailing behind, sweating through every pore of my body.  We’d stop every so often for water.

“Come on little one.”  The tall Dutchman, Tom said.

Walking, walking, walking.  2 full days of this.  We stopped at beaches and look out points.  This was the paradise I was looking for.  All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, revealed itself to me.

When I swam at midnight in the phytoplankton, lighting up my every move, I looked to the stars, the brightest I’ve seen on this trip.  I thanked the glowing night.

   
   

  
 

Koh Rong Gone Wrong

Talk about paradise lost.  Being here and witnessing all the building, consuming, and trash strewn beaches has been eye opening.  This has been the first time I really, really felt bad for being a tourist.

Last night I climbed to Sky Bar with a friend I made in Siem Reap.  We had to escape the main beach strip where sewage wafts through the air almost everywhere.  It’s a hike to get there, but worth it.  Clean and relaxed, they take the plastic off your water bottle before handing it to you and serve you glass mugs instead of plastic.  These little things make a difference!

As we listened to what my friend said was ‘solid house,’ I couldn’t bring myself to move.

“I’m depressed.”  I let this paradise gone wrong ruin my night.

We talked to the bartender about beach cleanup and what conservation measures were being taken.  Apparently there’s a beach cleanup once a week, but it all just builds up again.  I couldn’t believe all the beach trash was an accumulation of just 1 week!

“The problem is education.” Said Camille, the bartender at Sky Bar.

Yes, we agreed.  We learned as children the importance of recycling.  Captain Planet anyone?  Beyond this however,  most businesses use styrofoam platters, plastic cups and utensils.

I just wanted to yell, ‘Did everyone forget we’re on a f****** beach?!’

I’m calling out all the hippies that come here, all the travelers looking for beauty, the people trying to get away from it all, and all the educated people that come here to start a business- THIS IS NOT OK.

I genuinely hope this blog post, out of all of them, gets read.  It’s not because I hate this place, it’s because I love it.  I love the beautiful children here, and the well fed dogs.  I love the clear blue water and the ferry boats docked on the pier.  It’s a colorful island.

I know I will never come back to Koh Rong unless I intend to make a serious effort to save it.  I hope the same for those that have felt similarly about this paradise.