The night before my birthday, on Koh Rong Sanloem, an island off the Cambodian coast, my friends asked me what I would like to do on the big day. I love birthdays – and I love people who love birthdays, who will grant your every wish just because you managed to live another year. And so, without hesitation, I stipulated my birthday wishes:
- I need to see a monkey
- I have to eat watermelon
- I want to see a cat
- I want to hike to the lighthouse on top of the jungle island hill
So that’s how we found ourselves (after a Lazy Beach birthday-breakfast-in-bed of fluffy pancakes and watermelon) on the tiny strip of beach between the sea and the jungle, hiking shoes tied up and camelbaks filled up. The guys at Lazy Beach Resort, our home for the week (also the best place to stay on the most beautiful beach on the island), told us it’s a quick 5 kay shoot, straight to the top. Of course we had to walk the 5 kay from Lazy Beach to the edge of Saracen Bay first, and THEN it is a 5 kay hike.
We stepped onto the jungle trail, and pretty soon the heat and humidity of the jungle canopy closed in on us as the humming and whirring of insects grew louder and louder. I really like hiking, and I like getting outside, and I really love the sounds that the earth makes, and so being able to take on this hike in the dense green that is the jungle on Koh Rong Sanloem, one of the most beautiful places in Cambodia, was pretty amazing for a citycat like me – especially with people I love who are loving on me extra because it’s my birthday.
We followed the overgrown jungle path, sometimes climbing over fallen down trees, or ducking under twirled up vines, all the while sweating BULLETS. Which is probably why it felt WAY longer than a ‘quick 5 kay’. We felt like we have been going forever when we finally reached a crossroads, which is where we started to doubt our directions. Shouldn’t we have been there already? Did someone say anything about a crossroad? Were we supposed to turn? Following our good (common) sense, we kept going straight, encouraged by another sole hiker with a cheerful ‘not far now’ in passing. Sure enough, the jungle cleared up some 10/20 minutes later and the old abandoned lighthouse presented itself.
We paid a dollar or something to the old man lounging nearby in the hammock and he showed us the way to the top. OH AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME – his adorable little black cat followed us and even accompanied me up two sets of rickety ladders inside the tower. A couple of sets more and we reached the top, where we duly reaped the rewards of our long and sweaty hike: a breathtaking panoramic view of Koh Rong Samloem and the gulf of Thailand. I am a sucker for views, and this birthday view was up there.
We soaked it all up until we were ready to make the trek back. It was hot, sweaty, and almost 20 kilometres in almost 100% humidity, but surely one of my favourite hikes, and highly recommended. And, a couple of hours later, when we found ourselves swimming the sunset away, we had forgotten all about the heat and the legs and could only remember the jungle and the beauty of how alive it is.
And the cat that climbs ladders.
Oh, and also I did see that monkey that day.