Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rainbow Lodge

Oh Magic bus pony bring us safe to our destination!

My journey to Rainbow Lodge, just outside Koh Kong, in the west of Cambodia began with a bad bus experience. We had booked our tickets but upon arrival were told that we had to be "taken" to the place where the bus went. A tuk tuk that was about to fall apart was thrust upon us and off we went to a different part of town. I wasn't sure if I was being taken for a ride (well, literally I was but...) to get an extra couple of dollars from a white face but.... We arrived at the Rith Mony bus station which is possibly the most disorganised of Cambodian bus "departments" where no one had a clue what was going on.
Due to the rip off tuk tuk we were late and so feared the bus had already gone. Bus conductors just laughed sending me shuttling between the three buses that were parked. Eventually, a woman turned up on a moto taxi carrying a big honey covered baked pig on a piece of cardboard. I heard her ask a fellow traveller about the "Koh Kong" bus and from that moment I followed her (and the big pig's) moves. An hour later the bus arrived and with the air con blasting to Arctic temperatures we set off. Khmer Karaoke was obligatory as was a comedy about 2 men getting very "interested" as they watched a woman wash from their hiding place in the bushes.... ummm. Khmer comedy at its best.
The driver was a maniac. It is customary to beep your horn in Cambodia as a warning when you overtake. However, our bus driver just LOVED the horn. To amuse myself I counted how many times on average he used it in 5 minutes - 37 times. 37 TIMES!!!!!! Completely unnecessary and almost caused me to deliver a fatal blow to the back of his head (I was on the seat directly behind him so could have got a good swing). I restrained myself. A nice touch on the bus was the delightful nodding pony on the dashboard which was sure to keep us safe from harm on the treacherous mountain roads. The conductor was very keen to make sure the pony was free from dust and spent some time cleaning it. Shame he couldn't give the same level of attention to making sure the bus operated at a decent standard and shutting up the driver.
Eventually, we arrived at Tatei, the village about 20km from Koh Kong where the boat for Rainbow Lodge picks up its guests. We were escorted onto the small traditional fishing boat with other guests and started to make our way up river. The hideous bus journey was completely worthwhile as the scenery was lush, green and stunning. The river was fringed with palm trees and jungle with a backdrop of mountains. On arrival the journey was further eased by a great welcome and a delicious lunch followed by a lazy lie by the river in hammocks while thinking about what tomorrow's activity could be and watching the slow moving river traffic.

Relaxing in the hammock exotic fruit and the river view

Stunning scenery

The accommodation at Rainbow Lodge was good. 6 individual bungalows with a different colour theme. This was the view from our bed and bathroom! Nice!

For our only full day in Tatei we decided to do a jungle trek to the nearby waterfalls - it sounded like a nice length hike of 2 hours - Just enough in the heat and humidity. It sounded nice until we were told how we should prepare for the leeches... Suddenly I was less enthusiastic but still willing. So, unattractive as I may have looked for the wildlife with my hiking boots, trousers with socks pulled up over the bottom of them, I decided it was preferable to abandon fashion when the alternative was having my blood sucked. Midway into the walk I spotted the first leech that had started to cling on to my sock in the hope it would find flesh. Ugh! disgusting. Many more followed and I was more than glad of the sock/trouser combo.
Our guide was Mr Lei and he showed us many interesting things - Mainly insects, footprints of wildlife and a massive spider. We had been told not to expect to come onto the trek and see elephants and tigers!! - Apparently some tourists were disappointed when they didn't see any (!!!!!).
Jungle trekking with Mr Lei and Sonny, one of the Lodge dogs

Insect life and Jimmy, the Lodge's dog who has possibly the longest dog tongue ever!

After our walk which involved scrambling on and over many fallen trees and bamboo we arrived at the Tatei waterfalls where we were treated to having the many tiered waterfall to ourselves and a couple of other Lodge guests. We swam and wallowed in the water as we waited for the boat to bring our lunch. A feast of a lunch arrived but the clouds got darker and darker and large splats of rain began to fall.... we scrambled to the boat and then the sky opened up and thunder and lightening followed! We got completely drenched. The Lodge dogs who were with us didn't like the rain and pushed their big, wet doggy bodies into the tiny space where the two umbrellas met to get some shelter.
The dogs had their own umbrella for a while...

The view from the room mid-storm

The 4th big bridge built by Thailand despite Cambodian/Thai loathing of each other.
The following day we were back on the bus. We were dropped off by the Lodge boat at this bridge (built by the Thai) and waited for the bus to arrive from Koh Kong. This would be our last authentic Khmer bus ride(!) - It had all the usual things including a lot of body smells (ughhhh!) and a beautiful sign on the toilet door (below).


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