Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Out of the jungle, back to the beach

We completed our jungle trek! We got dropped off by a bus from Phnom Penh in some tiny little village. We blundered around, trying to find someone who could tell us how to get to Chi Phat, which is where the ecotourism office for the Cardamom Forest is based. After a few unsuccessful linguistic battles, we stalked three white people we spotted on the street for about five minutes. When we finally caught up with them, we found out that they were part of an forest restoration team based in Chi Phat, and they offered us a free ride up to the (even tinier) village. They also gave us lunch at their weird little jungle kibbutz (they were nearly all Israelis, and running some sort of commune).

It turned out that the ecotourism in this little town was really pretty efficiently run by the local Cambodians with the help of a few Israelis and Brits. They got us set up with a guide, our own private cook for the journey, hammocks for sleeping in the jungle, etc. The next morning, we set off. We'll post pictures and more details about the trip later, but a few notable points first:

1. There was a lot of wildlife - elephants, tigers, gibbons, etc. - in the forest, but we didn't really see any of it. You could hear animals and see their footprints, but there's been too much poaching in the last couple decades for there to be many animals.
2. Having your own private cook is really exciting at first, but after they serve you the same meals for three days in the jungle, you and your stomach get pretty sick of it.
3. I (Kitty) stepped on some amazingly poisonous viper (probably a Malayan pit viper), which obligingly decided not to bite me. Thank God! I didn't even notice stepping on it, but Andy's sharp eyes spotted it. He took pictures of it while the cook urged us to get away. According to the guide, "this snake very nasty. He always bite bite. He bite hand, hand break." Then he did a chopping motion on his arm, indicating the necessity of amputation. We were a day and a half's journey into the jungle, so I don't know what kind of medical assistance would've been possible, but at least the guide had a machete, so he could've performed the emergency amputation! According to Wikipedia: "This species has a reputation for being bad-tempered and quick to strike." I guess I got a remarkably chill viper.

We were pretty exhausted after our trek, so we decided to head to Krong Koh Kong, a border city, for a few days. We ran into some really bizarre people there - we'll either post about them later or try to forget them soon. Andy went to Safari World, a goofy local Disneyland/Sea World type thing, where he saw some really theatrical orangutan boxing (Andy Edit: The orangutans were GENIUSES!). Definitely pictures of that later.

We decided to hit the beach again before going back to Bangkok, so we're currently hanging out on Koh Chang, a Thai island close to Cambodia. We're planning on riding some elephants in a couple days and maybe taking a Thai cooking class. We're overjoyed to be back in the land of curries and yams, and the adorable Thai king.

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