April 14th marked the beginning of the Cambodian New Year and if there is one thing I’ve learned this past week…it’s that Cambodians know how to throw a good party! The traditional Cambodian New Year celebration technically lasts for three days, but in reality it’s a week long celebration, consisting of lots of drinking, dancing, karaoke and water fights (and luckily for me….time off work!) Here are some of the highlights of how I spent the Khmer New Year week….
I’ve been to plenty of work parties in my day, but I have to say the CITA New Year party was one of the best work parties I’ve ever attended. The party was held in a traditional Cambodian Karaoke restaurant…which alone is pretty hilarious, but then add a bunch of drunk Cambodians singing and dancing…makes for a VERY entertaining night!
My colleague Sophea – we had a girly evening getting ready together for the party
Mary (fellow VSO volunteer) and her boyfriend Ayo
Mr. Rong Chhun
A few of my colleagues starting to get “happy”. It took me awhile to understand happy = drunk.
Mary and I wearing our New Year gifts from Mr. Rong Chhun
As my colleagues got more “happy" they decided that it was really funny to tie our scarves in different ways (over and over and over again….)
Dancing with one of my colleagues
It was a really great party and to top the night off - Mr. Rong Chhun announced that we didn’t have to go to work on Friday or any of the following week so I decided to take this opportunity to see more of Cambodia...
First stop: Cardamom Conservation Corridor
The Cardamoms are an area of wilderness around 5 1/2 hours on the bus from Phnom Penh in the province of Koh Kong (up towards the border with Thailand). I spent three days in Ko Kong taking in the sights....
Took a boat ride through the Mangrove Forrest
Mangroves for as far as the eye can see
Remote fishing village on way to Ko Kong Island
Finally reached our destination - Ko Kong Island! Ko Kong Island is uninhabited and has been virtually untouched by tourists. Luckily for us - we had the whole beach to ourselves for the afternoon!
Our boat captain making us lunch using coconut shells as coals
Had to gut and de-bone my lunch...despite the work involved - it tasted amazing!
The "crew" from the boat trip to Ko Kong Island enjoying drinks back on the main land
The following day I went on a kayaking/jungle trek through the Cardamoms
The jungle "trek" turned out to be more like a jungle bouldering session...
After kayaking and hiking my way through the Cardamoms, I decided I deserved some much needed beach time and headed down to Sihanoukville for some R&R.
My bungalow at Otres beach
The bungalows were very 'rustic' (it was a good day when the electricity was working!)
After a little beach time...it was time to get back to work....on my scuba diving certification!
Our dive boat (we stayed a night on the boat which was actually really fun)
I got a little carried away with the sunset pics...but it was amazing!
Morning of day 2...a little grey and eerie
Coming up after my last dive...I'm now a PADI certified open water diver!
The three of us from the dive boat back on the mainland showing off some of our new diving signs