Travelling to Koh Tonsay wasn’t planned. I had never even heard of the place before. But that made it an ever more awesome experience: I serendipitously discovered it. When I stumbled out of the bus – literally.
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Because this agency guy was ready waiting to catch me. And soon he enticed me with the idea to leave Kep and visit this small little island just 30min away by boat. And because I’m an easy target for quick sales, he had me wrapped around his finger in no time. Somhow, I had an intuition when I arrived in Kep, early morning at 7am, that I was going to be bored spending my whole day there.
After a quick coffee with the locals (which was more than awkward because no one spoke English and Khmer women were not allowed to join the table…) which I had been invited to by said salesman, I hopped onto a Tricycle to get to the Pier in time. This time I was going to see a Cambodian island. Was it going to match my euphoria for Thai islands had visited only a few months ago (Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phayam, Koh Tao)?
The ferry in itself was an adventure and a half – they were much much smaller than the Thai ferries. They looked like fishing boats (probably because they are fishing boats). Their exhausts threatened to give up at any minute as they kept huffing and puffing black smoke into all directions (not so environmentally friendly).
Then I arrived. And the silence hit me. It was yet another Koh Phayam I had fallen so in love with! There was almost no one here. No loud music playing anywhere. No huge hotels. No Mc Donald’s. I think there are only 8 families living on the island and they all run either small bungalows or an own restaurant adjacent to their own home.
It was as if I had come to visit relatives on their own island. How cool is that? I was itching to explore more of it – i should hike or do something, I thought. But then a friendly policeman (yes, Koh Tonsay has its own little police office / cabana) informed me that it would be a two-hour hike to get to the other side of the island. And it was going to be steep and hot. So…I decided, nah. Let’s be lazy today and just chill, read my book and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
But as you know me, I get bored really easily. So after less than an hour, I decided to take another stroll down the beach and look for lunch (it was only 10.30am but I figured somewhere someone would be serving an early lunch – the freshly baked Croissant I had bought in Kep was just not keeping me satisfied for long…although it was a pretty yummy Croissant…but that is besides the point…). I plonked myself on one of the plastic chairs and ordered, what Kep and Koh Tonsay was famous for, Crab!
I wish I hadn’t. After just 30 minutes the friendly family man / waiter stood next to me, serving me a huge plate with 4 huge crabs staring back at me. Their claws tightly strapped to their bodies with plastic bands. And then he walks off. ‘Emmm…excuse me…can you show me how to eat this, please?’. He laughs. Great. He probably thinks ‘Oh you white tourists. Don’t have a cooking clue about anything’. Too right – i had no idea how to eat a crab with my bare hands. I knew what to do had I been given a mallet. I think.
But like this?
So, he brutally pulls off the crab’s shell, as if he was stripping several pages at once from a book. He does that standing with the crab’s eyes now staring back at me as I’m sat down. Then he twists the legs off, points to the meat and says ‘Now eat!’. As I look down on the poor crab on my plate in horror, my appetite is suddenly gone. I have never felt so barbaric in my life. Why would anyone enjoy doing this? How can you willingly do this?
I was facing a dilemma
It would be rude not to eat any of this as they prepared it for me – i didn’t want to insult anyone. This was the whole point of my set plan to immerse myself and be one of them. But, I could no longer stand the thought of eating these crabs. Then, on the other hand, they are dead now. Yes, they are dead. Because of me. You crab murderer! So, I decided to eat them. I wasn’t going to be rude. I wasn’t going to be an embarrassing tourist sending back a whole plate of (executed) crabs. And yes, I was crying sobbing. It wasn’t pleasant. It was also the last time I would ever eat crabs, lobsters and anything else that is killed by being boiled alive and stares back at you in its red macabre-ness.
I needed a beer at that point. No matter the time. 11am for a beer was perfectly acceptable.
Especially after this.
I decided I was going to read my book after all. I found myself one of the many hammocks, laid on it and read for hours. Until I fell out of my hammock and tried to gracefully pretend this had not happened either. I also desperately hoped that the people 10 metres away, who were busy having lunch, did not see this. It looked pretty stupid. My bum also hurt because I fell on top of the roots of a tree underneath me. As you do.
I decided, at 1pm, I was going to go back to Kep to make the most of it and see more of the little town. So I asked one of the fishermen whether they were heading to the mainland any time soon. ‘Yes you can come now’. Awesome. The official ferry wasn’t going to leave before 4pm. It just proves: if you don’t ask, the answer is generally ‘No’.
I sat on the deck of the boat (there were no chairs in case you were wondering) watching four local women have a conversation – there was a lot of laughter involved. They probably watched me eating my crabs, I thought. And I fell into a daydream which always happens when I’m on a boat. Until the fumes of the black smoke blew into my face.
Koh Tonsay. I will never forget you. For more reasons than just your sheer beauty.
***How to get there? Book a bus in one of the many travel agencies in Kampot (to Kep). Then buy a ticket for a ferry (return if you want to come back the same day – or simply rent a bungalow and stay overnight – just keep in mind that there is no electricity after 10pm. Yep, it is that rural).
Cost for bus & ferry? I paid about 5 Dollars for the bus to Kep and another 5 USD for the ferry to Koh Tonsay. I think you can get it even cheaper than that.