Our Cambodian long boat motored across the vast ocean passed lush green islands and black rocks that jutted out of the water. I stared into the distance as wind whipped through my hair, sharing short sentences on and off with a girl from Italy. Then our boat slowed to a purr and we pulled up to our home for the night.
As soon as we set eyes on the island, we knew we had to change our bus ticket and stay a second day. Nestled in the jungle of a quiet, secluded island were tents, hammocks, and bungalows.
We claimed our section of one of the many hidden beaches and set up camp. The view from my tent looked out upon a teal green ocean and islands in the distance. I sighed happily knowing I’d finally found my paradise.
Our two days were spent reading and napping in shaded hammocks, swimming in the cool ocean, and strolling the white sand beaches. We formed bonds with other travelers, all seeking their little piece of paradise. At base camp, we ate delicious seafood around the wooden bar, sipped creative cocktails and local beers while chatting, and relaxed in woven hammocks.
We had no itinerary. No pressure. No responsibilities. We simply did as we pleased and felt. No one bothered with shoes as they strolled the sandy paths. I wore my bikini all day long til a chill hit the air.
I watched two sunsets. The first I watched in solitude from a bench overlooking the water. The sun sagged behind the green hillside of an adjacent island, leaving trails of purple and fuchsia across the sky. I sat contemplating life and smiling about how good I felt about mine.
The second I watched with my new friends on a straw mat. We walked all day down the beach passed other bungalow resorts. We found an American man who distills his own absinthe in a treehouse and purchased a bottle of his red one. At the beach, next to Coral Cove we watched the sunset between two islands.
This time it settled deeply into the ocean. We shared swigs of the absinthe, cringing from the sting that left the taste of licorice on our tongues. I forgot my camera, so I enjoyed the sunset fully through my eyes not a lens. It started off subtle, flickering it’s usual path across the waves. Then it lit up the clouds yellow against the pearly blue sky. Everything appeared so vibrant as the sun blushed the most embarrassed shade of red and slowly grew wrinkles of orange as it faded into the background. I sat in awe.
I know I’ve described so many sunsets at this point but each one is so unique and carries with it a memory from my trip. This one, as it departed, leaving the sky furiously blood orange, will always remind me of how we finally found our own piece of paradise!
We left the island with heavy hearts knowing this experience will never be replicated. Even if we return in a few years, time will bring more development and tourists to the island. There’s talk of a bridge and bulldozing it all for resorts. So that was it! Paradise found and paradise lost! But it will always be alive in our memories, especially when I think about that second sunset.