Cambodian Notebook 2

This morning, a strong wind is coming from the mainland.  The banana palms are flapping like windmill sails and the sea is running strongly.  Overnight there were squalls of  heavy rain.  We could hear the sea crashing on the shingle outside and the tin roof of the big building banging to and fro. But it’s cool now and the sun is making a bright path across the water to our doorstep.

We head for breakfast, wondering what we'll get.  Some of them are wonderful – we have hot and sour Thai porridge, banana pancakes, chicken and rice in rotation, but this morning it’s eggs and noodles, so I have to go on voluntary fast as I can’t eat eggs. I should have brought some biscuits for the days when there is food I don’t like or can’t eat.  This is no place for a fussy eater.  You’d be ok if you were gluten or dairy free since there’s no wheat flour and no dairy products, but egg is everywhere.
The cook
Everything is cooked on gas or charcoal burners, with an array of pots and pans and implements that is bewildering. All the cooking, for up to thirty people, is done by my daughter-in-law Sao and my 15 year old grand-daughter.
The kitchen
During the day we sleep off the jet-lag in hammocks listening to the sound of the sea which is currently too rough for diving or snorkelling on the reef.  Land bound we walk around the beach to the small fishing vilage at the end of the island.  Last night’s storm has washed up sea-grass and bits of coral – debris from the illegal trawling.
Cambodian 'long-tail' boats moored on the island
As I write this, swinging in the hammock at 6 pm, the light are twinkling brightly across the water on the Vietnamese coast, and there is already the audible rumble of trawlers waiting out at sea for darkness to fall before they come in.  It looks like another night of action.

And it’s not long before something kicks off.  The lights of a fishing boat are spotted well within the conservation area and the shout goes up for a crew to take the boat out.  We can hear voices off-shore and see the lights of the conservation vessel and the fishing boat.  Soon, they are both chugging up to the jetty to tie up.
A lot of talking going on
I walk along the jetty to find out what is happening.  The conservation team are sitting on the end of the pier with the fisherman and his son, sharing beer and cigarettes. A barrow load of gleaming silver needle fish is being hauled up onto the jetty and any still alive are thrown back into the water.  Some of them are a metre long – testimony to the success of the fish nursery they’re creating here.
A mature needle fish more than a metre long
The fisherman is sad, but it seems that it was just a case of ignorance.  He didn’t know about the conservation area.  His son had been so pleased to get such a wonderful catch. They also hadn’t understood about the need to create sustainable fish stocks.  He is very contrite and seems genuine. He is Cambodian, not Vietnamese, so not fishing illegally.  His nets are returned to him, with much grinning and handshaking, and then a portion of his catch is also given back as a goodwill gesture. He won’t come back into the conservation area again, but around 60 beautiful, mature fish are dead and won’t be around to breed for the future. 


  1. Thank you K for sharing your experience, So interesting, w


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