The All Knowing Trash Heap

By Stephen Ewashkiw | April 25, 2014

13,260 km so far.

There is a small mangrove just down the beach from our cabin. Walking past it you can see how important these natural barriers are to keeping the sea clean and the beaches white.

Its roots are looped with twine, countless straws (every drink, even beer, is served with a straw in Cambodia), wine bottles, and lots of plastic bags weighed down with sand.

mangrove roots with trash

Mangrove eating the trash, Koh Ta Kiev.

Mangroves can also, according to an awareness billboard I saw in Cambodia, stop a tsunami in its tracks.

The beach here on Koh Ta Kiev is very clean, but people are continually adding garbage to the sea, all over the world.

garbage in the water

Wrapper in the water, Koh Ta Kiev.

The sea keeps trying to give it back, so every day there is some more trash washed up on the shore.

Trash For Beer

In Sihanoukville the beach is covered in trash. With the number of visitors they get at the beach every day in high season it must be nearly impossible to keep it clean, so it seems they don’t really try.

Here at Ten103, they have instituted a beach clean-up campaign that is quite effective. Fill a sugar bag with trash, get a free beer. Jane and I have been taking part, not really for the free beer, but to make the property a bit nicer.

Our sack full of garbage, Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

Our sack full of garbage, Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

Even with this plan in place, and many people getting a bag to fill, there is still an endless stream of more plastic flowing in with each tide.

Into The Sea, You And Me

Our cabin, The Crab Shack, gets afternoon sun and a light breeze. It is the perfect place to wile away the hours.

Lounging in The Crab Shack, Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

Lounging in The Crab Shack, Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

The view is of an inviting pale sand and dark primordial rock beach.

The view from The Crab Shack, Koh Ta Kiev.

The view from The Crab Shack, Koh Ta Kiev.

A little bit out to sea an island sits on the horizon, one of its own pristine beaches calling to us. Forest and jungle covering the rest of the island, thick and unspoiled.

Koh Ta Kiev was leased a few years ago to a Chinese developer for 99 years. Little has been done in the way of development, but recently a term in the lease was highlighted which said if they didn’t start work they would lose the lease.

They began work on an inland road (meaning forest clearing, cutting a path through the jungle, interrupting countless animal habitats) earlier this year. They tore up a large swath of the centre of the island, levelled the earth, and then left it. Slowly the plants are beginning to take it back, but it’s still an ugly scar in the landscape.

The new "road" down the middle of Koh Ta Kiev.

The new “road” down the middle of Koh Ta Kiev.

The simple, relaxed resorts of Koh Ta Kiev are a breed on the brink of extinction. No one knows when the company will begin building its hotels, but the place next to us, which is Khmer-owned, has been told this will be their last season. Next year it may be a construction site.

In a few years, over-built, under-designed, and poorly attended monstrosities will rise from the wild jungle. It will be wild no more.

The Green Faerie

Next door to Ten103 is an absinthe distillery.

Gotta love seeing this sign in the jungle, on Koh Ta Kiev.

Gotta love seeing this sign in the jungle, on Koh Ta Kiev.

Johann has built a small distillery, and uses organic wormwood to create one red and one green absinthe.

Johann the absinthe-maker, Koh Ta Kiev.

Johann the absinthe-maker, Koh Ta Kiev.

The bar serves cocktails and smoothies made with his concoctions.

The bar at Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

The bar at Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

We had a wander around the open-air distillery which looks like a mad scientist’s hut, like the Professor from Gilligan’s Island had hooked up with Walter White.

The Green Fairys

Just off shore from the distillery, the water is filled with bioluminescent plankton. Natasha, who works here, told us to go just after sunset when it is first fully dark to get the best luminescent show.

“It ‘s like magic, but real,” she dreamily said, remembering the electric glow.

As the sky darkened and just as the stars were starting to come out, we headed down to the beach.

Another pristine sunset at Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

Another pristine sunset at Ten103, Koh Ta Kiev.

We weren’t sure what to expect, and Jane sent me in first, neither of us really believing the water would light up.

Jane’s note: If there were sea monsters out there in the dark, naturally I wanted them to eat Stephen first.

At first the bright green neon light emanating from the absinthe distillery played with my eyes as it danced off the ripples in the water swirls around me. As I got thigh deep I moved my arm through the water, and it happened.

The water, the plankton, actually lit up.

Jane came out and we swam around, watching the water light up with an electric greeny-blue glow. It is so beautiful and such a surreal experience. The plankton danced around us as we pedalled our feet and swished our arms through the water. We felt like wizards able to conjure light and throw it around.

I wonder how long until the island will develop so much it contributes enough extra run-off waste that the plankton leave, or die. Many jungle species will also have difficulty dealing with the invasion, but this is almost certainly to the developers benefit.

If a few die off that is just fine. They don’t want too wild an experience for their discriminating clientele.  

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