Sunday postcard from… Koh Rong, Cambodia

 

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Impatient as ever, he was the first one in the water. I followed more slowly, carefully paddling through the shallow water in the darkness attentive for sharp edges, but my feet only met sand and smooth stones. I gazed behind my shoulder. A line of twinkling little lights was still making its way over the slippery planks and white sand with natural debris buried underneath; the others were still far. In the horizon, thunder rumbled like a belly of a beast.

“Oh my god”, he exclaimed faintly. There was wonder in his voice.

“What is it? Are they there? Is it good?”

“It’s everywhere.” He laughed a little. “This is amazing!”

And I looked down, and what I thought might have been bubbles were in fact little lights that illuminated at my touch. They disappeared when I stopped. I lowered one tentative hand into the water and ran it through the calm surface, and everywhere my fingers brushed, the lights came back to life. A little laugh escaped my lips. It was as if I was a child again, standing before the world wide-eyed and sweetly naïve, ready to be impressed by anything because everything I saw was new. I paddled far enough for the water to reach my waist, all the time chaperoned by the fickle little lights, and then I dived into the bioluminescent plankton.

Bioluminescent plankton lights up when you touch them, so if you stand very still, dark water will surround you. But it is all the more wondrous to then make a move and see the water around you illuminate. I swam slowly until I reached a sandbank where my feet touched the ground again and where the plankton were plentiful; I looked down to my hands that were surrounded by hundreds of lit up plankton, and then I looked up to the sky. It was too early for the moon and the black canvas of the sky was littered by clusters of stars. I had the stars in my hands and above my head. Distant thunder had never stopped. Lightning flashed occasionally over the water. Voices of the others, that by then had reached the shore, were nothing but buzzing sounds of delight and awe to me; I paid them no mind.

I swam until the lights in the restaurant up the hill came back on. Even as I left the water, the sense of wonder did not leave me. Perhaps it was bad of me to look back when I reached the shore, but I did; but from afar, the little lights were not to be seen anymore.

 

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