The period is really strange, and the atmosphere is morose, almost depressing. Only a few weeks passed since ISIS's attacks in Paris on November 13. The medias and the government are talking on a loop about the investigations, the state of emergency, the increase of military troops deployed in main cities and the very high level of threat. Thinking about something else is a very complicated task.
In this context, every Sunday afternoon, we got into the habit of meeting with Morgane and Antoine, two of our closest friends. Morgane and Lorraine met at school a few years back, we got very close when they moved in an apartment located only minutes away from ours. We see each other 2, sometimes 3 times a week, after work (when Lorraine doesn’t finish after 10pm), for a drink, a diner, every occasion is good to meet. We even shared some holidays. The first time was a surprise trip to Greece for Morgane’s birthday. The extended weekend went so well that we decided to do it again a few months later for a trip to Majorca. We always stuck to the same kind of schedule, with one part of the trip together, and split at the end, it is a good mix between enjoying friends and have holidays as a couple.
On this Sunday afternoon, we are playing home, bought candies and cookies, Morgane and Antoine brought a cake and some drinks. Morgane, probably tired of losing at Mario Kart needed a break, so we chose Mario Party as the main activity. Clearly, the aim is to empty our minds of any kind of concerns. We are finishing the first game in a family atmosphere, as always with them. Everyone is having fun and is relaxed; Morgane is a bit upset of losing, despite her repeated attempts to cheat, but tries to hide it. It is time to refill; as soon as the game ends, everyone rushes to the table and grabs whatever they want (or can). Not that we waited for that break to stuff ourselves with the snacks, but it is now the proper time so no one hesitates. Lorraine - always a bit more responsible than the rest of us - already starts to set up the next game and choses a board made of paradise beaches, turquoise waters and little huts.
-Whaaaaaaat?? I’m not quite done yet! Goes Antoine, in a desperate attempt to grab another piece of cake.
Koopa, Mario’s green turtle friend greets us from a little hut and explains us the rules of this game.
-Hey Renaud! That’s our beach bar in Cambodia!
-Sure Lorraine, what on earth is that nonsense again? Replies Morgane, amused, but with a hint of suspicion. Lorraine immediately smells a brand new opportunity of driving her crazy.
-Well, we decided we are going to leave Paris and open a bar on a beach in Camb…
-What?? F**k! No Way! You guys stay in Paris. You STAY, RIGHT, HERE. And if you need the beach, jump in a train to Normandy!
-Don’t worry my Momo, we’ll reserve you a bungalow or something.
-Yeah, right, eat your candies and start the game.
According to Lorraine’s smile, Morgane’s reaction was at least what she expected.
The first round of the game is very silent, like no one really knows what to say. Antoine breaks the silence between two sips of lemonade.
-But, by the way, why Cambodia?
-What? Are you serious???? Shut up! Don’t encourage them! Goes Morgane with a falsely angry look. I would never miss an occasion to annoy her so I jump in the conversation.
-Well, based on my research, Cambodia is a country where a foreigner can own 100% of its company, it is developing fast, and there are lots of businesses for sale at a fair price.
Morgane slowly turns to me and I can feel a bit of fear in her eyes.
-Really? I mean, you really did some research? Like, for real?
-Well, I have quite a lot of free time at work those days so it keeps me busy to look at this kind of things.
-Yes, I see, but you’re not serious, right?
-I don’t know, to be honest, it mainly made us want to go for a vacation, it sounds like a very cool country with a lot of cultural points of interests, nice places to relax, beautiful beaches, and it is quite cheap, too.
The conversation starts to stray into our next holiday destination, and before the end of this game, everyone approves the idea that we would go together to Cambodia, on the condition that we manage to align our schedules to find suitable dates for everyone. I warn everyone right away, clearly; given my amount of work and my current motivation, it won’t be a problem for me.
We’re meeting two weeks later at Morgane and Antoine’s place; this time, no game, but still a generous amount of decadent treats, Antoine, as a developer, loves technological novelties and equipped his apartment with the newest technologies. Their TV is connected to Internet and enables us to share our laptops screens so everyone can see it; very practical when preparing a trip as a small group.
Everybody did their homework quite seriously, and we managed to take a decision on the dates. Lorraine and Morgane were the most complicated to confirm, their schedules depending on projects or important milestones coming in the next weeks. We’re going to leave for two weeks and a half at the beginning of March, the end of high season in Cambodia. The weather would be a bit warmer than January or February (which isn’t a problem for us to celebrate the end of winter), but prices are slightly lower; and anyway, we don’t really have a choice, Morgane, as a negotiator for a big supermarket chain, ends her renegotiation season last day of February, and Lorraine will be assigned to a new client at the end of march.
We all have taken a look at what we would like to visit during our stay, and the program is easy to set, or at least the stages, the time frame is a bit more complicated. We agree Siem Reap will be the highlight, with the visit of Angkor, but we also want to spend some time on the seaside to relax and a few days in Phnom Penh for the historical part. We don’t want to spend too much time in Phnom Penh as our research doesn’t show much things to do, so we decide to arrive directly to Siem Reap, stay for 5 days, rent a taxi to go to Phnom Penh, spend there a full day and 2 nights, then take another car and head south to Sihanoukville, a small city on the coast with nice hotels and the main port to go to Koh Rong island and its little sister Koh Rong Samloem. We’ll finish the trip with a short flight back to Siem Reap for a last night before we head back to reality. The main idea of the trip was to chill so we will be staying about 8 days in the south and basically split when we arrive there. One week all together for the cultural part and another on our own, the perfect balance in our opinion. Enjoying quality time with friends and then just the two of us.
The schedule is almost set when Morgane shares some doubts
-Isn’t 8 days a bit too long for the beach?
Antoine clearly doesn’t share the same opinion and as I know Lorraine and I really need to have some time to relax, I defend the schedule:
-Well, there is Sihanoukville, then 2 islands so it should keep us busy I guess.
Lorraine, trying to stay serious choses a different strategy
-Well, I think we need at least 2/3 days per location to study the market, the real estate, maybe the suppliers etc.
-Ohhh Come on!! You’re not done with that bullshit?
Morgane is really easy to upset and we have a new favorite topic to reach that goal easily.