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Ream Dreams: A Farewell to Monkey Maya

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Ream Dreams: A Farewell to Monkey Maya

Ream Dreams: A Farewell to Monkey Maya

This little slice of paradise is the latest casualty of “development” in Cambodia’s national parks.

Tucked away behind Sihanoukville Airport once lay one of the most magical places in Cambodia.

To get there you would have to travel down a few pothole-filled roads and a wooden bridge that made even the most experienced drivers pause before crossing it.

But when your eyes hit that beach and you spotted the balcony perched up a hill overlooking the sea, you realised it was completely worth the journey.

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While the similarly-named Mad Monkey chain is geared towards partying backpackers, Monkey Maya in Ream National Park had a very different vibe.

The moment you got there you could feel the stress of everyday life slip away as you overlooked the ocean, sipping a drink and cuddling up to one of the wonderful furry friends who called Monkey Maya home.

With its own private beach, a handful bungalows and a dorm, Monkey Maya was the perfect combination of beachside isolation; with limited electricity and hot water and creature comforts of balcony views of the sea and absolutely amazing food.

Things to do? Well not a lot really, but that was kind of the point.

The most enjoyable times I had there amidst the nighttime skinny dips with the fluorescent plankton, the boat trips to Koh Ta Kiev and the jungle walks, was when my friends and I were methodically eating our way through the food menu before curling up in one their massive rattan chairs and drifting off as the sound of the sea sent me to sleep.

The whole experience was always so soothing and cathartic that it felt more like some kind of retreat rather than a beachside getaway. It was no wonder the acquaintances I went there with soon became close friends, whiling away afternoons of chatting, napping, drinking, giggling and swimming.

Ream 3

The managers, Sandro, Magnus and Mel, among others, were always so wonderful and helpful and friendly that by the end of your stay they felt like family. They would go out of their way to make sure you were having the best time you could, helping with bus tickets and taxis and boat trips.

Sadly, the journey to Monkey Maya held a portent of its future.

Passing through the jungle to Ream beach, travellers pass through a large clearing along the dirt road, beholding a large Chinese resort town under construction, so vast in its size, scope and contrast to Monkey Maya, it’s almost laughable if it wasn’t in a “National Park” and a sign of things to come.

Like most of Cambodia’s coastline, the development of Ream beach has been something of an inevitability. The land has been owned by Chinese developers for some time and it was always question of when, not if, it was Ream’s turn to see the concrete and steel strip away the jungle and isolation and bring it in to stark modernity.

And now that time has come.

Earlier last month the owners and managers of Monkey Maya gave the beach one final send off, before slipping away, surely before the bulldozers and cranes started to arrive, knowing it would be agony to witness. We asked Mel and Sandro for their thoughts, but they could not find the words.

Ream’s sale to developers is but one of hundreds along Cambodia’s coast, where families and communities have had their livelihoods destroyed for the sake of economic and tourism development, from Koh Kong to Otres.

And while a guesthouse might seem small in the grand scheme of things, judging by the comments and photos that were always shared on social media, it’s clear Ream and Monkey Maya held a special place in a lot of people’s hearts.

To see such a quiet and beautiful corner of Cambodia snatched away delivers that oh-so-Cambodian heartbreak that makes you question why you’re here and what’s the point.

But I will always have my memories of those times drifting off to sleep on that balcony, listening to the sounds of the sea.

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