Arcadia: an image or idea of life that is believed to be perfect.
A noble and peaceful wilderness with bountiful natural splendour and harmony.
It is a rare thing when a long-term traveller enters a world completely unique and perfect, a place unlike anywhere they’ve been before. The longer we travel, the less impressed we are about the things we see. At the start everything was new and exciting, but then, overtime you become desensitized: a waterfall becomes just a waterfall, a museum just a museum and a temple is just a temple. Yet we continue our exploration in a quest to feel something again, to find that hidden treasure and those people who make up the perfect ingredients to form something special.
I first heard of Arcadia through a traveller, who had a revelation about Arcadia’s greatness while he was flying high in Luang Prabang, Laos. To be honest, his stoned description sounded exactly the same as all other guesthouses in SE Asia and my excitement was minimal. As days passed, the myth of Arcadia began to swell and my interest grew. Unfortunately, my itinerary didn’t have time for an additional stop in Kampot.
Leaving Koh Rong for Phnom Penh, I had a revelation of my own. As I waited for my delayed ferry, the last trip I’d take with my travel family, I knew I had to go Arcadia; largely due to my friend Nora’s persuasiveness and persistence over the past few weeks, but also because I was being drawn to the place. In that single moment, I changed my course and decided to spend just one night in Arcadia, a small detour on my way to the country’s capital city.
That one day turned into weeks.
From the moment my toes touched the sand of the driveway, I felt at home. In seconds, I had settled into life in the jungle, perched on a riverbank with squawkers (bungalow/dormitory) for home. It didn’t take us long to settle into the handcrafted dorm and common areas, each boasting water views.
Our morning ritual involved jumping off the balcony in the bar area and swimming for hours up and down the river, resting only on the pontoon positioned in the middle, with a six metre high ladder to jump off (or dive for the more skilled and brave) to get your blood pumping if you became too relaxed. The blob, Russian swing and rope swings all extended the water adventure park (again for those who aren’t accident prone), you do sign your life away at check in, so use at your own risk, but also to at your own pleasure.
The WIFI was always strong, better than I get at home in Australia. I spent days in a comfy chair writing, overlooking the water and the jungle. Stopping for the daily entertainment of watching people get flung into the air and attempting backflips for the very first time.
For those with a heart for hiking and exploration, there are guided hikes through the jungle up to a mountain top pagoda or a 14 metre waterfall. In addition to being in the perfect position to explore Kampot (Teuk Chhou) on foot or by scooter, it is also a great base to explore Kep, which is just a short scooter ride away.
Now we can get into one of the most important aspect of Arcadia: what do you eat? The simple answer: everything! Although pricier than local restaurants in Cambodia, it is also of a higher quality. The mouth-watering chicken nuggets will have me returning to that part of the world again even if they weren’t the perfect traditional Cambodian dish. If you want to save a few dollars, you can always head down the drive to the local restaurant, but just don’t skip the chicken nuggets!
And would Arcadia be arcadia without the people? Definitely not.
Although we were not staff, we were welcomed into the Arcadia family from the moment we arrived, and definitely when we left at 3 am a few weeks later. The only things that were able to drag us away were pre-booked flights to Bali and visas that had almost expired. Founded by legendary travellers, with the help of friends and family, they set up every traveller’s dream—a real life Arcadia—and on top of that are awesome human beings! A win-win right?
The rest of the team, from the local regulars like the beautiful Chanda to the awesome ring-ins made up of travellers there wasn’t a single bad apple in the lot. And there hasn’t been a single place on earth I have visited with such an amazing group of people all in the one place.
For those of the crew who were there when I stayed (you know who you are) I just have to say I love you and miss you all SOOOOO much! And yes that’s cheesy and clichéd but I really don’t give a sh$t!
All opinions are subjective to the writers personal travel experience. The writer travelled at her own expense.