My spouse and I each took one direction of the narrow footpath that ran through the trees along the coast of Rabbit Island Cambodia. We were checking to see if any hikers, or local fishermen heading home from the day’s catch were walking in our direction. Once we had established that the coast was clear — literally — I stripped down to take some pictures and enjoy a few moments of the intense southern Cambodian winter sun on my ass.
We had come to Rabbit Island for some much-needed relaxation time. This would amount to only 24 hours due to work my need for internet in order to work, so the next day would see us back on the mainland, where I could connect. But I digress. Rabbit Island is a little thumb of wooded hills that jut out of the Gulf of Thailand about a 20 minute long-boat ride from the coastal village of Kep. Human life exists at a little settlement on the main beach and some fishermen huts spread along the coastal trail. The interior harbors snakes, birds, trees and little else. It is an ideal spot to “get away from it all”. And one of the things I wanted to get away from was the wearing of clothes.
Nudism doesn’t rest easily in the cultures of Cambodia and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Penalties for public nudity include jail time and fines. And for foreigners, deportation. Even toplessness is considered indecent for men and women alike though it is not so strict for the masculine gender. And taking nude photos, regardless of the circumstances, is considered pornography.
And so Phnom Penh, the capital, had offered no opportunity for nudity other than in the comfort of bed at the house of my non-nudist Couchsurfing host. I felt sure that on a sparsely populated island, I would discover a place to bare myself. But for such an uncrowded place, there were a lot of people. A stream of day trippers had arrived and were making the 2 hour trek around the island creating and endless parade of eyes.
Of course, Cambodia has not always been a nation of “prudes”. In very short order on a visit to Angkor Wat or other historic temple complexes, one comes across many representative figures of nude or half-nude men and women. Additionally, sacrifice is offered to the Hindu god Shiva at a Shiva lingam, which is a stone representation of vagina and phallus. And while in the present, Buddhism is the predominate religious flavor, Cambodia’s Khmer roots are Hindu. How does a society get from worshiping at the symbol of a dick to the current attitudes towards nudity? Perhaps it arrived with the inhibitions of colonial France. Or more likely, Cambodian’s natural inclination to modesty and humility — traits which make this country so fantastic to visit — bleeds through to all aspects of life and society.
Rabbit Island Cambodia – Amazing journey
Despite being clothed, I had a fantastic time in Cambodia in general and Rabbit Island in particular. I’ve shared some pictures below to help you understand why I found this place so magical.