Back to basics, Ten103 (Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia)


After the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh we headed back down south to re-visit the beach we fell in love with, Otres. Another three days were spent on the white sand before we took the boat to Koh Ta Kiev Island, a one-hour boat journey away.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Miss Marsh soaks up some sun whilst Joel makes one of his many desperate phone-calls to try to find a boat to come and rescue us.

Well it should have taken an hour, but unfortunately the boat’s prop came loose from the engine and before the driver could catch it, it dropped to the bottom of the ocean. So there we were, nine of us bobbing around in the middle of the ocean whilst Joel, the owner of the place we were going to stay in, spent an hour desperately trying to find a boat to come out and rescue us. Miss Marsh and Miss Hookings enjoyed lying out on the bow, whilst the boy seemed intrigued by a gas canister before becoming bored and falling asleep to the gently bobbing of the boat. Ninety minutes later and a fishing boat arrived, bundled us onto their boat, fixed a spare prop onto our boat and bundled us back onto our newly fixed vessel. All in our entire journey took 3 ½ hours, rather than the one that we had expected. However, it was worth the wait.

Ten103 is a small tree house resort, but a very basic one in terms of amenities. The island has no electricity or solar power so lighting comes in the form of candles or small torches.  The shared bathroom facilities consist of a drop toilet (hole in the ground) and a large drum full of rainwater to wash with. There are no flush toilets, showers, hot water, lights, wifi or any of the amenities that we often take for granted. The kitchen doesn’t even have a fridge. Large blocks of ice, collected daily from the mainland, are the only way of keeping the food and beverages cool and the superb Italian cooking (daily home baked bread, home made pasta, roasted fish etc) is all cooked on one gas ring and in a traditional outdoor bread oven.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

The communal bathroom with rainwater bucket to wash with. A scoop is provided to pour the water over your head. This really is back to basics living!

Some people may not be comfortable taking their baby into this environment, but after we spent a week at ecovallee, France, back in June when ‘the boy’ was 9 months old we knew that we would have no problems. Ecovallee is a beautiful eco resort nestled in the stunning countryside of the Dordogne. The inspirational owners, Claire and Alex, left their fast paced life of the London advertising world, bought a piece of land in France and with a lot of hard graft have turned it into an eco lovers dream. There are two yurts, an open-air kitchen and true to its eco ethos has an outdoor shower, drop toilet and no electricity.  We absolutely loved our time there and ‘the boy’ adapted to his new environment with no problems. Bath time for him was in a washing up bowl on the grass, his high chair was perched under the kitchen canopy overlooking the horse and the chickens in the field below and even though the weather was a bit unpredictable during our stay with a lot of unexpected rain, he adapted perfectly well then, so we had no doubt that he would adapt again for this new adventure.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' entertains 'the girls'

For most, the Cambodian island is a real getaway. The perfect time to relax, read a few books and get away from hectic daily life. For us though, with a baby in tow, this type of environment has the opposite affect.  We managed to ‘baby proof’ our tree house by turning a table on it’s side and jamming it into entrance of the wooden hut, but the communal areas, having understandably not been designed with children in mind, were full of hazards. The wooden decks and platforms that were covered in comfortable chairs and cushions were open sided with ten-foot drops on most sides. Consequently the relaxation areas were the least relaxing places for mummy and daddy. And with ‘the boy’s’ new love of climbing ramps being his favourite pastime we nervously watched repeatedly as he clambered up and down the boards linking the living areas.

Aside from keeping a watchful eye on ‘the boy’ it was an amazing experience. One day we took a hike through the jungle to the other side of the island. The beach was beautiful and we were the only people on it.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Our open air tree house overlooking the sea

On New Years Eve the girls headed back to the mainland to hit the party scene, but we decided to stay on the island to celebrate in more understated fashion. A huge meal was prepared by Joel, which we ate together by candlelight before heading to the beach for a bonfire and fireworks. It was at this point that we left and headed back to our tree house. In Asia there is a lack of understanding as to the damage that can be caused by fireworks and after a couple of rockets had been thrown carelessly around the beach by the locals who worked at Ten103, we decided we didn’t want to risk being in the firing line and opted to call it a night and celebrate NYE at 7am the next morning, midnight UK time.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

New Years Eve dinner by candlelight

Ko Ka Tiev is a stunningly natural place, but unfortunately, as with Otres beach, the island has already been sold to a developer. Nobody, including Joel who owns the lease to Ten103, can be sure how long the island’s natural beauty will be preserved for. I hope many others can enjoy the experience before it’s too late.

Top tip of the day:
If you’re staying somewhere with no electricity and have an iphone, download the ‘torch’ app. It’s surprisingly bright and in addition to a torch is very useful in the night if you have to get up for teething troubles

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Ten103 social area looking over the sea

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' gets to know the staff

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Joel and Johan with the ladies and 'the boy'

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

New years eve menu - it was delicious

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