Sunday, 31 March 2013

Monkey's burning, fetch the engines, FIRE FIRE, pour on water...shit, there's no water!!

Today I awoke with the comings of a cold and generally just didn’t feel too great, felt a little off/weird. We checked out and we were going to head to the beach but for some reason I just didn’t feel like it, so decided to stay back at Monkey in the restaurant blogging, looking after our bags while Maura headed off to the beach. 

Good job I did really, maybe it was fate, as 3 sentences into my blog post, one of the staff manically asked me to move so she could switch off the electricity, I thought nothing of this - until people came running from the bungalows out the back with all their bags. The Cambodian staff were all shouting ‘bungalow! Bungalow!’ and calling someone on their phones – it looked like they were chasing the guys with the backpacks and so I thought, oh, someone hasn’t paid or something. 

Moments later more people were coming through with backpacks and someone even had got all their stuff into a bedsheet and was carrying it across the road. A small crowd had gathered outside, the Cambodian staff were running around mentally, screaming at each other. I got up to see what the fuss was about and someone started screaming ‘Fire! Bungalow 18 is on fire! Everyone out! Out now!’ Being that I had a load of stuff out, and 2 peoples bags to carry, I started to panic a little. I moved the stuff onto the pavement thinking that would be enough as most people were just sitting on the benches outside...until they started bringing out all the gas canisters from the kitchen and practically tearing the place apart to save what they could. That’s when everyone realised this was some serious fire! And to make matters worse, no-one could do anything as there was a water shortage – we’d been out of water for 2 days now so they couldn’t even try to tame the fire. 

So we all pegged it across the road to the other resorts. I first carried all the small bags over and then turned back to get the bigger bags when I noticed how serious it actually was – the dive shop next door was completely alight and there was thick black smoke and flames coming from the back of Monkey Republic. 

So I then pegged it across to grab the bigger backpacks, nearly broke my back through the weight of them and pelted it across the road, the heat of the blaze was now hot enough to feel on your skin. People had begun to take all their belongings out from their shops and guesthouses – they’d pretty much begun to evacuate the whole of our side of the road so there were tons of backpackers around with all their luggage (or what they could save of it – one lot came out with bedsheets filled with it as there was no time to pack – one guy came out with the security safe from the room as there was no time to unlock it!) plus all the belongings, table and chairs etc from all the shops and guesthouses, plus a very large crowd, and panicked Cambodians all on the street! 

The laundry shop next door to us had emptied all their racks and washing machines from their shop – unfortunately it was also their home, and minutes later it too went up in flames. The fire crew came but ran out of water before they could get it under control, so it all just re-ignited again, and because everything was wood, thatched roofs, and it was baking hot, it just spread like wildfire, and before you knew it several buildings along the strip were on fire, there were explosions going off from all the gas canisters they couldn’t get out in time, and it was just pure chaos – there was no police presence until it was almost over and the fire crew had to go off to get more water, and the water truck that was supposed to deliver us some water allowance today, picked up the slack! 

People had even begun to throw bottled water onto the buildings, but, as you may guess, this didn’t help one bit! Maura had come back from the beach by this point and found me across the road. The guys with us were from the bungalow next door to the one which started the fire and said they came out before even the people in the alight bungalow came out, so people were pretty lucky to escape! 

Then some more explosions started and we all decided it was far safer to go further up the road as if anything blew, we’d be the first to set alight! So we grabbed our stuff and legged it – along with a whole crowd of other backpackers who decided to do the same thing – the heat from the fires by now was scorching – while tackling the crowds of onlookers who were all filming and taking pictures. 

Then all we could do was watch, as almost 7 buildings were completely gutted by the fire, and as the Cambodians all panicked (by now even people on the other side of the road were gutting their businesses in case the fire came their way, even though it never would – making the situation worse for the fire brigade as all their stuff was piled high in the streets – they seriously need to learn fire safety and how to deal with emergencies!) 

Eventually the police showed up and tried to cordon off the area, and they managed to get the fire under control, and it was then just a whole street of smoking wood. Monkey had nothing left other than the concrete foundations, so sad! We were the last people to stay there – and thank god we had checked out that morning! The Big Easy up the road were taking in Monkey and Mick and Craig stayers and we all had to register our names to check everyone was accounted for. 

While here we met a group and two girls who had been on the beach and didn’t get back in time – they’d lost EVERYTHING to the fire. Luckily one of the guys’ suitcases they’d managed to find when they started searching through the rubble later on, it was pretty charred but mostly intact – very lucky! He proceeded to wear his burnt t-shirt all day as a reminder! 

Then we pretty much just spent the day milling around the Big Easy, until our scheduled night bus came to take us away from the charred mess of Serendipity beach and onto Battambang (pronounced Battombong) via a change in Phnom Penh at 12.30am. See us in Battambang ya’ll! Phew, what a drama-filled and exhausting day it had been! Can’t believe the legendary Monkey, a place that’d come to feel like home, is gone. A business lost, jobs lost and homes lost too. R.I.P.

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