Jenny\'s Southeast Asia/China Adventure

Travel time: February - June 2004  |  by Jenny Chu

Cambodia: Sihanoukville

Saturday, 3/26/04
Day 52, Beach Bound!

In the Toyota Camry to Sihanoukville this morning: the driver, two couples sharing shotgun, Anna, me, another couple and their child in the back. Total Count: 8.

The sun was shining brightly, and the sky was a pretty blue with few clouds in sight. Absent was the haze that characterized many skylines in Laos and Thailand due to slash and burn. Cambodians luckily seemed to abstain from this disastrous practice.

I was in a good mood and happy to be traveling on a nicely paved road for the three-hour ride to Cambodia's premier beach destination. When we arrived in Sihanoukville, we shopped around for some decent accommodation and settled on a $8 dollar room (our most expensive yet) a few minutes walk from the beach. Traveling on a tight schedule, our time so far in Cambodia has been filled with early morning awakenings and long hours spent on the road. Needless to say, we were ready to relax and do absolutely nothing except eat, drink, sleep and be merry.

We headed to Sihanoukville's Serendipity beach and sat down in comfy beach chairs situated right in front of the many bamboo shacks that offered fruit shakes and other goodies. Jumping into the Gulf of Thailand, we were shocked to find that it was the same temperature as a warm bath! For the next few hours my day consisted of taking turns between short swim, or rather I should say, floating in the water and soaking in the rays. I liked the beach, it wasn't spectacularly beautiful like Thailand, but it had a nice pleasant vibe and was not overly developed. Yet.

Since the beach was sparsely populated by other beach-goers, it was our bad luck that a child pedophile decided to sit next to us. He was in his late 30's perhaps, and soon he had a group of young Khmer girls crowding him, none who were close to the age of consent. He treated them to food, drinks, a ride on a banana boat, and later told one of them that he would take her to dinner under the stars. Anna and I wanted to puke especially when we heard figures being casually thrown out. We were saddened by the reality that S.E. Asia remains a sexual playground for some twisted individuals.

On a happier note, I ran into my favorite Dutch girls, Kris and Lein. Nopes, I'm not even surprised anymore of our random encounters. Kris and Lein had been here a day already, and planning to leave on Monday for Vietnam. That got me to thinking that perhaps I should join up them and do the same. We all wanted to head to Vietnam via a land border crossing 25 km north of Chau Doc, located in the Mekong Delta. A little internet sleuthing was done in the afternoon and later when I met up with them again we agreed on the game plan: find a taxi to take us to the border ($47), hop on a taxi to the Tranh Tra Hotel where we could sign up for a tour of the Mekong Delta and finally arrive in Saigon (where I would meet my cousin Carolyn at the Sheraton!). Although their guesthouse owner told them our plan was stupid and would backfire, my intuition told me that this recently opened border crossing for foreigners would be a-ok. Well, we shall see.

That evening, Anna and I ate a good meal seaside, which was filled with the soft-glow of many candles placed on little wooden tables lining the beach. It was Saturday night, but there wasn't much going on. Initially in a party mood, I happily sank into the serenity that surrounded me. Later, we moved to the Sandy Bar, where we had a drink while enjoying the fire-tricks being performed by one of the bar girls and other beach revelers.

Sunday, 3/28/04
Day 53, Last day in Cambodia

This morning, Anna and I changed into a gueshouse that was cheaper and closer to the beach(Sea View Lodge$5/double). We then headed to the beach where we started out with a fruit salad bought from a little girl who was selling the tropical fruits up and down the beach. As we ate our breakfast, a group of kids many whom we had met yesterday, crowded around us and began their routine sales pitch.

"You buy from me."
"You promised."

They were cute, smart, and friendly (well except for a boy who gave me a mean F#$k you when I wouldn't buy anything) and reminiscent of the crafty sales kids from Angkor. We thought we were doing the right thing by buying stuff. But, later when I met up with Kris and Lein, I learned from them that buying things actually deters the kids from having a bright future. The more tourists buy, the more these young vendors become dependant on selling things on the beach, thus skipping out on school. Many are also addicted to sniffing-glue. While it costs money to buy supplies for schools, uniforms, there is a charity in Sihanoukville that feeds, clothes and provides education to street kids who promise to stay off the beach and be drug-free. No kid is turned away. Rather then buying things, tourists can do better good by donating to this charity, M'lop Tapang. Or find out how to help by visiting Uncle Bob's a restaurant located on Serendipity Beach. Learning about the street children made me realize that a lot is involved in being a responsible tourist. From discovering what is eco-friendly to what is socially responsible takes time and effort, but I definitely will try to be better educated for my next trip.

Anyhow, in the afternoon a girl from the Sandy beach and I walked along the beach passing out flyers Anna made for a party that night at the Sandy Bar. The sisters from Sandy Bar were friendly, and we thought it would be fun to help them out. My stint as a party promoter, however, was somewhat short-lived. While I covered up my bikini with a sarong, I was still drawing stares from many Khmers who dress conservatively even at the beach. I was starting to feel uncomfortable, and headed back to Sandy Bar with some flyers still in hand. A blonde wearing a bikini would hardly get double-takes(unless of course she is a looker =P), but being an Asian traveler, means that I have to pretty much adopt to the local dress standards. But, I don't mind as I've discovered that I often can bargain harder with my small almond eyes . Btw, I am three for three (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia) for getting you look "Same. Same." I wonder if I get a " Same? Same? in Vietnam as well. =)

Back at the Sandy Bar, Anna and I decided to start our last night together in Cambodia with a Happy Pizza. On this beach you can get pizza, "happy pizza", or "extra-happy pizza" (don't get me wrong, I'm no pot-head, but I do believe that when in Rome do as the Romans do, haha). We washed down our veggie happy pizza with a bucket of Mekong Whiskey and Coke shared by Kris and Lein who now joined us. The happy pizza was not as strong as I thought, but it did make me hungry enough to order dinner french fries and fried rice.

Well the flyer did its job and by sunset, the Sandy Bar was full of Western tourists. Our group of four grew bigger as other travelers came to share laughter and conversation. Up ahead, the night sky was lighted up by hundreds of stars and the temperature was absolutely perfect with just the right amount of ocean breeze. Such a lovely night.

Walking back to our guesthouse, I was sad to end my last night in Cambodia, a country I never expected to love so much in the twelve days that I have spent here. As always, good things must come to and end. Fortunately, another chapter of my adventure begins tomorrow as I cross the border into Vietnam!

© Jenny Chu, 2004
You are here : Overview Asia Cambodia Sihanoukville
The trip
Follow my travels through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China..........
Start of journey: Feb 02, 2004
Duration: 4 months
End of journey: Jun 02, 2004
Travelled countries: Asia
The Author
Jenny Chu is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 20 years.
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