|Me and Adam were out drinking for our last night in Siem Reap and so were feeling a little groggy when we were waiting for the bus to pick us up at 6am. Ahead of us lay an uncomfortable journey of 12 hours to Sihanoukville, which involved a change of buses in Phnom Penh. The buses themselves were not too bad, but after a number of hours the seats started to become decidedly uncomfortable and we were very relieved when we arrived and were taken by motorbike to a guesthouse on the beach.
Sihanoukville is the main beach resort of Cambodia and is not very famous unless you have been to Cambodia. Certainly if someone asked you to list three things about Cambodia the beach would not normally be one of them, that is assuming you had enough grographical knowledge to know that Cambodia was on the sea at all. The place is a little what I imagined Thailand to be like 20 years ago. Leaving aside the main town which is standard the most action happens along a massive, beautiful sandy beach, which is bordered with a large number of restaurant and accommodation shacks. Weed is openly smoked here and the authorities turn such a blind eye to it some places have large signs out front advertising the sale of "happy pancakes" and the like. Certainly it is the only place I know in the world where you can go into a restaurant and roll a massive joint with stuff you have bought elsewhere and all the people working there will do is give you a menu and an ashtray! In Thailand you would be arrested and probably jailed for a year.
A downside of the beach are the number of beggars and the number of people selling you stuff. It is common to see men with one or both legs missing propelling them along the beach with their hands to your table to beg for money. Then there are mothers with babies and small children trying to sell you bracelets. The children know excellent English for their age and extremely pushy when trying to sell their products, often resorting to jokey banter and taking the piss to try and make a sale. We did catch one of them though trying to steal something out of Adam's bag while it was on the table in front of us, so our opinion of them fell after that.
The place me and Adam were staying in was quite interesting. The hippie overtones were pretty heavy and there was even a rule list up stating, among other things, that all drugs other then MaryJ would not be tolerated - certainly the people behind the bar seemed to deal and it was as easy to buy weed as a beer or food. The rooms left a lot to be desired though. For $4 each a night we each had a tiny room that consisted of plywood walls and door, an old mattress with a mossie net that barely fitted it and some very dodgily wired electrics. After two days the light in Adams room stopped working and when he told the managers they clearly couldnt care less. Also when the couple next door were having sex the floor would rise and fall, making it seem as though an earthquake was going on!!
Anyway we checked in, got chatting to a stoned Canadian guy at the bar who started chatting about he came here first 3 years ago and how "commerical" it all was now. Then we headed down the beach to check out the nightlife, seeing as how we were located right at the top end away from most of the bars and restaurants. Completely by chance we ran into the two Irish girls (Aoife and Jane) and the Scottish girl (Kathrine) that we had previously met in Siem Reap and so we joined them for the night. Nowhere on the beach was very lively due to the stoner nature of the place and as me and Adam had eaten happy pancakes before wandering down the beach it wound up being a chilled out, if slightly messy evening.
I slept in for most of the following day and was not totally up and fully functioning until the sun was starting to set! Talk about wasting a day. Not that there was a huge amount to do anyway and the sunset was really nice. I met up with Adam and we had some excellent cheap food at a beachfront restaurant before meeting up with the girls again for more drinks and chilling. We did venture into town to one of the clubs briefly but the music was appalling so we left after just one drink.
This place really reminded me of Koh Samui, with all of the beachfront restaurants and bars; although the prices were a fraction of Thailand. For just $4 on the second night I had a bbq meal of various types of fresh seafood and two beers while sitting at a table on the beach, listening to the waves. In Thailand that would have cost me $12 at least!
Monday (the next day) was St Patricks Day and the girls had decided to dress up as the Irish flag with each one being a different colour, then we would all head off to the Irish bar in town. It was a sound idea, however it went a little wrong when me and Adam wandered down the beach only to find the girls on their second happy milkshake each! They didnt realise how strong they were and soon all three were completely stoned and not going anywhere, so the night finished quite early.
Kathrine sadly left early the following morning for home and we were destined not to run into the two Irish girls much again in the future. Me and Adam spent the day looking for somewhere new to live as the novelity of the beach shack had well and truely worn off and was now becoming quite nasty. After a while we found somewhere that was close to, but not actually on the beach for just $6 a night. This did give us an ensuite bathroom, actual bed and actual walls though so we were happy.
The evening involved a lot of pool playing and drinking/getting stoned in different bars before we ended up in a place with some of the most random people you can imagine. There was an extremely stoned Norwegian guy who was about 40 and looked like a nordic stereotype, an Essex girl of about 30 dancing round to the early 90s English dance music that was playing and telling everyone that it was "wicked tune, init", then there was the large bald English owner with his older Thai wife, a mildly agressive American guy and a couple of locals. It was a slightly strange evening.
The following day I went onto the internet for several hours while Adam hung out with the Irish girls who he had bumped into on the beach. Afterwards me and Adam did what we usually did and played a lot of pool, drank a lot of beer and smoked some weed. In the evening we headed out to a bar/club called Utopia, which as the name suggests was another chilled out venu. There we continued our minor pool obcession, playing several random people and ended up chatting to the barpeople at the bar and the owner. Apparently the place used to be situated on the beach but got bulldozed down due to a dispute over property rights and all of the places that currently exist on the beach are due to be removed and rebuilt this year as well. Apparently Cambodia has one of the highest rates of corruption of any country in the world! Anyway it was an excellent night and we eventually staggered home slightly the worse for wear.
I would like to say that I did something different other then hang around on the beach and play pool for my final day, but that would be a lie. I had been debating doing a tour out to Bamboo Island but never got round to it somehow. Adam managed to lose his bankcard and so only had a few dollars left to his name for a while, so he got a job at one of the bars starting that evening. It was another enjoyable chilled out night.
I had really enjoyed my time on the beach. True, I did not really see or do anything over the 6 days I was there, but it was still a place I could have spent longer in. I had one big regret in that I could not go to the Full Moon Party that was being organised for two days time one one of the islands. It sounded great.