Published: May 11th 2011May 4th 2011
Best beach we have seen in Cambodia.
The pear-shaped Dutchman's gait was akin to a Parkinsonian shuffle as he navigated Serendipity Beach's promenade. The Khmer girl on his trembling arm tottered along beside him perched on brand new, too big and too high heels. Her tiny feet orbited within the pumps in sympathetic concert with her benefactor's limbs. While his pallid, hang dog countenance drooped as if he had stared at his reflection in a soup spoon until it stuck, his date's China doll head was as smooth and round as a freshly plucked apple. Her hair was cut in a Jane Fonda ala 'Klute' style. She (or he) had applied a thick smear of makeup to give her an older visage and it had worked. She could easily pass for 15 or even 16 in a pinch.
At the cafe table next to ours a Brit and his wife negotiated a drug purchase with an enterprising local dealer. Women balancing wagon wheel-sized platters of fruits and seafood on their heads wandered amongst the languid crowd making the odd sale here and there. Draped over a beach lounge, a tattooed French woman was being tended to by a posse of dark-skinned Ladies-in-Waiting who were hard at it,
How many of these ladies do you think are 18 or over?
plucking her legs, buffing her tootsies and braiding her locks while the oblivious object of their attentions toked hard on the unraveling end of a formerly fat spliff.
Sihanoukville is like a traffic accident with fatalities. Try as you might, you cannot tear your eyes away from the scene knowing that inevitably, some cop will unfold a yellow plastic blanket and bring the curtain down on the spectacle.
Karen and I hired a private car in Kampot for $25 to take us to Sihanoukville on Cambodia's coast. We had time to kill and Sihanoukville (called Snooky by the locals) seemed a better spot than Kampot as it promised a change of perspective if little else. Our jacked-up Camry and its driver showed at the appointed time and two hours later we were comfortably housed at the Orchidee Guest house (http://www.orchidee-guesthouse.com/guesthouse.htm). $28/ nite with a pedestrian breakfast included. Upper floor room with a balcony. Five minute walk to the beach at Serendipity. We write full reviews on all of our hotels at Tripadvisor.com so go there for additional info. Lesser rooms closer to the beach can be had for as little as $6/ nite. Basic fan rooms with shared
Sihanoukville is spread along 8 kilometers of beach. The best swimming beaches we have seen in Cambodia. There isn't a building here over 6 stories high. The town offers more than adequate roadways to get around on. There are plenty of Tuks should you need one but overall the town is very walkable.
We stayed near Serendipity Beach on Snooky's south side. A long stretch of sand lined with bars and restaurants standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and all serve the same food at the same price. In front of the operations are grids of padded lounges and brightly colored sun umbrellas which are free of charge as long as you are buying from the businesses behind them. The water here is stunning. A brilliant parfait of blues and aquamarines.
If you order a fruit shake or a pizza they will ask you if you want it 'Happy'. If you say yes you will find yourself ingesting approximately two grams of marijuana. This will make for a very lackadaisical afternoon punctuated by ecstatic shivers and fits of giggles. Or so I am told.
The town's tourists are comprised primarily of western Europeans and
Dozens of these ladies roam the beach with platters of what they call lobster but the 6-inch long critters look more like crawdaddy's without the claws.
Chinese businessmen making holiday from their jobs in Phnom Penh managing sweat shops. Young ,shirtless, European men wander the lanes camping out for hours in bars with an occasional break at one of the nearby 'Happy Ending' massage parlors. Northern European girls travel at night in alcohol swilling packs. They set off no earlier than 11 PM and return to their hotels about 5 AM to stumble, vomit and sleep. Restaurants in town open tables outdoors after sunset. Most of these eateries specialize in BBQ'd fish of varying degrees of freshness. Some of the red snappers we saw could have profited by cataract surgery. Two can dine for $6 excluding drinks. You will be visited by the occasional beggar. Many of these are hungry children who will ask for a portion of your meal and eat it immediately. There are a lot of unattended children here. Some peddle colored strings that they have braided into bracelets and anklets. During the day they can be found on the beach looking for sunbathers with soft hearts or unattended handbags. I was eating from a bag of candy when a small girl asked if she could have a piece. With the sweet in
Pick out a restaurant and use their chairs all day but be prepared for an endless parade of vendors and beggars stopping by to say hello.
hand she alerted every kid within shouting distance of her find and I discovered a lunch line of urchins standing at my chair before I realized what had happened.
Older western men accompanied by very young girls or boys is not an uncommon sight here. The sexual trafficking of children has been and still is a major issue in Cambodia. Occasionally there is the well publicized arrest and prosecution of a foreigner but for the most part the authorities pay little attention. In fact, some of the police are actively engaged in the brokering of children. Scenes like these are not for the faint of heart. Walking alone I have been offered everything from methamphetamine to ten-year old girls. When I am accompanied by Karen I hear nary a whisper. As such, I avoid wandering around by myself.
For the most part the Cambodians are a hospitable and gracious folk who delight in talking with visitors regarding our lives back home. What our homes are like, what we do for a living, what we think about their country. Most Khmers live well below the international poverty line. Construction sites are populated with stick-thin women who mule construction materials
A Lucky Break
This tiny baby is actually 14-months old. He's being cared for in the family of a Kiwi nurse working with her family in Cambodia. Born to a single mother who was unable to care for him he was abandoned at a Cambodian orphanage run by an NGO. They are looking for a Khmer family to adopt him.
up to brick layers and concrete mixers working on new hotels. The children of these women occupy themselves as best they can while their Moms work a 7 AM to 6 PM shift. New hotels are sprouting up daily and yet there are insufficient visitors to populate those inns already in business. Foreign companies are pouring big bucks into Cambodia towards the building of resorts.
There are plans to open the airport in Snooky to passenger carrying airlines. As of now, the only way in is by road or sea. There are a few casinos in operation but they hardly look busy. Whales do not travel by bus. Having not been in any of these gambling enterprises I have no idea what the action is like.
In our learned opinion Sihanouk is a fine stay for a few days as long as you go in with your eyes open.
Tips for travelers:
Hire a private car if you are coming from the East. The buses are unreliable and a shared taxi means that you will be crammed into an old car with seven people.
If you want to get away from it all, there are a
Met them at a local restaurant. They have a car and everything. Not your average Cambodian family.
number of private island resorts near Snooky. Karen and I went to 'Lazy Beach'. We'll cover that stay in our next entry.
Bus to Thailand. The cost is $24 one way to Bangkok. You will take a full-sized bus to the Thai border. There is a TV on the bus. You will be forced to watch and/ or listen to Cambodian Karaoke ballads the entire time. This will drive you insane. It will take 5 hours to drive the 150 miles to the Thai border. When you get off of the Cambodian bus a man will have already loaded your luggage onto his cart which he will take to the Thai border for you. He wears a cowboy hat. You will have to pay him to get your bags back. From there you will transfer to a crowded mini-van. The van will be driven for 250 miles by a teen-aged driver. He will drive at unsafe speeds. He will not use windshield wipers in rain nor turn signals in traffic nor will he speak any English. You will arrive in Bangkok much later than the time promised. You will be dropped off at Khao Son Road and not at
The area near the beach is subject to people flipping hotels and then adding additional rooms. Note the high tech supporting piers for the concrete pour to come.
the bus station. You have been advised.
There are more photos below