Published: March 13th 2013March 13th 2013
After Siem Reap, I took two long bus journeys lasting 13 hours altogether to get down to Sihanoukville for some beach time. There are three beaches in town and I stayed on Serendibity Beach, which is a favorite hang out of backpackers. The beach itself isn’t the best beach in the world, though the water is fairly clean and clear. But the beach is lined with restaurants and bars, and has a very chilled out atmosphere.
Most Cambodians do not say too much against the government as they’re afraid. Not so the three Cambodian metal heads I had a few beers with on the beach. They were covered in tattoos and confessed their love of Metallica, Korn and Foo Fighters. I liked them immediately. They had a tattoo shop but played in a metal band in their spare time (very rare in Cambodia) and these guys were angry. They were surprisingly well informed in politics and were angry at their government. “Why does Hun Sen sign multi-million dollar projects with the Vietnamese and sell all our land to the Chinese tells me that I can’t get an education and have to work 12 hours a day for little money for the rest of my life?” the lead singer declared (though admittedly in slightly more broken English). He had a point of course. The corruption was everywhere. A simple example is that the government sold ticketing rights for Angkor Wat and the S21 prison to a private Vietnamese businessmen a few years ago. These belong to the people, are not for private sale, but it doesn’t stop the government. Together, they bring in an estimated $50m a year. When you consider that the entire education budget of Cambodia in 2012 was around $250m, you can see the difference that kind of money can make. Either way, I hope their anger and bravery spreads to the younger generation and they start demanding their rights with more conviction. Cambodians are so humble, probably because they’ve had so much suffering for three decades that they’re just happy to be left alone for a while, they don’t speak out too much.
Not much else in Sihanoukville and I doubt I'd return for anything other than to see lack of police presence and a lot of backpackers.