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Published: October 23rd 2010
After ten days in Siem Reap seeing ancient temples and learning about life, it’s highs and lows, we set off for Sihanoukville in the south. Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s number one seaside destination and offers.. yep you guessed it.. a chance to dive in Cambodian waters.
We stayed in the Occheuteal Beach area in a nice hotel which was just a five minute walk from the backpackery area of Serendipity Beach. One of the first things we noticed was just how much development is going on, I’m not sure you’d find anywhere to stay that wasn’t within earshot of banging, clanging and sawing. We even saw what looked like a grouting party on the floor of a bar next to the beach. There must have been ten or so people, women, men and children each with a pot and spatula doing their piece.
The second thing we noticed was the amount of rubbish; in between shops, restaurants and along some of the roads. The port was the worst, looking like a landfill (made worse by the recent storms). In fact, whilst we were discussing this over dinner, as if on cue, a rat ran passed not 2m away.
Building works next to our hotel
which kindly woke us up before 7am most days. There was a boy (around 15) who was bare foot, swinging around these wooden poles with a hammer one day, three storeys up. Really worrying.
third thing is the constant barrage of hawkers trying to sell you bracelets, massages, fireworks, pedicures, manicures, hair removal etc etc, none of whom take no for an answer. On the last night we wanted to watch the sun go down on the beach. For the first half an hour I had a woman massaging my leg, another my back and three children sitting by my feet trying to get me to buy something from them, despite us saying No too many times to count. By the end I succumbed to three bracelets and a back massage. Eventually we were left alone, by which point the sun and the mood for beach drinks had gone.
Now, this has given a pretty bad impression of the place and to be honest that was our first impression too. However, as we stayed a little bit longer and even extended our trip by a couple of days we started to see past the bad and focus on the beautiful beaches, which are beautiful. The day of diving was good, cloudy seas and bad weather cannot be blamed on anyone, but the service and friendliness of the people were second to none. We
Steve on the dive boat
with Nero behind, she works for the dive company but lives on Koh Rong.
went out for a couple of post diving bevvies (ask any diver - no day of diving is complete without it) and met a few of the local ex pats, all of whom love the place and have nothing but good things to say about it.
After a five day beachy treat we hopped on a bus to Phnom Penh where sadly one of Steve’s walking boots have taken a hike and was no where to be seen on arrival. Trying to firstly find out if the boot was found in Sihanoukville, secondly trying to explain that we don’t think that anyone has stolen it and thirdly trying to get a lost property form for our insurance was all a PAIN IN THE foot. Ah well, it’s not like they didn’t lead a well trodden and travelled life. We just hope that the boot is happy and enjoying retirement on a lovely beach somewhere .
Today we zoomed 20km out of town on a tuk tuk to a shooting range to have a go with an AK-47. This is the quickest and most fun way to spend lots of money. We were good though and shared just one
On the way to our dive site, Koh Rong.
magazine, unlike the fellow Mancunian who spent over $2000 the day before. You can hire many different guns; M4s, AK-47s, M16s, Uzis and bazookas to name a few. We heard from the tuk tuk driver that you can go into the hills and pay to have live targets such as a cow for the bazooka! We opted for the more humane target, a man (printed on paper). Wrong in so many ways, but soooo much fun.
Tomorrow we head off on our Vietnamese adventure after a wonderful trip to Cambodia. This country has touched my heart in so many ways; I’ve learnt about the history, the reasons why a once thriving country is now so poor and why children still have parents but yet live in orphanages. I have a mixture of sadness and awe when I see people who are just a little older than me, who have seen such atrocities in their life, still smile and laugh. This is the reason why you cannot get annoyed at the sound of development, the odd pile of rubbish and the majority of hawkers.
It’s made us realise how immensely lucky we are at home.
Lots of love
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