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March 11th 2011
Published: March 11th 2011
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Wednesday March 9th, 2011

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

A relatively young city, Sihanoukville was built when Cambodia lost the use of the Mekong River ports during the Vietnam War. We found the people of Cambodia to be friendly and hardworking, although the economy seems to be struggling. When we came off the ship we were inundated with a throng of hawkers wanting to provide services. Some were quite strident and we had to push our way through the crowd. Like running the gauntlet, it was too much for some of the other passengers and they returned to the safety of the shuttle bus. Once clear of the main rush, I began negotiating for a Tuk-Tuk to take us around the city. A Tuk-Tuk is a small taxi with a motorcycle on the front and a sort of covered carriage on the back. I picked out a young man who was earnest, honest looking and who did not have the fanciest or newest rig. It reminded me of our days running our own charter boat in the Virgin Islands. We had to compete for the tourist business with our old 1960 model Chris Craft against much newer and nicer yachts. His name was Chhan and we settled on a price of $40 for him to drive us around all day. Once out of the crush of the downtown area the scenery was much better and we quickly began to relax. I was surprised at our first stop by a huge concrete Hotel that was only partially finished and abandoned right on the beach. You can see it behind Jane and Chhan in the picture. During the day we actually saw several developments that were languishing and in various stages of completion. The beaches were nice white sand and many had wonderful shade trees and lots of cabanas and covered tables where locals would serve you food and beverages. We had a couple of good local beers and they were only 50 cents apiece. There was a girl walking around with a huge plate of cooked prawns on her head for sale and other girls were grilling squids and fish on little hibachis. They would come right up to where you were sitting to give you personal service. We went to a neat Beach Bar with a Russian Airplane inside and you can see Jane sitting up in the cockpit. In fact, the Russians are big players in the local economy. They bought a whole island right offshore and are building a bridge out there so they can have good access to their private playground. The big dog Russian was sitting in the bar smoking a huge cigar. He had plenty of young Cambodian girls around and lots of lackeys treating him like the Godfather. Overall, it was a really fun day. Chhan was great and he gave us interesting commentary in his broken English and followed us around like a bodyguard wherever we stopped. We did have to wade through the beggars in some places and the central market was a mess. Then, by contrast, we would go to a beautiful beach resort with a gorgeous pool and lovely grounds. In the end, he dropped us off at the boat and I gave him a nice tip which he obviously appreciated.

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