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Published: March 12th 2012
That's the Ticket
Nothing makes a beach afternoon complete like a $ 0.50 beer.
After the extremely positive albeit emotionally draining experience that we had in Phnom Penh we decided that it was time to take a vacation from our vacation. Although some may scoff at the remark, we both thought that it was time to hunker down in one spot for a few days, enjoy the pace of life with no plans, and make use of some of the beaches that southern Cambodia has to offer. We booked a bus from Phnom Penh to a town called Sihanoukville. Not entirely sure of what to expect when we got there, except for beaches, sunshine, and ocean, we were ready for it. The bus arrived in town at around 3 pm and we found a guesthouse only 50 m from the beach. The city of Sihanoukville is about 2 km from the beach, but due to the tourism near the beach there is also a small-town filled with guesthouses, restaurants, shops and bars that line the beach and a few surrounding streets. By the time we had got settled in, unpacked, and explored the surrounding area a little bit we were in search of dinner. Our friends Matt and Kate that we met while at the
This was our view. Can you blame us for staying here for eight days?
Kong Lor Caves in Laos had been in touch and we were going to overlap in Sihanoukville for the evening. We met up with them for dinner and made our way down to the boardwalk for some grub. During the day the beach is lined with lounge chair after lounge chair, but by night the loungers are removed and tables are set up for dinner on the beach. Each restaurant (and there are at least 30 along the boardwalk) offers some variety of BBQ for dinner ranging from $3-4. We chose a restaurant, ordered some fresh Red Snapper and caught up on some of the crazy adventures that had occurred since we last saw Matt and Kate. After a delicious dinner and a few more beer we parted ways again and called it a night. We had a big day to gear up for.
The next day we did nothing. It was fantastic. We woke around 9, donned our swimsuits, put on some much needed sunscreen and hit the beach. There were literally hundreds of loungers. Every restaurant along the boardwalk had at least 10 loungers out front. Not knowing if we had to purchase something to have a
Fisherman boats returning from a day's work as the sun sets on the Gulf of Thailand.
seat we tentatively found a couple chairs close to the water and lay our towels down. A waiter immediately approached but there was never any pressure to buy something. The idea was that if you were sitting there for any length of time, you’d eventually want a beer or food and would order from them. That’s pretty much what happened, everyday. We stayed out in the sun for the majority of the day, breaking only for lunch. The beach was relatively busy but it was the hoards of women and children walking the beach trying to sell you something that made it seem so cluttered. Women carrying baskets wandered the beach approaching nearly every person they found. “Manicure? Pedicure? No? Why not?” Nails were not their only profession. They were also selling massages, threading (hair removal) and generally just loved chatting up the tourists. For every woman that bombarded us, there were two children. They sold bracelets, embroidery, books, key chains, flowers, and pretty much anything else they could get their hands on. Even with our noses buried in books we were disrupted at least once every 10 minutes. Although many tourists are curt and dismiss the vendors, we took
There wasn't a whole lot to see below the water, but we knew well enough to stay away from this guy.
every opportunity to talk to the locals. Not usually buying anything, just sitting and chatting and making friends with those that worked so hard during the day. We’d be lying if we said no purchases on the beach were made. On our first day there we were suckered into a couple things. After some friendly ladies on the beach noticed that Liza hadn’t shaved her legs (she claims no one does when traveling…hmmm) they started demonstrating what threading is. Soon thereafter both of her legs were hairless and we had $6 less in our pockets. All the while, Matt had made friends with a guy selling snorkel and boat trips. Not wanting to commit to anything, we didn’t book a trip but promised that at some point during our stay we would.
After two days of nothing on the beach we decided that our third day would be well spent out on a snorkel trip. We had heard that the snorkeling was mediocre at best, but that the islands and beaches that the boats visited were well worth the money. Our trip left at 9 am after eating breakfast with some of the others that would be on our
Liza chose to stay aboard our trusty vessel while Matt snorkeled at our third stop.
trip. We were taken to the pier and loaded into a small fishing boat. There were probably 30 of us in total crammed into the wooden seats. As our travels have continued, we have come to expect nothing and are therefore rarely disappointed with the reality. The boat ride towards our first snorkel spot was almost an hour and gave us ample time to enjoy the feeling of being on the ocean, chat up some of the other tourists on the boat and take in some of the beautiful scenery. The snorkeling was okay, but the experience was dampened a bit by the gear the crew had provided. With no fins and most of the masks either entirely broken or leaking heavily, we made the best of the situation and spent about 20 – 25 minutes in the water. There were a few small schools of fish but the main attraction (or danger) were the innumerable sea urchins. We were very careful about not putting our feet down and avoided any catastrophes. After snorkeling we were taken to a beautiful white sand beach lined with other fishing boats running the same tours. We had a few hours to relax on
Our of Commission
We came across this shipwrecked boat our our 4 km walk between beaches.
the beach while our crew cooked us a delicious barbeque lunch of Barracuda and Baguette! We passed the time with books, naps, and frisbee but retreated to the trees when the rain drops began falling. The sky had been darkening all day but the storm seemed far enough to not bother us. After packing back into the boats we made our way to the next snorkel spot, where only a small number of people partook. The usual after lunch lethargy mixed with a bit of rain kept most people on board. The fish were more plentiful and the visibility a little superior than the last spot making the plunge rewarding. Or so Matt says – Liza stayed on the boat. We got back to the pier around 5 pm and were quite pleased with how our trip had unfolded. We went back to the guesthouse to clean up, had another delicious barbeque dinner on the beach, and then called it a night.
The next few days passed in a similar fashion to the first few. A couple notable changes include the colour of our skin (now a lovely golden brown), our friendship with the locals trying to sell us
Our First Night in Vietnam
Not a bad way to begin our 30-day visa.
tours we’ve already been on or things we’ve already bought, and most importantly – finding a spot that has happy hour starting at 3pm, not 4pm. Happy hour in Sihanoukville truly is that, happy. With 50 cent beers, who wouldn’t be? Although never tiring of lounging around in the sun, we decided one day to take a trip to another “low key” beach. The usual route was the hire a tuk-tuk or moto driver for $5 US each way, however we had no shortage of time, enjoy a bit of walking, and like to feel the sand between our toes, so we made the hike to the next beach. About 4 km from Occhuetal Beach where we were staying was Otres Beach, highlighted for its beauty and lack of tourists. After the hour walk we still found ourselves surrounded by tourists however the constant surge of vendors had dwindled. We, again, spent the day on loungers, reading, throwing the frisbee and enjoying a few 50 cent beers. The following day was our last in Sihanoukville. Our visas for Vietnam were already in our passports, our bags were packed and transportation was booked to Phu Quoc Island in the south of
Liza on Long Beach
Much more relaxed with the blazing hot sun so close to the horizon.
Vietnam. Yes, another beach destination. After 8 days in Sihanoukville we were gearing up for yet another beach vacation.
After a seamless but painfully slow border crossing, we made our way to the ferry from mainland to Phu Quoc Island. Phu Quoc is to Vietnam like Phuket is to Thailand, although a little less crowded. The white sand beaches stretch for miles and miles around the coastline, the sun is scorching hot, and the tourists flock for a relaxing spot to spend a few days. We found our guesthouse and started exploring some of the options on the island. Although more expensive than we were hoping, we had only planned on spending two or three days, so were willing to enjoy what we had. The days were, yet again, spent laying on the beach and playing in the water trying our best to avoid a sunburn. As it had been nearly a week since we were last on a boat we booked ourselves in for a fishing trip with one of the local fishing boats. Our second night there, we were driven to the marina where we were loaded onto a giant double-decker fishing boat to find we were
Although he looks good, fisherman Liza brought in the catch.
the only passengers among a crew of 5. After a short ride out into the open ocean we were handed spools of fishing line, a hook and some bait. We were told to drop the line to the bottom of the ocean (about 30 ft) and let it sit there for the fish to find. The relaxing thing about fishing is that it doesn’t take much work to sit and wait. We enjoyed chatting with the fisherman (one of whom had live in downtown Toronto for 10 years before moving back to Vietnam), watching the sun set on the water, and enjoying the minor excitement provided by the two fish that Liza caught. As the sky darkened another boat approached dropping off the rest of the tourists for the squid fishing. A boat full of Asian tourists piled on, several of whom were already very sea sick. We handed in our fishing lines and were given much larger spools with much stronger line to catch the squid. Although we had been squid fishing for nearly an hour and a half, neither of us were successful. In fact, only one person on the whole boat was, but it was pretty neat
Squid Fishing Sunset
Sitting silently in the boat watching the sun set over the water was mighty peaceful.
to see a squid pulled up out of the ocean. The fishing trip included a delicious dinner of BBQ squid, squid soup, and more squid. Good thing we both like squid. Although the fishing itself was only slightly successful, the experience of being out on the water and interacting with the locals was well worth the money. We were dropped back off at our guesthouse, packed our bags, and got ready for an early start to our trip to Saigon.
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