March 8th – 10th 2011
Sihanoukville is a beach-side town about 4-5 hours bus-ride South-West of Phnom Penh. (I have never fit this many hyphenated words into a sentence before.) I’d like to point out almost every bus-ride I’ve been on has been pleasant in SE Asia, unlike India/Nepal or Africa. When you’re in a city, most people get around in motos, tuk-tuks, cars, walking, or bicycles. I have not seen local buses and very few taxis. Most locals take the same travel-agency buses as foreigners when going between cities and these buses are usually well-built, well-maintained, spits on cool air, stops mid-way usually for lunch/piss breaks, and sometimes play on-board movies.
Upon reaching Sihanoukville, I was swarmed by waiting moto-drivers. Knowing how much moto-mileage $1 bought in Phnom Penh, I wasn’t easily conned into paying $2, the average asking price. It always helps to know the distance between the bus/train station and your guesthouse. I have been conned many times in the past when I didn’t. Moto-drivers were constantly telling me it’s a 7-km journey and very far from my guesthouse and I refused to believe them. (Thank you Lonely Planet maps.)
Sihanoukville has several beaches. There are some on its west-side (but it’s also where the shipping ports are so expect a little dirt) but the most popular and beautiful ones are located in the southern part of town. The first day I was there, I walked down to Ochheuteal Beach, one of the more popular beaches, along with Serendipity right next to it, and observed the masses there, ranging from backpackers lounging on beach chairs and ex-pats sipping beer at the bars, to Cambodians walking around, selling fruits, fried prawns, sunglasses, bracelets, and massages. I haven’t had a pair of sunglasses since I lost mine in Turkey but with so many fake sunglass sellers walking around, I decided to pick a pair up for $4. Probably overpaid but his initial starting price was $7 and I figured it would help with the glare. But does anything fake really help? More on fake stuff later, as I eventually paid the price with pain.
The next day, I took a moto-ride to Otres Beach, about 5 km south of Ochheuteal. Because it was a bit out of the way, the crowds were much smaller and the atmosphere more relaxed. I applied my Banana Boat SPF-30 sunscreen which I purchased in India for cheap. I spent most of my time reading my ‘Clash of Kings’ book, under the sun to get my tan on and then later under the shade, while taking the occasional dip in the water. The sand was so fine and white, the beach so clean, the water nice and luke-warm, and nothing else in sight but a few islands in the distance. It was a sunny day but I drowned myself in lots of sunscreen so I would be ok.
Or so I thought.
After that day, I had sun-burn on my entire body. I have purchased sun-block in the USA before and I’ve seen prices throughout my travels. And when I was in India, I thought I was fortunate enough to pick up a very (exceptionally) cheap tube of Banana Boat from an Indian pharmacy. I knew it must’ve been too good to be true. It even smelled NICE, like baby powder, when most sunscreens smell sour and unpleasant. I suspected it was fake then but I didn’t have much of a chance to use it until now. Now I know it’s fake. Thank you India, for messing with me long after I’ve left you. You’re like that crazy-bitch ex-girlfriend that haunts a man for life.
Picking up my Vietnamese visa was so painless. I showed up at the office, filled out an application, paid $45 and got the visa within 5 minutes.
I dined at several places while in Sihanoukville. Some were outdoor street-food stalls but my favorite was a restaurant located just down the road from me, which drew me in when I saw many cars and many locals eating in it. I didn’t eat anything unique, just typical food like fried fish and beef stir-fry but the food was good, the portions massive, and price cheap. The entertainers singing to the diners on stage were terrible but compared to me, they were like the Cambodian Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra.