Sunday, 10 July 2016

Week 12.2 - Sihanoukville

So the plan was to pack our bags and get an early night in Phnom Penh, but the guys from the hostel were having none of it. It started with the offer of a free beer, this then led to us being invited to sit with them and share their food…following on from that came more beer. That’s the amazing thing about the people in Cambodia, they may not have much but they’re still more than happy to share what they do have. We happily sat sharing stories, drinking beer and listening to Justin Bieber, and a lot of rap. It all came to a quick end when a  drunk American rocked up with a half empty bottle of whisky, crashing his ped into the wall on arrival! His stories of real estate, setting up a call centre in the Philippines and leaving his girlfriend soon became too much and everyone headed for bed.

The next morning after a quick breakfast we were picked up, half an hour later than advised, by our mini bus bound for Sihanoukville. The guys saw us off, with shouts of see you on the 10th, thats right we’ve booked ourselves back in for when we return…only with air con this time, thank god!

Safe to say that we slept for most of the journey. Although when we were awake the sights were amazing. Surrounded by rivers, lakes, small communities, children playing outside (like they should do back home), and mountains. The waterfalls on these mountains were that big you could even make them out from the road.

As we got closer to Sihanoukville the roads started to get worse. You think pot holes are a problem? Try driving along roads with huge cracks and craters missing, not pleasant on a bus! Driving ever closer, we noticed that it was starting to get a bit grittier too. There’s half finished buildings, closed down restaurants and rubbish lining a lot of the streets on the way into this beach town and to be honest it  doesn’t get much better once you’re in. It’s a shame really, as theres loads of potential for this to be a nice place.

We caught a tuk tuk to our hostel, Monkey Republic, a westerners paradise. Loud music, drinks promotions, pub crawls, booze cruises and branded vests. If we hadn’t of already paid the deposit I would of got back on that tuk tuk. But to be fair, the room was nice, a little wooden bungalow with an ensuite, and this time two fans. Can’t wait till Kyle decides not to be tight so we can have air con again.

After a quick shower we headed to the bar, and decided to make the most of the 70 cent beer offer. Unfortunately, once this ended I decided it would be good to go on to the buy one spirit get one free promotion. This led to an extremely early night and a very foggy head the next day…lesson learnt, for now.

The sun was shining the next day so I got over myself, slapped on the suncream and headed to the beach. Now I’d done my research on Serendipity beach, and I wasn’t expecting paradise but I wasn’t expecting what we got either. The beach is lined with a lot of run down bars and eateries, with litter scattered everywhere. As soon as you step foot on the beach you are confronted by 50 women offering you manicures and pedicures, they even tell you that if you let them thread your legs, you won’t need to shave for 9 weeks. As tempting as that offer was, I learnt from my Mum’s mistake, she quit threading after half an eyebrow from the pain, and politely declined. When challenged with, “Maybe later?”, Kyle said, “Yeah, maybe”, guess what happened 30 minutes later? The same woman appeared, “hello, you told me maybe later”. Nice one pal! 

In-between the make over brigade come the children with bracelets and the teenagers with Roy Bans. Purchasing anything from the children is strongly discouraged, as the money keeps them coming back, rather than going to school. So we took to the water, which was crystal clear and just the right temperature, plus it kept the sales team away. It was nice to see also that there were more locals than tourists on the beach, making the most of the sun and jumping the waves. 

Black clouds started to roll in, so we headed back to the hostel and jumped straight into the pool. Thankfully the clouds past and we were able to soak up some more sun. Bad move, turns out sunbathing here is pretty stupid. We spent the night looking like lobsters, burnt head to toe. It was a quick dash for aloe vera and a night in front of the fans for us. Now Mr.Stingy wants to pay more from home branded sun cream than we did for the room!! 

The next day we woke to thunderstorms and rain, so I didn’t feel as bad missing a day at the beach to rescue our skin. We took this opportunity to plan some lessons for when we arrive at Kratie English school on Monday, where we will volunteer to teach children from age 7 - 17. Here we will live amongst the locals in the village, with our host Rith and his family, to say I’m excited would be an understatement. We also started looking at a rough route for Vietnam, but with so many places to see we are struggling to narrow it down.

Tea that evening was a pizza down the road. Whilst we waited for our food to arrive, children would come begging at other tables for slices of pizza or any unwanted food. I find it incredibly hard to turn a blind eye to this, so I was happy when the waiter come with a pizza bigger than the table coz I knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it. Our last unwanted slice went to a little girl, who thanked us and left with a huge smile on her face. This made me incredibly happy.

The next day we went back to the beach, and one of the seaside beauticians we met the other day, Annie retuned. This time she came with her sister, and after much pleading I decided to let them thread my legs. NEVER again will I put myself through that, it took one whole hour and hurt like hell. If I have to shave my legs within 8 weeks I’ll be going back for words. Poor Kyle was left fighting Annie off at the end of the day, she thinks men shouldn’t have hairy backs…I think this is one kind of pampering he’ll be glad he didn’t try.

Whilst we enjoyed our time in Sihanoukville, it was nice to get back to Phnom Penh and see Romeo waiting for us at the bus stop to take us back to Good Morning guesthouse. We’ve missed those guys, and upon arrival it was just like coming home!

Our only disappointment, was missing the opportunity to visit the islands in this part of Cambodia. But unfortunately, the weather wasn't on our side. Hey ho, gives us another excuse to come back here, I'm sure we could get a cheap flight from our home in Japan. 

Should you ever visit Sihanoukville, take it with a pinch of salt. There’s that much construction work going on, its hard to tell whats still being built, and what they’ve given up on. They know the beaches are dirtier than others, but they are working to clean them up, and there’s a lot of poverty with can be hard to stomach. Also, long gone are the Khmer restaurants, it’s all Western delights, and whilst we enjoyed a cheeky bangers and mash, and are delighted to finally have some salt and vinegar Pringles, it’s not quite what you come travelling for. 

Tomorrow, we catch a local bus to Kratie and head to work. I’m looking forward to a bit of a routine for a few weeks, and trying some true Khmer meals. That’s if we survive the journey, I’ve read some horror stories about the Sorya bus!!

Love Carrie xxx

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