Shirtless in Shianoukville, Cambodia

February 8, 2010 at 5:01 am 2 comments

Picture this: a long stretch of white sand hugging the coast of a small Cambodian town. On one side the beach is lined with palm trees and a dozen or so wooden bars, laid back places where you pay your bill when the mood takes you and it is perfectly acceptable to sit over your beer (or lie over it in one of the hammocks) for two hours. On the other side the beach is kissed by crystal clear blue water that laps the shore in gentle waves. The smooth water is broken by a scattering of offshore islands and a handful of colourful boats that ferry tourists to and from the nearby coral.

As you lie stretched out on your sun lounger, leafing through the latest trashy chic lit (a photocopied version of course – this is Asia after all), looking for page 211 because it doesn’t come after page 210 but it must be around here somewhere (check after page 232) your peace is disturbed by a familiar crowing. “You want MASSAAAAAAAA?” No. “Maybe later?” No. “You buy my FRUIT?” No. “Pedicure for you sir?” No and I’m a woman.

The hawkers in Sianoukville are relentless but they’re half the fun, especially the kids. It is a commonly accepted truth that Asian kids are by far the cutest creatures on earth. Cuter than an Andrex pup even. So when you see them wiggling their way down the beach, palates of fruit balanced on their little heads, its hard not to just give them all your money and ask them to come home with you. But you shouldn’t do that because its creepy. And wrong.

As a general rule of thumb anyone who stays in Shianoukville for longer than three days (and everyone does, whether they had planned to or not) ends up with a local kid of their own. For Gary and I that was Em (aka Toto) and Pom – two gorgeous little 10 year olds with perfect english. The adoption was anything but a conscious decision. One minute we were buying a bag of pineapple and the next there were two kids sprawled out across our sunloungers demanding that we buy our fruit only from them. And that was only the start of their demands. Without realising it we had walked into a complex legal agreement which made us their property between the hours of 1pm and 4pm every day. This meant that we had to lose games of pool, play video games, share our sunloungers and answer endless questions on demand. We also had to mind all of their stuff (and that of their friends) whenever they went swimming. Worried that our $4 a day was fuelling a drug habit, we asked them how they spent our money only to find out that they rented roller blades every day after they finished their homework.

The kids were pretty much the best part of Shianoukville. As beautiful as it is, it has the strangest vibe (yeah I’m a hippy now, I whine about vibes and karma, man). I think its because everyone is in holiday mode, not backpacker mode so they tend to stick to their groups and frown in distaste whenever you try to befriend them (although we did meet the greatest British couple about 10 minutes before we had to leave).

Much better is Bamboo Island, a small nearby island where you can rent a bungalow on the beach and spend your days lying in a hammock and contemplating the meaning of life/your lunch*. For those afraid to spend that much time alone with their thoughts, the ‘three islands tour’ (which, by the way only visits one island) drops you off here for four hours. The tour also takes in snorkelling in murky water with dodgy gear and a lot of time spent sitting in a boat. And all this for only $15!

Actually recommended in Sianoukville though is Monkey Republic – a great guesthouse where lodgings are in bright blue bungalows, the food is great, the tea is Tetleys and the happy hour is ecstatic.

*note: Cambodian food is epic. Especially Fish Amok and Beef Luc Lak. They’re so good that Marks & Spencers has stolen their recipes and repackaged Fish Amok as their seafood curry.

More pictures from Shianoukville are available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. deb  |  March 4, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Great blog guys – i am off to siem reap next week and surfing for some info – found you. Love the picture of the kids! Hope you enjoy the rest of your travels….. Deb from Perth, west oz

    • 2. yearlongbreakup  |  March 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

      Hi Deb. Thanks for your kind words. We hope you continue to follow and enjoy the blog. Enjoy your trip to Cambodia. Make sure and make sunrise at Angkor wat! It’s not to be missed. Gary & Ro


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