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Al's epic odyssey "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 24 September 2009 | Views [658]

Sihanoukville is apparently the closest place that Cambodia has to a typical resort town, but it still has some way to go to emulate the Thai beach resorts (I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing). There are a mix of relatively unspoilt beaches and beaches lined with beach bars, so you can take your pick. I stayed at the relatively quiet end of the main party beach called Serendipity Beach. Most of the resort accommodation and the tourists were at the other end of the beach, which was only a 15 minute walk away. Some of the resorts are quite grand and you would pay top dollar for those.

When I left Phnom Penh the town was deserted because there was a three day public holiday, well I discovered where the people were. They were on the beach in Sihanoukville. It was great - large Khmer family gatherings with BBQ’s and a firework display in the evenings, the only drawback, is that I wish they’d take their litter home.

I hired a motorbike for a few days and travelled around the town and surrounds. It’s quite spread out and fairly undeveloped. The traffic system in Cambodia has to be seen to be believed. They notionally drive on the right hand side of the road, but that’s flexible. Even on dual carriageway roads you can have someone coming in the opposite direction to you. I haven’t quite figured out which way you’re supposed to turn if you’re heading directly for each other in those circumstances. Traffic lights too are only notionally observed and often you will see motorbikes interlacing across each other at junctions. It seems to almost prove that chaos theory may work when applied to traffic.

I’d heard that Bangkok traffic was supposed to be chaotic, but that seemed quite orderly compared to driving in Sharjah. I’d say that Cambodian traffic is much more chaotic, but it is relatively sedate. Nobody seems in a particular hurry, which is perhaps how it ‘works’. The worst drivers that I’ve come across so far are definitely in Sharjah in the UAE!

One day I went into the town for a shave and thought I was asked if I wanted a face massage, which I obviously agreed to. The next think I know I’m getting a face mask put on, ears cleaned and plastered with cucumber slices. Those that know me will know that I remove cucumber slices from my sandwiches because I don’t like the taste or smell. Having to lie there with a cucumber slice under my nose wasn’t fun. I now probably look ten years younger, although that probably has more to do with shaving off the grey stubble than the facial treatment.

The first two days I was there the weather was superb and I’d planned on either going diving or snorkeling, however then the monsoon rains arrived and I really didn’t fancy spending much time at sea in one of those storms. They don’t last for long, but they are quite severe so I gave the sea trips a miss. I’m a little hesitant about rough seas after being sea sick for the first time ever in Koh Tao in Thailand. I’m sure the visibility must be affected by the storms as well.

I took  a trip into the Ream National Park which is an area of jungle, rivers and islands nearby. It is a fairly new national park so does have some indigenous people living there and eking a living through fishing and livestock, but generally it is very sparsely populated and lush. I was surprised more by the lack of wildlife although amongst other things we did get to see fish eagle, kingfisher and a water snake. Perhaps the wildlife will return now that there is a ban on hunting in the area. 

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