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Who can stand the heat of Hades?

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 21 March 2007 | Views [1842]

Sunset from my last trip to Sihanoukville. Best I could do now that none of us have working cameras.

Sunset from my last trip to Sihanoukville. Best I could do now that none of us have working cameras.

What is going on? Is there a worldwide shortage of material at present; especially here in Sihanoukville, at Satan’s' fashion show of truly diabolical swimming garments. That wouldn't explain why the Cambodians, some of the poorest people in the world, get around fully clothed while indulgent Westerners can't seem to afford more than twine? What foul deed must I have previously committed to result in this torturous assault on my eyeballs?

And it wasn't just me, an ocularis in extremis, who took offense to the free exposure of goods that have passed their best before date. A conspiracy of three was born to leave the flesh exhibition at Serendipity Beach and ditch on the Same Same (But more Expensive) GuestHouse and shack up in the friendlier Green Gecko for $7 a night less. Gemma ditched on a lady she promised to get a manicure, pedicure, and massage off from the day before she left on Friday. Adam ditched his MP3, forced into an early retirement by a particularly nasty virus that has migrated to my MP3. Were I too lose all the photos from this trip, I would be too distraught to come home. I was ditching on one more bogus recommendation of mine that sent another nostalgic memory crashing onto the shores of reality.

It is heart breaking to watch a culture find its feet again after a nearly successful first attempt at social genocide with the Khmer Rouge. A culture that had given the world the Angkor temples was now giving us the shiny gold knackers of Sihanoukvilles' Golden Lion Traffic Circle Monument. Miracles of ingenuity were now miracles of hope, especially when it came to local transport. Beneath hauntings etched into everyone’s eyes, the friendliest and most fun loving of the Asian temperaments overshadow their terrible history. Nearly all attempts to separate white hands with dirty money are a genuinely necessary fight for survival. Who could question their desire to re-balance the distribution of wealth personally, to save a child’s life rather than to make a statement about inequality? They could rebuild entire communities with the money some people have admitted to spending on one night’s worth of intoxicants.

The most common interaction is with people who have lost limbs to the mindless mine-laying mentality of their brothers and forebears. Where's the justice in the world when giving a donation alleviates a days hunger but reinforces the practice of begging as being profitable from rich Westerners?

Facing up to that dilemma is a noble one as its repercussions on your sense of brotherly love and compassion for the weak and powerless can only be enhanced by such consideration. Having to do it every 5 minutes when another limbless beggar manages to stomp on your heart, but not hard enough to open your wallet, quickly becomes exhausting. Especially when you are trying to plot a way to get rich quick in the affluence and comfort of life in Australia; a sooner than desired destination.

So we packed up from what we thought was to be our last port of call and avoided all the motor bike taxis by just pointing angrily at my knee burger scar. Eventually a vehicle with enough wheels agreed to a price that wasn't going to match the country’s G.N.P and took us across town. Carrying around your life on your back might be an easy thing to do if your body oozed snot constantly. But if you have the misfortune of being human, and not a snail, such an endeavor is a hard way to go about your business. Add a previous day in the sun with zero points scored for sunscreen application and I wish my current lobster characteristics corresponded to their armadillo like shell, and not their fiery red colouring. I spent the day at the beach fully clothed and feeling like a stunt man with my back on fire.

And the verdict. Sihanoukville seems to mirror many towns that sit on a country’s southern most coast, and my meaning can be read to equal the readers thoughts on such places. And there seems to be no escaping old men’s balls anywhere here. Their numbers are reduced but their infrequency now just adds to the impact of the next colonic cinema. I wanted to return fire but I wasn't surprised to discover the shops here didn't sell Speedo’s, not wanting to encourage the phenomenon.

I mean who was the first person to legitimize such socially nauseating behaviour? Who didn't just beat the shit out of the first dude who tried to wear Speedo’s on the beach? Gemma gives my questioning some perspective when she suggests the conservative Cambodians probably see our less revealing board shorts as being just as socially and morally corrupt as Speedo’s. As I contemplate this at the end of another day at the top of the economic pile in a third world country, I realise it is, as always, only a matter of perspective.

"Hooray!" Gemma then cheers in response to no ones question about whether this was a better place than where we first stayed. Amen and women, I concur. Our last 4 days on holiday should be the perfect culmination of all the thoughts, deeds, laughs and good things that have come from the trip. Will it go out with a bang or will the ear infection and severe sunburn I am currently entertaining, be the last self-inflicted ailments I must speak of? Will I ever be able to look at old age again in light of the way it has been constantly peeking out at me?

Tags: Beaches & sunshine

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