09.12.2007 - 16.12.2007
Sihanoukville is a town down in the South of Cambodia, about 4 hours by bus.
The buses deserve a quick mention. The drivers are literally constantly on the horn. Every person they pass is given several loud blasts of the horn. In between the horn you have to suffer the blaring Khmer Karaoke that emits from the TVs, that most of the tone deaf locals enjoy droning along to. If it's not the music then they have weird pantomimes playing on the TV where they all the characters have Hitler moustaches. All very bizarre, but seem to be hilarious to the locals who piss themselves laughing every couple of minutes.
Sihanoukville itself is a bit of a dump, however a short moto ride away is Serendipity beach which was where we were headed. We hadn't used any motos up til this point, but we couldn't see any tuk tuks so just had to go for it. Motos are just guys on motorbikes whose bikes you jump on the back of to get lifted around he place. Not particularly exciting, although pretty dangerous considering we had our massive rucksacks with us. We took one each and they balanced the bags on their fronts and we hopped on the back with our daysacks. Was a bit concerned that we weren't offered helmets, but they were wearing them. Especially as hardly any of the moto drivers wear helmets. We made it to our destination unscathed though, so it was all good.
Serendipity beach wasn't much to look at as beaches go. Very dirty both on the beach and in the water. Was pretty cool at night though, as all the restaurants that the beach backs onto put big comfy wicker seats an low tables on the sand right in front of the sea, and at night you couldn't really make out the plastic bags and chip boxes floating on the surface of the sea.
It was a pretty lively place, which might have had something to do with the fact that the cheapest beer in Cambodia can be found here, as it is brewed in Sihanoukville. 50 cents a glass of draught, which was well received.
There were quite a number of children patroling the beach at night selling various things, and lots of people missing arms and legs crawling along the sand begging for money. There was more begging here than we've experienced anywhere we've been in South East Asia. Literally every couple of minutes from the moment you sit down. Quite difficult to deal with. Lots of the children had sticks that were filled with fireworks that they set off every night on the beach. This was a bit disconcerting given children that could barely walk semed to be allowed to have them. There were also a few twats firing them at each other and waving them about right next to where we were eating that wasn't funny.
We managed to find a better beach without as much litter and free from rivers of vile smelling rivers connecting the restaurants to the sea. It was much quieter. We spent a few days chilling there, before taking a boat to Bamboo Island an hour off the coast.
This was much more secluded, and we stayed the night in a very basic A-frame bungalow right on the beach. Was really tranquil, and there were cows and chickens roaming about the place and on the beach. There was one big bull that clearly wasn't to be messed with. We watched as a little 5 year old local got a bit too close and was met with a full butt to the face. Apparently it had split his nose open, and there was a bit of comotion as the locals all gathered round to see if he was ok. We were a bit further away, and it was quite funny from our vantage point, because the bull just stood staring at them as if asking 'does anyone else want a go?' It was punished by having a rock thrown at it. Think the boy was ok. Didn't get much sleep on the island as there was no fan in our room. Aboslutely baking hot. I got up in the middle of the night for a pee in the sea, and was greeted by loads of tiny twinkling white lights flashing in the water. They were amazing. Like little underwater fireflies. Thought I'd maybe overdosed a little too much on the cheap beer and was seeing things but Jenny said they were some kind of shrimp. They were pretty cool though.
We returned to the mainland and spent another couple of days dossing about before returning to Phnom Penh for a night, rising the next day to catch a bus to Saigon. We took a trip to the central market on our free afternoon in the Cambodian capital. It had all the usual stuff, and some very unusual stuff. There were women sitting selling all sorts of insects to eat. Big insects.....and spiders.
Tarantulas are a delicacy in Cambodia. I took a few pictures of them, and was asked for a dollar, so I told her just to give me one. She gave us one and a big cricket for good measure. We took them back to the hotel to try. We each ate a leg of the tarantula.
It was pretty manky. It had quite a lot of hair on it. Having been the big man and bought the thing at the market, I wasn't quite so brave about it when it was out of the bag. It was a bit big for my liking even dead. We both ate quite a bit of the cricket, but it wasn't great either. Thy both just tasty really salty, crunchy and a bit like they'd been kicked about the floor a bit. Try everything once though.
The next day we got up and headed for the bus station an travelled the 6 hours over the border to Saigon - officially called Ho Chi Minh although nobody here actually calls it that. The border crossing between Cambodia was remarkably smoothe as it was all taken out of our hands by the posh bus company that we went with. It was also quicker as we had already purchased our Visa in Cambodia which is a requirement of entry to Vietnam.