Taking a private bus to the beaches of Sihanoukville
After a stopover in Phnom Penh yesterday, we are heading for the beaches of Sihanoukville today. The bus trip will last about four hours. A tuk-tuk driver picks us up to bring us to the departure point at Capitol Guesthouse; they seem to run this daily bus service.
Easy to find accommodation on our own
Even before we arrive in Sihanoukville, another staff member from Capitol gets on the bus. He presents a map of the city and proposes a guesthouse, luckily without too much insistence. So at the bus station, we pick out a motor driver and drive to the hotel of our choice. We inspect the room, which is clean and with a terrace at the front with two chairs, roughly as I imagined, so we decide to stay. As we still have to wait until noon before a room becomes available, we take lunch while waiting.
Sihanoukville still has a lively fishing port
Sihanoukville is primarily a seaside town that has little to offer. But before we go visit the beaches of Sihanoukville, we drive back to the center to explore the central market and visit the fishing port. The market is rather ordinary, but there is an extensive assortment of fish on order. The fishing port, on the other hand, arouses our interest and is very photogenic. The locals make wooden boats themselves, something that has virtually disappeared in Europe for many years.
A very informative driver
My driver speaks English fluently and is very informative. Since gasoline in Cambodia has become more expensive, all other products have followed. As a consequence people have to work harder to make ends meet; but people can survive here, he says.
At some point, he inquires whether I am interested in the nightlife around here. I ask him whether that is a safe option, as I heard some crime stories about Sihanoukville. He answers people do recognize the importance of the tourism industry here, so they try to bother as few tourists as possible. I also get some explanation about the different beaches of Sihanoukville; some are privatized, and others are freely accessible.
Chilling out along the beaches of Sihanoukville
On the coastline, there are beach chairs, umbrellas, and huts everywhere. Almost instantly, a few fruit and drink vendors approach us, but all in a pretty relaxed atmosphere. It is nice to hang around near the sea; in the background, I hear Craig Armstrong songs playing, an excellent choice here along the beaches of Sihanoukville. My travel companion and I just enjoy chilling on a beach chair near the water. After watching the sunset we walk to a nearby beach bar and play some pool.
Having seafood near the beach
Around 8 o’clock, after a refreshing shower, our drivers are ready to take us to the city. They recommend a restaurant with delicious seafood. I opt for the shrimps with cashew nuts, my partner chooses crab. My meal tastes heavenly, and I have never been served so many scampi on one plate before. My companion opted for a medium portion which implies that he gets two crabs. His meal also appears to be very tasty, but there is a lot of tinkering involved. Eventually, he will need an hour and a half to finish everything.
Intro to the nightlife of Sihanoukville
Then it is time for the introduction to the nightlife in Sihanoukville. We pass a few bars, apparently all run by foreigners, but it is relatively quiet everywhere. We want a bit more action, so our drivers suggest to visit a Cambodian disco. Once inside – we also invite our drivers to come in – a beer-girl approaches us immediately; Love Beer is the brand she is selling, and the taste is quite OK. The audience in the disco is very young, I estimate 16 to 18 years old, and the music here is deafening. The present youth dances with full dedication to Asian pop and techno. We can hardly stand the volume until at a certain point they switch to karaoke. A book with request songs also gets dropped at our table.
Singing karaoke in a Cambodian disco
To my surprise, my travel mate is eager to sing a song; he asks to play Blue Velvet, a song best known in the version by Bobby Vinton. A hilarious situation arises to see and hear him busy singing a song in a Cambodian disco; we are the only foreigners in the place. But he manages quite well, especially singing the chorus. Afterward, we applaud, but also a few Cambodians. After this apotheosis, we say goodbye and return to the hotel to sleep.