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Sihanoukville

From Capital to Coast

semi-overcast 29 °C

It was beginning to occur to me that Cambodia is what Thailand would have been like 20 years ago, before tourism had taken away all the exotic charms of unspoilt beaches, and locals would treat visitors with friendly fascination rather than a way to make a quick buck (or to be fair, to make a living). We are on a bus out of Phnom Penh and heading to the beach village of Sihanoukville, on the south coast of Cambodia. This was our one and only coastal stop on the way to Ho Chi Minh City. I had heard stories of the poverty in the village and how children would beg for money and food. In most places where tourism was the town’s main revenue earner, there is a large element of poverty as the revenue is not evenly distributed to the local population. I always believed the best thing to do in this case was to use local hotels and services and leave as little footprint as possible. That’s why Sam and I had chosen to use GAP adventures during this part of our trip, exercising Eco-Tourism in most, if not all aspects of their trips.

Suddenly, and as if using my sub-conscious heightened awareness off traffic due to years as a motorcyclist

It was sunny when we left Phnom Penh but spotting the coast, the clouds begin to quickly roll in and before I knew it, rain drops start to spatter the bus window. I can sense the disappointment in the air as it’s anyone’s guess on what the weather will be like during our two night stay at Sihanoukville. I try not to let the weather get me down and I bury myself in my book. Poor old Winston Smith, after succumbing to his biggest fear of being eaten by rats, realising that he had lost the fight to Big Brother. I feel uneasy reading Nineteen Eighty-Four after learning of Cambodia’s history. The frightening similarities between Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Big Brother state control and the evil regime of the Khmer Rouge gives the book something tangible to relate to. I had the same thing happen ten years earlier when I was in Taunton, Somerset. I was living in England when 9/11 happened and I was in the middle of reading Tom Clancy’s novel ‘Executive Decision’. It was only two days after the planes had flown into the Twin Towers when in the book, a terrorist flies a plane into the White House, killing the President and almost all White House Representatives. It was quite disturbing at the time.

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I start to see the first sign of western tourists as we approach our destination. A tuk-tuk with four American good ole boys, shirts off and probably enjoying a holiday after graduating college, ride beside us, probably heading for the same beach side destination. Suddenly, and as if using my sub-conscious heightened awareness off traffic due to years as a motorcyclist, I catch a situation where a collision is imminent. I look that way and everything appears in slow motion, even though I am in a moving bus. A scooter pulls out recklessly into traffic as another scooter heading from the other direction rams straight into him and both go flying off their respective scooters. I don’t see the end result as the bus keeps moving but it was a low speed collision and they’ll probably dust themselves off and continue their day as if nothing happened. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to see a collision with the way they ride and drive around here

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We’re in our board shorts and swimmers and heading straight for the beach as soon as we check into our rooms. We have all been looking forward to 2 days of 'Rest & Recration' after the last week of being constantly on the go. The beach is relatively small and is lined with restaurants and bars and the shoreline is dotted with colourful boats. We find some vacant beach chairs and
head straight for the water, but not before I do my obligatory (or whenever I remember) ‘Cartwheel Photo’ that I do whenever I visit a new beach. That done, I jump into the water and for the first time since leaving Bangkok, relax...

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Posted by Al Jam 19:00 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia sihanoukville

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