Kampot and Sihanoukville – Adventures in the South

After enjoying several days in Phnom Penh and successfully acquiring our Thai visas, we decided it was time to move down south.

We were picked up by a tuk tuk at our guesthouse and transferred to a local bus that stopped over in Kep before taking us to our destination of Kampot.

Kampot was honestly pretty disappointing, so much so that we aren’t even dedicating a full post to it.  Though we did visit a restaurant called Rusty Keyhole which boasts the best ribs in Cambodia.  Joe insisted that we go back the second night.

It was mercilessly hot with no breeze whatsoever, and we could barely even stand to exist, let alone conjure up the motivation to go exploring.  The town itself was kind of a hole, but we spent most of our time relaxing in the hammocks in the lovely garden at our guesthouse before moving on to Sihanoukville.

The bus was to pick us up at 7am and we woke up early, ecstatic to finally get to the beach.  Unfortunately, the bus ride was one of the most unpleasant we had experienced thus far.  In reality, the driver and the bus itself were exactly what you’d expect for a Cambodian mini bus…the problem this time was the other passengers.

As soon as the bus pulled up, we could see that it was already full of people.  The bus driver came around to load our packs in the back, but there wasn’t enough room.  At this point, we noticed a middle-aged woman (we will henceforth call her Angry Lady) seated on the bus glaring at us angrily, as if it was our fault that she was being subjected to this experience.  Hello, if you want luxury, maybe don’t take the $6 bus.  Or maybe don’t go to Cambodia.  Just a thought.

The driver starts doing what they always do when there isn’t enough room for the packs: shove them under the seats to make more room.  One of the bags he begins to forcefully shove under a seat belongs to Angry Lady.  Angry Lady does not like this one bit.  She begins shouting at him in French about how the bus is not safe, there are too many people, and the driver is damaging her belongings.  To my amusement, those five years of French I took in high school somehow started coming back to me and I understood most of what she was yelling about.  The bus driver does not appreciate her yelling (especially because he doesn’t even know what she is saying?) and proceeds to counter it with a mighty ROAR!  He doesn’t even say words, he just screams.  I wanted to give him a hug.  The other passengers make defensive gestures as if to protect Angry Lady from his threatening howl (as if she hadn’t provoked him), and he subsides when he realizes he is outnumbered.

Angry Lady is still throwing us loathsome looks as we help the bus driver secure all the packs in the back of the bus.  In her fit of rage, she grabbed her pack away from him and is now sitting with her pack on her lap…while complaining about how she has to sit with her pack on her lap.  Eventually the bus driver offers to put her pack up front and she eventually consents after some more bickering, watching his every move to see if he dares try to squeeze it under a seat again.  We are squeezed into the back of the bus with Angry Lady and her husband, but are quickly shuffled around once they realize they are trying to make us share seats.  Angry Lady must have her own seat!  So they move up to the row ahead of us and two more submissive souls like us end up squeezed next to us in the back, with overflowing backpacks sitting practically on top of our heads.  We spend the rest of the bus ride trying to push them into a secure position without pushing too hard (because the back door is not fully closed and could fly open at any moment) while Angry Lady sits smugly in the row ahead of us.  Once we are finally tucked in and ready to go, Angry Lady’s husband has the audacity to request that the driver tries to drive more slowly.  All we could think was that these people must be new to SE Asia…this was one of the better bus rides we had been on!

Thankfully the driver didn’t heed the Frenchman’s advice and we landed in Sihanoukville about 4 or 5 hours later, right on Serendipity Beach.  We checked into a guesthouse, changed into our swimsuits and headed straight for the beach!  Serendipity Beach is lined with restaurants so it was easy to find a place to have a beer and lay in the sun for a few hours.

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Serendipity Beach
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Looking out to sea from the Sihanoukville pier
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Sun setting over the trees

We had dinner in town, then went back out to the beach at night for a dessert of mango and sticky rice.  There were people (mostly children) selling fireworks to tourists who would set them off right on the beach.  This was sort of cool until some drunk people near us started doing it.  They were going off literally no more than 15 feet away from where we were sitting.  And these were full sized, no joke fireworks.  Then they bought some sparkler type things and started literally shooting them at each other.  It was terrifying.

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The next day we woke up early and had breakfast at our guesthouse before returning to the beach.  Serendipity Beach is really filthy, to be honest.  There’s a lot of litter everywhere and the city’s sewage flows in a river, down the main road by the pier, and straight into the water that everyone is swimming in.  It’s grime is matched by the trashy behavior of many backpackers and the scummy old men courting their prostitutes.  Ignoring all of this, we decided to spend our morning building this awesome sand temple.

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Digging the moat
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The beginnings of a temple
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A strange creature washed up to join us
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Some decorations from the sea
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The finished product
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Success!

We had a lot of fun doing this, but after a couple of hours, we realized we should get out of the sun before Joe got burnt.  We were too late.

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At least Ajax was wearing sunscreen….

Realizing that being in the sun any longer was probably not the best idea, we decided to explore the city instead.  People come to Sihanoukville for the beach, so there really isn’t a whole lot going on in town.  It was still a pleasant time just meandering around and waving to all the local children.

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Local children riding a carousel sort of structure
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Sihanoukville Night Market
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A strange, enormous statue of two golden lions in the middle of a roundabout

Once the sun had gone down, we ventured back to the beach to watch some local guys spinning fire staffs.  A couple of them were really good!

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A roadside bar
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Fire spinning on the beach