26th December – 3rd January
The bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh took about 6 hours with an hour or two at the border. Coming into Phnom Penh the poverty was everwhere, and I was happy to jump onto the connecting bus to Sihanoukville immediately. We got into Sihanoukville around 8pm. The bus dropped us off at some dodgy bus stop, which basically meant we had to take a tuk-tuk that would rip us off into town. We wanted to stay at Otres beach, but because it was leading up to NYE we figured we’d take the drivers recommendation for a cheap hostel and he dropped us off at Utopia, at Serendipity Beach. For anyone who’s been there, you know where this is going. Utopia is a club, with a pool. As far as a club goes it actually seems ok, if a little scummy. Then there’s the hostel, right next door. The dorms are cheap, $1-$2 per night. But this is what you get; a blue gym mat to sleep on, laid out not on a bed but on a wooden platform, immediately next to a stranger (a stranger who is willing to stay there, that is). The sheets and pillow case are covered in stains, the rooms are never cleaned, and I was scared to see the bathroom. The air con is shit, the music from the club is loud, and the bed bugs are rife. We checked out 30 minutes after we checked in. Once we had checked in and put our bags in the lockers, we took a tuk tuk to Otres Beach and found a place for one night. We reserved it, went back to Utopia to check out then went back to the place on Otres.
In the morning, we decided to walk along the beach at Otres and find a place for the rest of our stay in Sihanoukville. What amazing fucking luck. For $15 each per night, we found a bungalow literally 5m from the waters edge at Chez Paou. Here’s a few shots from Otres;
Vasco arrived in Sihanoukville a few days later, as did Viktor, Giulia, Kelly and Esther, and most nights we spent out partying on Serendipity Beach at the Dolphin Shack and JJ’s. We were there for Full Moon party on the 28th, and on NYE we met Claudia and Alexandra from San Francisco and spent the night out with them, including a trip to a dodgy carnival with a crazy ferris wheel and carousel. We also did a booze cruise with Dolphin Shack on the 28th, and it was loose. It was a bit off putting though that over 50% of the people on it knew each other because they all worked at bars in Sihanoukville.
At one stage, Jack and I sat down at Chez Paou Restaurant, the same place we were staying. We asked the table next to us if they were done with their menu’s. They noticed we were Australian, like them, and the conversation went a little like this;
Them: Oh where are you from in Australia?
Us (Jack and I): Melbourne, you?
Us: Oh really, we’re from Ocean Grove (small town of >10,000 people), whereabouts in Geelong?
Them: Oh well we live in Geelong now but used to live in Collendina (Suburb in Ocean Grove)
As we discussed this huge coincidence, it got even more strange. It turned out my father had taught some of them in primary school, Jacks father taught some of them in high school and we went to the same schools. They were siblings, and their father had taught both Jacks sister and mine. Jack was in the same class as one of them in 1997, they knew all my cousins, and another remembered my mother being on Sale of the Century in 1990, whilst pregnant with me.
I couldn’t believe it.
I sent my cousin a message on facebook telling her I’d just ran into these guys in Sihanoukville, and she told me we were related! My maternal grandfather was cousins with one of their grandparents. Small world.
Thoughts on Sihanoukville:
- I actually didn’t like it that much and wouldn’t be in any rush to return. Otres beach was too chilled (good for a few days but we stayed too long, I’d almost say boring) and Serendipity Beach at night was almost too scummy, full of people who worked there and got paid in free drinks, food and accomodation
- Theres nothing to do during the day. I’m from a town on the coast that gets some really good surf, and to be stuck in a place with no waves, where the only thing to do is sunbathe, it bored me.
- Our bungalow was pretty sweet, but no air con and got so hot.