Before we wade on in and commence blogging again (it has only taken me 11 days!!) a word of warning: I am under the influence of unknown pharmaceuticals, having developed a cold over the past day or two. Thus, this could be an interesting experience, for you and I both!
Arrived in PP (Phnom Penh) on Tuesday the 7th more than a little worse for wear. A combination of LCCS (Low Cost Carrier Syndrome), an inability to even catch a few minutes kip, working that bloody night shift on the Sunday night probably didnt help either, and then spending an excrutiating eight hours at KL's LCCT (T stands for Terminal, which is precisely how I felt at that point). So Tuesday was a write off and on Wednesday I didnt feel like I was getting the hang of the place and probably needed to head off somewhere I could chillax with the vibe and ease myself on in. Which is when I decided to head down the coast to Sihanoukville on the Thursday.
A DINGO TOOK MY BABY (The Predator and his Prey)
Sihanoukville is an interesting place. Went through the usual routine on arrival. Off the bus, touts everyway, find yourself in the arms of one, off on his bike to a place by the beach. Happy with the room for five dollars, so book in and get yourself organised for a little venture down to the beach, pretty much the only place you will venture in your three days here, but oh well, thats what you need huh, a bit of r and r.
Anyway, as you unpack youre aware of a commotion rising above the sound of CNN or BBC which you have turned on for a bit of company. Being the ever vigilant type - OK, nosy would be more like it - you reach for the remote and hastily turn the telly off, not wanting to miss a minute, because there is some serious agitation in the voice of the Barang (foreigner) who is getting louder and louder and more strident.
Oh good, the voice is pure Strine! Bless the Australian's overseas!!
"We're just watchin' the f***in' telly, we aint doin'anythin'!"
You get the point, and on and on it went in a similar fashion. At these bungalows, they had a staff member sleeping at the end of each set of bungalows, presumably to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the tourists, presumably also because prostitution and in particular child prostitution is such a huge problem. When I arrived I met a cool kid down the beach called something like Kas who, when knowing where I was from, sprouted the gem : Ä Dingo took my baby! Was rather impressed, though I had already heard this in PP. But it put me in mind of this particular Aussie dingo, preying on the young local girls. I saw him many times during the days I was there and everytime he was latched onto anyone who would listen to him, espousing why he was innocent of all charges. Methinks the man protest too much. I mean, what reason could there be (even in the mind of the most pure) to have a 16 year old local girl in your room, especially when child prostitution is such a huge issue???
It kind of weighs on your mind the whole time you are there. Walking along the beach to my favourite spot, I would catch sight of an elderly man in budgie smugglers taking numerous pics of the children romping in the surf. And I thought: It could just be innocent, he could be their grandfather. But all the while you have that sickening feeling that doesnt really ever go away. And let's face it, the locals on the beach always on the look out for that tourist dollar, will sometimes go to great lengths to get it. But then at least I guess we're not talking about children. Still makes me feel queasy though. All those old men and young local women.....
But Sihanoukville was a nice way to feel my way into my holiday. The Thursday I arrived was a full moon, so there were a couple of parties down the beach, but nothing too insane. Did find my face esconced in a couple of vodka buckets which was more than enough to send me hurtling into oblivion. Buckets people filled with vodka and coke and red bull. No bloody wonder I couldnt sleep until 8am! Met a few locals this night and had a very good time. Spent most of the rest of my days at a relaxing bar/restaurant/etc called Serendip (this is on Serendipity beach). This place was a little more family oriented and after the first nite shenanigans I just wanted a nice chilled place to have a few 25 to 50 cent draught beers and a 3 to 4 dollar Beach BBQ which included fish, garlic bread, baked potatoe and salad. Mmmmmm, red snapper.......
Am planning on heading back to Snookie, as it is affectionately known, before the end of the holiday. A few days resting on the beach, cheap beers and food. Nice......Also want to catch up with my little mate Kas who wants to take me to meets his family> Always up for meeting the locals. Although lets just see what happens, eh?
This should suffice for a first entry. Not that fascinating, the story doesnt really get going until Battambang, which is where I am now. Just worried that if I continue this will be lost so this is where I save and make this entry number one for this hol.
Anyway, back again, decided to continue on with the same blog to get things up to date. Will return to PP in a short while but for now I want to talk about Battambang (bang pronounced bong, for the record, not that I am suggesting anything by that!!) Oh, and by the way, those meds have kicked in and I am feeling mightily off my chops!
Bada Bing! Battambang!
I was having breakfast @ the Royal Guesthouse in PP, nice enough place, but surly owner, she of the forced grin if u smile long enough at her, you WILL be rewarded. The other younger staff though are adorable. Anyway I had been enduring some dull hot days. the Khmer New Year was in full swing and without anything of touristic interest being open, I spent my days waiting impatiently for happy hour to begin. And even then, would only have about 6 beers and have to stumble home to bed. Strange....Well, there I was at breakfast, and the thought came to me: GET OUT OF HERE!!!
More like an explosion than a thought, I ran into the guy at reception and asked him about buses to Battambang. It was 10.30. After numerous phone calls we finally managed to find a bus that was going to Battambang this day (being NY there was not much demand among tourists) and it was leaving at 11am. Off I ran upstairs in a flurry, quickly packed and ran downstairs where the guy was awaiting with his trusty moto to take me to the bus office.
Well the bus turned up at 11.30, as it happened....I grabbed my pack, looking for the usual dude to put my bag into the luggage compartment. Nowehere to be seen. Then I sight the bus driver motioning to me to board the bus which I did to see a full load of Khmer's staring inquisitively at the barang about to board their bus. I always get a good feeling when I board a bus that is predominately filled with locals. For a start it sure as hell beats trying to claim your space when the guy next to you is a Hefty Harry!! Not too many of those among the locals. So...comfortable and spacious! Even with my backpack propped under the seats I was sharing with the talkative local. Was never quite sure who he was talking to, but never mind! It was a good bus journey, although I have to make an observation here, the locals dont seem as forthright and welcoming as the Vietnamese do. I remember those fun "local" buses with the air con off, the windows open, the cigarettes and food being shared and everyone talking to the foreigner even though his Nam-ese was strictly limited. Good times! Nonetheless it was a fun trip - all those unplanned stops to welcome aboard another local who would then sit in the aisle on a little plastic stool for the remainder of his journey. And take in the vids being played which was either some heart rending local toons (why is Asian music so devoid of any freakin'passion? Whats the deal? Let's kick some ass people!) crooned by a slick backed hair youth or an overmade up young lady whilst couples would twirl around the dance floor looking mightily disinterested, OR there was the local comedy dvd which seemed somewhere on a par with Benny Hill in terms of sophistication. OK, nothing wrong with Benny Hill, and these cheeky chaps went down a treat with everyone else on board. But the whole thing seemed to be focused on an over amorous (and overacting, lets be honest!) chap molesting (to various degrees) various women! So violent!
But the ride flew by and when I arrived the dude at the bus station with the moto, was so kind and honest that I ended up giving him a dollar when he dropped me at my hotel, even though he had only asked for the equivalent of 25 cents. And sometimes thats all it takes to get a good feeling for a place. Of course, sometimes it is also wildly innacurate. But this time it was right on the ball.
The Royal Hotel where I am staying has a loverly rooftop restaurant where I have been happily esconced most evenings, enjoying the miraculous sunsets and simply stunning cloud formations which frame this part of the world. Of course with a cheap beverage in hand, and the food is not bad either. The first evening, I went for a little wander and liked what I found. Beautiful riverfront, beautiful people, so friendly and some nice old French colonial buildings. Then I went back for dinner and beers before having an early nite with a plan to hook up with a local moto driver for a bit of a trip around the country side etc.,
If anyone is reading this now, need a breather, will continue momentarily....