Just got here and loving it already, just like another Goa but not so developed. Only a matter of time though. Am out at the moment having just sampled a couple of local Mekong whiskies - the real gear.... I'll let you know later the outcome. Cheers.... Pat...
Think golden sand. Think bright blue skies. Think cooling waves lapping on the shore. Think soaking up the rays on a sunlounge. Think daily hour long massages. Think tropical fruit smoothies.
If there was ever a place to chill out and get away from the remnants of the atrocities of war it's here. It's a seaside town of hope; of the future of Cambodia; where the country shows the world what the Khmer nation has to offer - and it's awesome.... We stayed not 100m from the waters edge and barely ventured further than the nearest deckchair or sunlounge to soak up the sun and evening atmosphere of one of Asia's best kept secrets. To say that I had an awesome time here would be an understatement of massive proportions.
The first night I arrived in town Denise and Rob were still recovering from the night out at the Heart of Darkness in Phnom Penh, so I ventured out alone to find out what Sihanoukville had to offer. I soon found that there are two types of travellers here.
1. Those who are here for a few days to soak up the atmosphere in Cambodia's party capital, and
2. Those who were here for a few days to soak up the atmosphere in Cambodia's party capital and end up staying for a number of weeks or months.
Little did I realise then that I was soon to became an example of the v2 backpacker.
To liven things up even more, on day 2 we joined up with a crew of Irish and English ex-pats from Pattaya, Thailand, and so became a mobile party of 9 ready to liven up any bar along the sands of Serendipity Beach; and for 5 days we did just that. As Fun Rob put it, the Real Pat was out and we had a ball, dancing and partying the nights away, and for me, finding myself truely infatuated for the first time in a long time [Enter Lauren].
Daylight hours were spent chilling out by the sea on our sunlounges, being pampered hand and foot. There were frequent reminders of Cambodia's past though with beggars, both blind and mamed passing by looking for money or food. Although we gave quite frequently, it's impossible to save the world. Sometimes we could only watch them pass by, dragging their bodies through the sand, leaving us to thank the man upstairs for our own good health. Most of those who came by begging were victims of land mine blasts. Literally millions of mines remain in the country's wastelands where venturing off the beaten trail is a recipe for disaster. Even some well trodden trails can be death traps if rains soften the soil that once formed a solid seal over the top of the mine.
By the fifth and last day I wasn't feeling ready to head home just yet. Lauren had just moved on to Koh Chang that morning and she asked that I meet her there. An offer too good to refuse. But my bus was leaving in the morning for Bangkok just in time to catch my flight home. The answer was obvious for me, for the ever adventurous Patrick, but there were seeds of discontent within the travelling party, so a night of deliberation was needed.
Rob was feeling the effects of the previous evening and had an early night, so Denise and I ventured out to some new bars to see if we could find anything new. As a result of balancing my budget fairly tenderly I ran out of Cambodian money around 2am and took up some work behind the bar at the Eden Bar to keep afloat. I was already feeling at home here and working behind the bar ensured I got to meet everyone, including someone who claimed to be John Lennon's nephew and actually looked the part. The more people I spoke to, the more stories I heard of travellers who'd come here to visit for a few days and ended up staying for months. The girlfriend of the bar's owner was only 23 and last year had come to Camdodia, fell in love with it and opened her own bar in Phnom Penh. She since sold that to move to Sihanoukville with her boyfriend to help run the bar here. The next 4 hours were filled with similar anecdotes and the morning soon became a debate amongst many as to whether I should hang around a little longer and head on to Koh Chang, or head off, pack my bags and catch the 6:30am bus to Bangkok. The balance was certainly in favour of staying.
6am came round and as the sun began to rise I was still serving drinks, still hadn't packed and was still undecided. But Sensible Pat must have arrived in town. I realised that Mum would certainly send out a search party - find me and string me up, but more importantly I'd miss seeing my god-daughter Emily as she verges on taking her first steps. That, and I'd booked a $1500 course in Sydney for the following week - missing it being akin to flushing crisp Australian dollars down the WC. Dollars which could otherwise fund another few months away. So as I trudged up the hill to the hotel, I waved Rob adieu as he rode off in the distance - he himself wondering when he'd ever see me again.
By 6:25 I'd begrudgingly packed my backpack, said goodbye to Denise and sped off on the back of a motorbike, part of me hoping I got to the bus in time. The rest hoping that I'd 'unfortunately' miss it - only just - and would be forced to spend another few days\weeks in this tropical paradise.
Either way I would be happy.