I've spent the last few days having a splurge at the beach in Sihanoukville. I left Phnom Penh on Sunday and took the bus to Kampot. Kampot is a small city near the coast and right on the river. It's quite pretty but there's not a lot going on. It reminded me of Savannakhet in Laos. I love these places just because they are so un-touristed. I don't think that will be the case in a few years, especially in Kampot as it's the gateway to Bokor National Park, but for the time being, the infrastructure is just being developed. I only spent the night there before heading to Cambodia's beach town of Sihanoukville. I had to take a private taxi as that is the only way to get between the two towns. However, at $17 for a 110km drive with door to door service, I'd say it was a pretty good deal. It even had one of those automatic seat belts that come over your chest when you close the door. It's the first time I've worn a seat belt (or had one to wear) in 7 months. The car was a Toyota Corolla with bucket seats in the front. Normally, they fit 7 passengers plus the driver in there! I initially paid $7 for the front seat to myself but when we could only find one passenger, I gave him another $10 to go right away.
When we reached Sihanoukville, I decided to pay a little more to stay right on the beach. I wanted to be able to go swimming without worrying about leaving my stuff on the beach. As my room is right behind me, I can leave everything locked up. It even has air conditioning! All this for $20 a night. That may be cheap by our standards back home but here, it's a lot of money.
I haven't done much since arriving. It rained yesterday morning and was cloudy all day so I did walk up the hill and take a look at the town but other than that, I've sat and swam and walked on the beach. I've got the daily routine down now. The first to come out are the women offering massages, pedicures and manicures. They're out by 10:00am. They're followed by the little girls selling fruit at around 11:00am (after going to school for a few hours in the morning). They range in age from about 6 or 7 to 13 or 14 although they're so small, they look even younger. I'm afraid there growth is being stunted by the weight of the fruit they carry on their heads. They pile pineapples, watermelon, mangos and bananas on a wicker tray and carry it all day up and down the beach on their heads. I helped two of them lift it up today and it was HEAVY. They next ones to come out are the little girls and a few little boys selling bracelets and key chains. Around the same time, the men with missing limbs come out. The ones who are missing both hands or both legs beg. The "lucky" ones who are only missing one leg usually sell books. There are also two blind men. One plays a traditional string instrument and is led around by a woman. The other one sings and uses a cane. He also has a small dog that carries a bucket around in its mouth. I guess that's for the money. Anyway, it's quite a colorful parade and everyone seems to be making money. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of these characters as my camera was always in the room.
I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for Ko Samet, an island about 4 hours south of Bangkok. I want to be back in Bangkok by Sunday night so that I can do some last minute shopping on Monday before flying to Hong Kong on Tuesday. I still can't believe that I'll be home a week from Saturday! Right now, I'm just trying not to think about it!