Sun, sand and Sihanoukville

22 Apr

Time to break out of Battambang…. I hadn’t planned on hitting the beach in Cambodia, but since I have so much time here, I thought I would add a new destination in!

Fabulous sunsets here – only problem is someone has put a phone mast in between the sunset and my hotel… so had to get a bit creative

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One thing I did notice about Battambang (and a lot of other Cambodian (and Asian) cities – the number of phone shops. Battambang must have at least 20 – it’s crazy. Here are 6 on one block.

Phone Shops, Battambang (1)

Up early for breakfast on the balcony of the hotel – it’s cool and clear, and a chance for a ‘thoughtful time’ as I get my head (and my heart) back together. The moon hangs full and low in the grey sky, a mysterious promise for the day to come.

So, a long, long bus ride to Sihanoukville, on the coast of Cambodia. Got to go back to Phnom Penh first though. The bus ride should be 9 hours. It turns out to be more like 13…

Arriving at Phnom Penh it’s quite clear that we’re a complete and total surprise to the bus company – but we’re holding tight to our seats (possession is nine-tenths of the law, isn’t it?) and the excess passengers end up in the gangway,on planks set between the seats. That’s gotta be painful for 5 hours.

We’re not the only ones overloaded – pickups hurtle past with entire families on board – at least a dozen people, two motorbikes, luggage, sacks of rice, cooking pots and two dozen chickens arrayed round the edge. I start to wonder if there’s an evacuation on – and wonder if this what what it was like when Phnom Penh was evacuated in 1975.

There’s a ferocious and beautiful lightning storm that captivates me – it’s possible to see for miles over the plains of Cambodia, and the storm crackles its shards of blue-white electricity through the night sky.

On the way to Sianoukhville

Sorry, no lightning – my camera is good but it can’t work miracles…

Finally into Sihanoukville… suddenly the balance of the population has changed to be mostly Barang – and largely British. It does in some ways feel like an Asian version of the Costa del Sol – but nice too. Tuk tuk drivers still hail me regularly for my five minute walk to the beach, while land mine victims and mothers with babies beg for a few riel. The children sell bracelets or fireworks as the sun sets like fire in the sky: the pyrotechnics above being matched by the flames spinning from the fire show on the beach, and the sputtering fireworks being sold by the children. I’m on Serendipity Beach and sitting in a bar called Serendip, waiting for the fortunate accidents to happen….

Serendipity Beach (2)Serendipity Beach (11)Serendipity Beach (12)

I thought I might as well take a trip to the islands, so up onto a longtail boat run by Mr Sok – most of these boats here have two engines (presumably for safety) but we only have one – and since two-thirds of the passengers are sitting on the same side as the engine, we are dangerously overbalanced.

The sea is lively today – I’ve chosen to sit as far away from the engine as possible – which places me right in the path of any waves that might choose to throw themselves over the front of the boat.

Islands Trip (9)Islands Trip (12)Islands Trip (16)Islands Trip (19)Islands Trip (1)

Snorkelling time – but the water, really, is too cloudy to see anything much – the roiling seas have stirred up the sand and the fish are pretty much invisible.. My mask strap snaps and has to be fixed while I tread water, hoping I don’t stomp on one of the many sea urchins that line the coral floor.

Then off to one of the islands for lunch, for exploring, for sunbathing. You can stay here, in a really basic hut on the beach. It would be nice if I was with someone, but a bit lonely on my own, I think.

And then another day on a sunkissed Cambodian beach. Well, I say sun kissed, but it’s more of a light peck on the cheek rather than a full on celestial snog. Cloudy days, and heavy rains (considering it’s dry season!). Today, for some reason, feels quite lonely and purposeless. Time to go diving, perhaps . .

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