The Beach

If I would ever imagine a modern Tortuga, it would look like Sihanouk Ville. Tortuga in pirate mythology is an idyllic island with cheap drink and sex. After spending two days in Sihanouk Ville, it was clear to us that a big percentage of holiday makers came there just for that. The town was lazy during a day, but at night the music didn’t stop until dawn and booze was poured in liters. While young people indulged in $0.25 beer, lonely men disappeared from bars with pretty Cambodian girls. The later it got the more visible the girls were becoming. There was one bar on the beach where night in and night out men in their 40s+ sat on the bar trying to forget their troubles and a row of girls sitting in a semi-circle right behind them waiting for their chance. What disturbed me was that prostitution is not perceived as shameful. It was just a way of getting money and that’s it. Once after dinner a waiter came over to us and whispered to Ale “Do you want to go with somebody? It’s cheap cheap and good.” So what he was with me and we had just finished a nice candle-lit dinner on the beach. And by “somebody” he meant a girl or a boy. It happened to us while we were having a dinner at night market in Phnom Penh that a teenage boy came over to Ale and asked him if he wanted to go with him. Ale looked at the boy disgusted and he went away to ask another man.

Taking into account how commercial and money driven Sihanouk Ville was, it was a very non-Cambodian place. It became so because tourists from all over the world started coming there for a cheap holiday. It seemed especially popular with Russians. And it really must be the most popular tourist destination after Angkor Wat, because it shocked us with the amount of people, its prices and wild party atmosphere. It had some nice white beaches, but to find peace we had to avoid Serendipity Beach which was right in the centre. It was overly commercial and full of people offering something every minute. Massage sir? Manicure lady? Oh you have so much hair sir, are you sure you don’t need help with it? Fruit salad miss? Coconut, sea food? We didn’t go to that beach again. The day after we rented a motorbike and went to a more secluded Otres beach.

To avoid the bustle and sleaze of Sihanouk Ville all together, we got on a boat to a nearby island Koh Rong Somloem. There was a Full Moon Party that night on the island so we figured we’d party until late and then rest on a pristine beach the day after. The boat was supposed to set us in the right mood for the party with its loud music and free beers, but it was only 10am and not many of us were in party mood yet. Especially after the fight that broke out between DJ and a girl (who seemed to be a drunk prostitute shouting f words at everyone). As we were planning the trip for the days to come out of a sudden we saw the DJ throwing himself on the girl, pushing her against the wall, then smashing a glass of beer next to her. He’d probably go even further but crew members came to her aid. Apparently she said something very upsetting to him. Even though she was the victim, nobody would miss her even if he had thrown her overboard.

Full Moon Party was ok. The music stopped playing at 7.30 the next morning. It was a cold and cloudy day, but despite that we went for a long walk along the beach. Our heads needed fresh air and silence after a night of pumping noise. On the way back we got caught by the rain and stopped to get shelter at a small local shop. We bought some mangoes and a bottle of water and were ready to head out when the owner stretched out his arm towards us holding a white mug. It was half full of something yellowish and we thought he was offering us tea. Ale took a sip and grinned at him. “Mekong whiskey,” he said proudly. “Drink! Cold!,” he urged and poured a few more doses of alcohol. That’s called breakfast island style!

After two days on hammocks, swings and sun-beds we left the peace and quiet of Koh Rong Samloem. We felt the urge to move on and so we took the boat back to Sihanouk Ville and then a bus to Phnom Penh.

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