The Cambodian Coast

Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, March 8, 2008

Just like San Francisco was in the 1960's, Kep was the place to be for those in the know in South East Asia. Hippies didn't last and neither did the wealthy Cambodians for whom Kep was their playground - Pol Pot massacred them. All that remains of this town is the scattered decaying shells of once luxurious villas and a fish restaurant which locals claim is the best in South East Asia. The food was delicious - but why does eating seafood have to be so much effort? After 30minutes going at 2crabs with a nutcracker my plate resembled a building site. And I might as well of used a pneumatic drill for the amount of actual meat I got out of it. Its also a well known fact that you expand more energy removing bones from your mouth, than you take from the fish. Prawns? How many do you have to eat to get full? I just don't have the patience.

Kampot also had a famous fish restaurant but this isn't why we stayed. One of these decaying villa's had been transformed into the Bodei Ville - the best place we have stayed in 8months. Most people had been there for weeks or months and would very rarely leave the villa grounds. Running the joint was 2 alcoholic Australians who would give free beer and cocktails to everyone who tried to leave, making sure they consequently missed their bus. Most people were incredibly proud of the astronomical bar tabs they had run up. Most memorable about our stay was swimming in a river that glowed iridescent with every little we made - phosphorescent apparently, the automatic defense mechanism of the algae in the water.

Sihanoukville is very much like Ibiza - part of it is tacky, dirty, and annoying, but most of it is amazing. Here is some of many examples. Pride of place in the centre of town is the golden lions roundabout - 2 giant golden lion statues which watch over the numerous road accidents that occur when everyone takes their eye of the road and starts staring at the enormous meat and 2 veg that hangs down from the lions crotch. I went to an Australian bar on Sunday afternoon and had a huge English breakfast while watching highlights of the football. That night I took Kerry and our friend Emilia to have some food in the same bar and was greeted by 5 Cambodian women who wanted to sit on my knee. After 5seconds of confusion we realised the bar was actually a brothel - a brothel that also does a Sunday carvery! Just like Ibiza you wouldn't visit the main beach unless you were a paraplegic drunk and wanted to get robbed - its filthy and you will get robbed whatever time of day. 

Instead we stayed on the stunning Otres beach, 5km out of town, and spent 4days of tranquility. Each morning we had breakfast on the beach and were joined by the guesthouse owners 6year old daughter who came to listen to our ipod. I tried Luciano and Prodigy on her but she was unimpressed. Sven Vath nearly brought her to tears. I toned it down with Bob Marley and she started singing along to 'Jamming', so I asked her how does Bob Marley like his donuts but it went straight over her head. Shit joke or that damn language barrier?

We liked Sihanoukville so I decided to do my Scuba diving certification here instead of Thailand. Kerry has an enormous phobia of the open water but she came along on the boat anyway. Our instructor Bibi (who was the spitting image of the Columbian footballer Carlos Valderama - imagine a huge buffoon of long tight blond curly hair sticking up like its been electrocuted) knew exactly how to handle the situation and strapped Kerry to an inflatable shark, gave her some armbands and kicked her off the boat. Maybe it was because Kerry was too embarrassed to draw any more attention to her herself, or maybe this calculated bit of bullying was exactly what was required, but Kerry had overcome the phobia in one swift move. Within 3days she was also a certified diver.

Scuba diving is not only visually amazing - the feeling of being completely weightless underwater is fascinating. No longer do you have to be a 3 stone pre-pubescent Russian to be able to do a triple backflip with 2twists. Its amazing - you see something interesting but rather than swim towards it why not try a quadruple somersault and land yourself upside down just 10cm away from the reef. Its probably the most phenomenal thing I have ever experienced.

As part of the course we spent 2nights on Koh Rong Sam Leom - an island of 65 families with just enough generator powered electricity for 65 light bulbs. There's not much to do so when a pig was giving birth 25people were gathered around, under a paraffin lamp, drinking and taking bets on the number of piglets. Under or over 5 was the standard bet was this was a pre-owned pig so special rules applied. If 10piglets were born the chief of the village had to dance from the top of pier to the place of birth and give the owner a case of beer. If it was less than 10, the pigs previous owner had to do the same thing. I was rooting for 10 because for some reason I had this image of the chief being a ridiculously overweight man dressed only in a hula skirt. Eventually 5piglets were born but one died - what did that mean for the case of beer I wagered on over 5? I still don't know.

On many occasions during the trip we have been places where we could have stayed and volunteered ourselves to help others. We haven't stopped for two reasons - either there are other people helping or we would be useless at what needed doing. Koh Rong Sam Leom has a one roomed school but it has been shut for years because they can't afford a teacher. No-one is that bothered about it, people are happy, but none of the children have any education. A few days ago we moved into a bungalow in Sihanoukville for a month in which we hope to raise enough money to reopen the school for a year. FAT DOG CAMBODIA is our plan - a beach party with all the proceeds going directly to the hula skirted chief to pay a teacher. Flyers and posters are around the town (it feels good seeing the Fat Dog logo pinned all over the streets) and word has been spread. The party is on Thursday and I will post a blog about how it went.

In the meantime - People to avoid while traveling no 4 - the McBeardios.

One of the reasons we like Sihanoukville is there isn't any travelers with beards. People go traveling and grow their beards for some unknown reason - I even tried it in Mongolia but it ended up looking even more stupid than Rafael Benitiz's facial hair. Reasons of vanity is not why I don't like McBeardios - if you want to age yourself 20years and look like Jim Royle thats fine - it makes normal people look proportionally more attractive. Beards suit certain people like academics and religious figures. They can sit there twiddling their hair and it makes their babble about various baffling concepts seem more realistic. But this is the problem - the McBeardio grows a beard capable of tickling his entire rib cage simultaneously and then will only ever talk about the places the beard has been. Conversations go a bit like this - 
 - "Did you see the England - Estonia game last night"
 - "Estonia? You know i once rode a 3legged mule across the whole of Siberia in the middle of January."
 - "What about the pedestrianization of Norwich city centre? Any thoughts on that" Lets try a bit of banter.
 - "I wouldn't know much about that because I've spent the last 5years living in the Afganistani mountains with only a goat for company."

They become the beard and every conversation it somehow brought back around to the seemingly impossible places the beard has been as they revel in boasting about the beards achievements.

 - Lets try taking the piss - "You know I went to Afghanistan and lived with the Durka Durkas with a month."
 - "Oh you got caught in the tourist trap didn't you. That part of Afghanistan used to be cool but now its overrun with travel agencies."
 - "Really?"
 - "Oh yeah, think about it, Durka Durka land has even got a guesthouse, hardly an authentic experience is it."

You get the idea. They would never come to Sihanoukville - it has a cinema and you can eat burgers. We are safe for now.

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philkoziol on

Great blog, I am in Kep with my girlfriend and we both just had a laugh at "McBeardios", great photos too. Thanks

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