Monday, May 30, 2011


We had to delay our travel plans to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap by one day, thanks to a little inconvenience that my mom termed "the real Cambodian experience". On Sunday we left Phnom Penh to travel to the beach town by bus, a four hour ride. We left in the morning and were there by lunch, whence we checked into our lovely hotel that was within walking distance of Serendipity Beach. The beach is beautiful. It is also filled with hordes of mostly women and girls (a few boys) who hound you to buy their bracelets and fruit and pester you to let them give you massages and manicures. It seemed that one or two girls selling strings of bracelets was connected with a woman offering pampering services, and they were probably mother and daughter.They are relentless, more so than any other place I've seen in Cambodia, but they are also very savvy, and there is obvious competition. One girl who claimed to be 14 (she was definitely more like 12) attached herself to us, and even gave us each a bracelet free of charge, was all cute smiles and flattery when speaking to us. But the moment a younger girl came over with her own bracelets, the older girl's face flashed into a scowl and she angrily told her off in quick Khmer. Then she turned to us, her face transforming into that sugary-sweet smile as fast as she had flipped a light switch, and she laughed with innocence and resumed her pretty English words.

beautiful Serendipity Beach

That evening, Lauren and I decided to go to Independence beach to catch the sunset. When we got there the beach was empty except for Cambodian families that were picnicking in the cool evening air. We walked along the beach, taking in the sound of the crashing waves and the sun descending through the golden clouds. It was just beautiful. It reminded me a lot of sunsets in Hawaii that I love so much, and yet it was so different. We walked barefoot in the sand away from the families till we were alone on the beach and in our thoughts. There was just an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility in the moment, and the sunset was so beautiful, I think it requires a few photos, though none have truly done it justice.

On our last day, we decided to check out another beach, called Sokha Beach. Sokha Beach is more excluded, due to the fact that the Sokha company (something to do with petroleum) bought probably the nicest portion of the beach, built an expensive resort just dripping with opulence on it, and now charges too much if you want to come and use the beach. But we wanted to see what it would be like without the crowds (read: beggars). To get to the beach, Lauren and I took the road less traveled, and by that I mean we climbed up and down and over rocks, all along the water's edge till we reached the beach. It was a little frightening at times trusting my slippery flip flops, but it was so spontaneous and fun. As we reached the end, we ran into some local kids fishing in the pools for crabs.

The beach was nice, but it seemed so out of place in Cambodia. We found ourselves missing the crowds of women and their incessantly insisting children. Even stranger still, was that right next to Sokha resort stood a shantytown, probably illegally right on the beach. Such are the contrasts of Cambodia: extreme opulence and extreme poverty; foreign oasis and low living conditions of the locals. We longed for the people and simplicity of Serendipity Beach.

Sihanoukville was lovely. It was a bit touristy for my liking, but we had fun and I would love to go back. I loved being able to swim in the ocean and the breezes that came with it; a welcome respite from the humidity of the inland cities.

1 comment:

  1. Woah woah! The last part is beautifully written!