Sunday, February 21, 2010

SIHANOUKVILLE, CAMBODIA - A Travel Blog

I was really looking forward to Cambodia. How exotic it seemed to me, and I had heard that there was a lot of beautiful places to see. On this particular trip, I only had time and budget for one place, and that was Sihanoukville. Yes, a very strange name and one that I had never heard of, my spell checker just goes nuts on this one.


Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Cambodia requires a travel Visa and the ship was "kind" enough to get one for us (although they charge way more than what it's worth). So, here we go, off into this exciting foreign land. Our journey took us up to the coast line where our port was. As I looked off the boat, there were the most interesting houses lined up along a narrow line of rocks that jutted out into the ocean. This foundation was obviously man made and seemed to be a perfect place for people to have their fishing houses. At least I'm assuming that's what they were.

Off the shore of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Our dock was mainly just an industrial port and was lined up with the same police presence that was common in many of the Asia countries. We were only allowed to leave this port by a bus that was provided by both the city and ship. It was explained that we were not allowed to walk out of the port at all. This disappointed me because there were some more homes off to the left that looked very interesting, but we were told that there had been "Issues" in the past and that it wasn't safe.

Outside of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

After boarding the bus, everyone seemed to be buzzing with excitement. The sun was shining and rather hot, but at least it wasn't raining. The port was not in town and it would take about 15 minutes to get to Sihanoukville. As we drove along, there was the occasional local standing on the side, watching the strangers ride by.

Outside of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The countryside was somewhat interesting, but reminded me more of southern California, than what I would consider a tropical environment. It felt and looked different than Thailand on one side and Vietnam on the other. After pulling into town, it only took a moment to begin to see those smiles on my fellow passenger's faces, turn to frowns. I feel bad saying that, but that's what happened. As the town unveiled itself, it was simply not an interesting place. There was dirt and dust blowing up everywhere as if we'd come into a Western town.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

There were buildings lining the street and people everywhere. Our bus driver, for some reason, decided to pull us into a parking lot where there were literally hundreds of locals who began to surround the bus. They began frantically pounding on the bus windows with their hands and shoving signs up at us that said "Tuk Tuk". A Tuk Tuk is a type of three wheeled motorcycle that has a of cart on the back for passengers. It is a taxi system.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Many vendors with jewelry and other items were also in the crowd. The door of the bus opened and the driver had to try and push the people back who were trying to enter the bus. This situation became quite awkward and unfortunately, about half the passengers on the bus decided not to get off. I wanted to see this town regardless, so I made my way out the bus door and through the insane crowd. Being a nice person or not, it's not fun when lots of strangers start grabbing you and your clothes. I finally made it through the crowd and as with Vietnam, I had to turn down constant offers for Tuk Tuk rides. It actually took me a while to get those chiming words out of my head.


Sihanoukville, Cambodia

My travel partner and I managed to get a short ways down the street. I love the different cultures, architecture and scenery of other countries, but this town didn't seem to have much of any of it. The poor buildings were run down and not build well, except for a few newer structures being replaced. I do understand this that it's a less prosperous country, and I don't mean to sound judgmental. We walked a few blocks in one direction, looking for an ATM.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We finally found a bank and was able to get some cash. It was possible to use U.S. dollars there, which was nice, but we had to change the money in the bank to get smaller bills. Even outside of the bank, people approached us.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Our aim was to have a nice meal, see the town and take some photos. We found a market area that contained many stands of fruits and vegetables. There was also a warehouse building next to it which was a type of "Flea Market". The interior of the market was dark, and at least cooler than it was outside. We looked around for items to buy and prices were okay, but not much of a bargain. For instance, they were charging $20 U.S dollars and up for T-shirts. Kind of high for that type of venue.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The vegetables and fruit stands looked great. After walking through the outside rows, we came to the inside portion of that market, which happened to be a place for selling meat.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

All of the meat was laid out on wooden tables in the open. Pig's heads and raw meat everywhere. With such heat, there was a strong smell and we left pretty quickly. That is why I didn't take a photo in there.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As far as the locals go, they were not too friendly. I hear that the experience for people who visit Siem Reap is quite different. It's a few hundred miles away and a much different area. I suspect that the locals in Siem Reap are much more used to tourists. Sihanoukville, didn't seem to have that familiar comfort. I had to be cautious with the camera, to avoid the constant dirty looks.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Yes, some people are offended by having their picture taken, even if you're just taking a shot of a building and they happen to be in the way. Again, I kind of understand this and tried to be considerate. However, this meant that I didn't get many photos of the town. Also, you couldn't really stop for five seconds without becoming involved in a conversation with a Tuk Tuk driver who wouldn't take "No thanks" for an answer.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We did finally find a small cafe to sit down and have some lunch.We needed to take a break from the heat and the chaos. The service wasn't too friendly and an English man and woman who were just leaving warned us that they had just tried to overcharge them considerably.


Having a bite to eat in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

However, we decided to set down and have a lunch anyway. We ordered some fried rice dishes and a couple of sodas. The meal tasted quite good. Yes, it did end up being overpriced at $8 per dish and $1.50 for the soda, which was high for cambodia and this cafe. We just smiled and paid it without question, not that big of a deal.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As we enjoyed our food, we watched the many school children and workers walking up and down the streets.


Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As we left the cafe, I saw this man having a nap on some boxes. That's one way to protect the beer.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The highlight of this visit was when I saw an older lady sitting on the corner with a wok.

Local vender in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

She was frying something squishy, that ended up being a golden brown stick of about 10 inches. It looked, and smelled great. I smiled and indicated I wanted two and handed her a dollar. She tried to put 5 in a bag, but that was way too much to eat after lunch, so I convinced her I only wanted two and the dollar would be fine. I finally got a smile out of her. As we walked away my friend and I began to eat these brown crunchy things and...WOW, were they good. Banana...fried banana stick..thingy's.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Of course we realize how great these were after we had gone half way down the block. I could have sworn I wanted 5 of them in the bag, but hey...maybe she just didn't hear me. :-)

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The day was long, hot and, well, uncomfortable. A few locals seemed to be laughing a enjoying the day, but the only smiles I found were on the school kids who were enjoying a bird in the school yard. The teacher actually smiled and allowed me to take this shot, so at least I had a couple of friendly encounters while in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

I am glad that we hadn't decided to stay there, but I am thankful that I got to see a part of Cambodia. I didn't end up buying anything, and didn't really have good memories to take back with me. I imagine that my experience will be much better next time I go to Cambodia and visit Siem Reap. It's no one's fault that it was the way it was in Sihanoukville, just an awkward cross of cultures and a struggling town trying to make a living.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

There are some more pictures of Sihanouville in my Flickr account, which you can access by clicking HERE. I had some camera (lens) issues in Cambodia, so most of my shots are not that good.



1 comment:

Devin Nguyen said...

I would travel to Cambodia. This country is wonderful. I heard the food at here was delicious. Do not know that true?
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