Back to the Beach

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We left Phnom Penh during one of two national ‘festivals’ in Cambodia. What the actual festival was to celebrate was unclear, but what we could surmise is that it means a long weekend for most of the country- like Memorial Day or Labor Day. Our bus was packed with people excited about returning to home to see family. And with them were gifts a’plenty.. Everything from Flat screen TVs to chickens were packed in for the 5 hour trip to the coast. It should come as no surprise that our trip was delayed and arrived 3 hours after it was scheduled– some things are universal.

It was in this fashion that we found our way to the bustling seaside town of Sihanoukville. A tourist draw for both Cambodians and foreigners alike, this was perhaps the least westernized beach town we’ve visited since setting foot in Asia. It has yet to be introduced to mass marketing, loud clubs, and the typical beachside tourism you expect to find when traveling to any popular shoreline.

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Sihanoukville’s active area is the shoreline boardwalk. It seems quite hidden at first, as it requires wandering down a heavily littered and half washed out dirt road. The entryway is not the only surprise.

The oceanfront is a narrow passenger thoroughfare bordering on claustrophobic. It’s almost as if city officials remembered that the beach is a focal destination only after building the town around it. The brick boardwalk is far too close to the water’s edge, this leaves little room for the masses of beach chairs set out by the local restaurants, and even less space to actually enjoy the waves. On the other side of the boardwalk is a thick line of simply erected restaurants that seem to all have identical menus, and possibly use the same kitchen.

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Despite the obvious disappointment in not finding a glimmering sandy paradise, Sihanoukville will serve it’s purpose for our final four days in Cambodia. There is excellent people watching, a swarm of vacationers determined to enjoy what’s left of the beach, and comfy cushioned chairs that beg to take up our afternoons. It has been an action packed few weeks of sight seeing and visa paperwork. We’re ready for some beach time, and plan to do little more than order another coconut every hour and lose our days watching the world around us.

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