Anth in Phnom Penh

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Escape to Snookeyville

I decided to skip town on Friday. It was a much needed attempt to break out of my increasingly entrenched habit of hedonistic weekends in PP. With our favourite partner in crime out of the picture and in another country, Andrew and I figured now was the time to get away from it all. We took Friday arvo off and arrived in Snookers (aka Sihanoukville; located 226km south east of Phnom Penh) around 5pm. We were greeted by heavy downpour and an onslaught of moto dops. Undeterred by exorbitant transport costs and hostile environmental conditions we got ourselves down to the beach and in possession of a thatched bungalow with a balcony. Andrew pointed out that most Khmer would probably be extremely puzzled by our choice to pay USD$10 per night to stay in what is ostensibly a traditional Khmer dwelling with a few modifications for barang tastes (like beds not on the wooden floorboards). The bungalow was nestled up on a slope, with a great view of the beach. I thought it was perfect.

Not too early on Saturday morning we joined forces with Bec. She had come down for a work conference and was foregoing a four hour bus, with karaoke, journey back to PP with her work colleagues to hang out with us. Our plan was to hire motos and go exploring. However, this was not to be easily achieved. None of us had our passports with us and the moto hire outlet (for some reason) would not accept a Victorian, ACT or NSW drivers license instead. We dejectedly tried again at another place. At first, they were very receptive: two motos were fetched, forms were filled out, and our spirits buoyed. But alas, the same problem re-surfaced. We cajoled and pleaded and finally after a lengthy half Khmer-half English exchange we handed over $10, three Australian drivers licenses and Andrew’s business card. I donned my red helmet, slipped the key into the ignition and we readied to depart. It was all smiles and farewells, and then ‘oh, you do know how to ride moto, yes?’ But it seems the answer to this question was not so important and we were off down the slope, motos gleaming in the hot sun.

It was an extremely pleasant day. I felt a wonderful sense of abandon, driving my red moto on the beach, burning along the white sand with the waves lapping at my wheels. There is really nowhere in this country where motos do not go. My feelings of unbridled joy were somewhat dampened by an untimely collision with a sand bank, but apart from some momentary feelings of embarrassment, no harm was done. This was not the only time I led my poor moto astray. After negotiating a particularly nasty stretch of boggy, sticky track we were faced with the option of tackling a steep hill or turning back. I was not prepared for the latter and optimistically discounted the difficulty of the former. Next thing I know we were halfway up the hill, drawing a crowd, tired, sweaty and stuck. I was grimly determined to get my moto up that hill. But after two failed attempts, one of which may have involved me being thrown to the ground and the moto rushing into the side of the road and sustaining some injury, Andrew took over. Through a combination of strength and maneuvering he got the poor, little machine to the top of the hill. On a positive note, this incident provided much entertainment for the locals. Thankfully, after the hill it was smooth driving into the sunset. We returned to the beach and found a restaurant which served yummy mediterranean food and even managed to produce an affogato. After a chocolate crepe and then beers on the beach I decided it was time to crawl into bed.

The next morning was stunning, with clear blue skies and sparkling water. We wandered along the beach and chatted with the many children who employ emotional blackmail and extremely cute facial contortions to try and sell you fruit, bracelets and shells. Unfortunately, our time was up and we had to bundle onto a bus back to the capital. My arms now heavy with shell bracelets and my head firmly against returning to work I wished that I could have just one extra day. But it was not to be, at 5pm we entered the outskirts of Phnom Penh and were greeted by the bedlam that is Sunday early evening traffic. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a volunteer worker in Cambodia!!

BongThea signing out.


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