Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sihanoukville - Suckynoukville (Low Season)
Ok, that word play didn't really work, but anyway, I was surprised to find that my most whiny, self-indulgent blog proved to be one of my most popular. Perhaps this post, seeing as it is about the place I was whining about, will also engage you in a similar way.
Anyway, Stuart asked the very pertinent question of - what is wrong with Sihanoukville? Why did I hate it? Well. Sihanoukville is a sprawling, ugly city whose only attraction is the beach and the laid-back life. Also, some of the cheapest prostitutes in South East Asia. In Cambodia, you can find prostitutes who charge about $2. This awesome perk draws in some less savoury characters, who then realise this is the one place they have ever felt powerful or well-liked and buy a business (cafe or guest house seem common) and drift into semi-retirement with their 20 year old 'girlfriend' (who they just happen to pay).
Since I was traveling alone at this stage, and it's low season, I had little choice but to converse with these old timers and hear about their fascinating take on the rich and ancient culture of Cambodia. My tactic was - smile sweetly, say very little, and wait for them to reveal themselves. And this they did, all too willingly, since they have lived for the last decade in a city FULL of people just like themselves, they seem to have forgotten usual social decorum.
Here are some excerpts of various conversations:
Me: So why did you move to Sihanoukville?
Him: It's more laid-back than Phnom Penh.
Me: Oh ok, but you had your heart set on Cambodia?
Him: *laughs* Not my heart, love. An organ lower down.
Him: Did you know there are only FOUR psychiatrists in this whole country? They don't even believe in that stuff here. (NB: I later found there are 20, which is still extremely low)
Me: Wow, that's crazy. And especially bad when you think about how many people must be suffering post-traumatic stress... (Apologies for sounding so banal, but it's hard to keep up my usual standards of intellect when talking to these guys).
Him: Nah, I don't worry about that anymore. I used to feel sorry for them, but you stop caring. Everywhere it's the same. In Australia, when I first got there I felt bad for the aboriginies, but then when I got to see them, I stopped feeling sorry for them. It's human nature.
Same guy: Suppose, if I told you, I LIKE going down to a cock fight, that I like the atmosphere, I suppose you'd think that was wrong, wouldn't you?
Him: (referring to a teenage girl, who is the younger sister of his girlfriend) "See her, she's a lesbian paedaphile."
Me: Sorry what?
Him: Well she's definitely a lesbian, and she certainly likes 'em young.
The top image is of a monkey being kept in a small cage in the hotel I ended up in. I didn't see the monkey until after checking in, or else I would have stayed somewhere else. The images of the beach just show how deserted this place is during the low season. The cockroaches I had killed in a fury during the night, to find them the next morning with some new friends - ants. At first I thought the cockroach was alive again, since it was moving - turns out it was being carried by ants.