SIHANOUKVILLE

Republished from Harry Seaman

“Monday moring (Sept. 2) I caught the Bangkok –Trad bus (spelled Trot on my map but Trad on the side of the bus) at 6:00 a.m. at the corner of Central Pattaya Road and Sukhumvit.  The trip to Trat lasted about 5 hours.  As soon as I got off the bus I was shuffled onto a van to Ban Hat Lek and the border – fortunately I had only had one cup of coffee for breakfast and had taken advantage of the one nature call stop the bus took.

I finally arrived at the Thailand-Cambodia border about noon.  I passed through Thai immigration the crossed the border into Cambodia.  The Cambodian immigration officer had a nice scam going.  $20 (about 840 Baht) wasn't acceptable - he required 1100 Baht.  Now I know that the real cost is $20 and he pocketed the rest but I was very tired and just didn't feel like arguing.  Perhaps I should of, it really wasn't right to let him get away with this since it just encourages the same behavior in the future.

While at customs, I was approached by a Cambodian who pointed out a new price list posted on the wall next to the customs office.  It is now possible to take a van for 600 Baht directly from the border crossing to either Sihanoukville or to Phnom Penh.  The given times are 5 hours and 7 hours respectively.  I had planned on staying overnight in Ko Kong and taking the 8:00 a.m. ferryboat, also 600 Baht, but I decided that I would rather go straight on to Sihanoukville.  This turned out to be a big mistake.

The "road" that the vans take is a dirt road, still under construction, and still far from being finished.  The best description of it during rainy season is that it is a series of potholes and mud holes with damn little road in between.  Of course, during the dry season the road might be soother, but the dust would be just as bad as the mud, if not worse.  The trip through the mountains and then across the plains is beautiful, but will never be a comfortable one until the road is surfaced with blacktop in a couple of more years.  There are a number of bridges completed, but it is still necessary to take four ferries across the larger rivers.  The van left the border at 1:45 p.m. and finally arrived in Sihanoukville at about 8:15 p.m. – a trip of 6.5 hours.

The trip was interesting, but I have to call it " The Road Better Not Taken".  Next trip I will stick with the ferryboat.

The Apsara Guest House, Sihanoukville

When I arrived in Sihanoukville at about 8:15 p.m. Monday night (Sept. 2), I asked the driver to take me to the Apsara Guest House.  I first stayed here over two years ago when I was traveling from Phnom Penh to Pattaya via Sihanoukville and Ko Kong by the sea route.  The guest house is very quite and low key and with a great location and staff.  It is ok to bring in a lady guest for the night, but the guest house is popular with young, single Australian and European travelers so you should be prepared for a few glares if you treat the young lady to breakfast the next morning.

I checked in without any paper work or prepayments – amazingly they remembered me from two years ago and simply gave me a room key, carried my backpack to my room, and brought me a large Angkor beer.  I drank the beer, had a shower and a shave, and went to bed exhausted.

There have been a few changes since I visited last; but the price has stayed the same, $12/day with air-conditioning, $10/day without.  There is now a simple menu of food for breakfast and lunch, at prices of $1 to $1.50 for each dish as well as cold drinks and snack foods.  Breakfast on the balcony the next morning consisted of a plate of fruit, a two-egg omelet, a Baggett with butter and jelly, and coffee with milk for $1.50.

After breakfast I walked over to the beach.  One block from the guest house toward the beach is the Sea Dragon Restaurant.  On the way to the restaurant I passed three young Khmer girls hauling sections of coconut matting from one of the beach huts up to the restaurant for disposal.  Three of the cutest trash haulers I have ever seen.  They were very friendly and even posed for a couple of pictures.  The wouldn't all pose together since they consider it bad luck to be in a group of three, but two posed with the cart and I got the other one by herself.

Two years ago I used to eat breakfast, and usually lunch, at the Sea Dragon Restaurant because the guest house didn't offer food.  This wasn't much of a burden since the Sea Dragon Restaurant is also one of the best ones in Sihanoukville, which I confirmed when I ate dinner there later this evening.  Dinner was an excellent fillet of fish with onions severed in white wine sauce, steamed rice, a sliced tomato on the side, a bottle of water, and a glass of white wine.  This was followed by bananas and chocolate ice cream for desert.  The total cost was $7.80 plus a tip.

Just to the left of the Sea Dragon Restaurant is a very nice beach house, completely surrounded by a large wall.  There are two gates on the side facing the beach, and one or two on the back side of the compound facing the Apsara Guest House.  The house and grounds are beautifully maintained since this house belongs to the current ruler of Cambodia, Hun Sen.  Next to Hun Sen's house is the Crystal Hotel, then the Seaview Hotel.

It is only another short block past the Sea Dragon Restaurant to the beach.  The Sea Dragon Restaurant even has an extension on the beach, right at the end of the road.  If you buy a drink or food from them you can use their beach chairs and hut free of charge, otherwise they charge you $1.   The beach has nice sand and the water is clean and warm.  The water is shallow for 50' or 60' from the beach and it isn't till you get outside the breakers that it is more than about 5' deep.  It is great for splashing around and you can even get a short body surfing ride.

After a swim and relaxing at the beach I strolled back to the guest house, cleaned up, and had lunch.  The fried noodles and vegetables with pork and a fried egg dish was good and only cost $1.  I relaxed on the balcony, writing between rain showers for a while after lunch.  Around 2:00 p.m. the weather cleared a bit so I rented a nice 100 cc Honda Dream excess motorcycle ($4/day) from the guest house and headed into town to check my e-mail.  I stopped at a hotel/restaurant on the main street where the internet was very slow and $5/hour, with a 30 minute minimum.  Later I found the cheapest internet place in town, which is faster and only $3.50/hour, is the one opposite Mick and Craigs' Restaurant.