trv (trevmex) wrote,

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Day 11: season.

Today we cached an early bus from Phnom Penh to the seaside resort town of Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is the closest thing Cambodia has to a beach party town...and that isn't saying much.

I suppose that this place would look pretty hopping during the on season, between November and April, but THIS is the off season. It is rainy, and very few tourists are here. In fact the only foreigners we see around here are old grisly types that probably have been here for quite some time now. And most of the hotels and guesthouses are closed, along with half of the restaurants.

Which brings us to tonight's story: It all started with Mateo needing to pee...

So we are walking around this barren shell of a waterfront town, and Mateo needs to pee. There was nobody around and the closest place was about 300 feet away. I told him to go in the bushes, but there wasn't enough cover and he felt uncomfortable.

It was the evening and we were also looking for a place to eat. We had been wandering around to different restaurants looking for a good and cheap ($1-$3) place that had vegetarian dishes. Unfortunately, even though it is the off season, many of the places did not have off season prices.

In any case, we decide that going to this hotel to use there restroom 300 feet away. Mateo gets it in his head that we should ask for the restaurant, and then reject it after he uses the restroom. This is alright, we have done things like this before, and so we go for it.

The thing is, though, this is the off season. This very large hotel with its nice restaurant is completely empty. The staff all came out to greet us, and when we asked to see a menu, they didn't have one. And the restaurant was on the second floor. They actually turned on the lights for us as Mateo entered the restroom with a one-track mind.

The owner tried to make some small talk with me ask he sent some staff upstairs to turn on the lights. Then Mateo comes out of the restroom claiming that we went to the wrong hotel, and that we actually were meeting friends down the road as we walked rapidly away from the confused hotel workers.

I felt really bad and extremely embarrassed as we walked away. I explained the shock and embarrassment to Mateo and as we wandered down to the beach in search of something to eat, Mateo suddenly became determined to return to this place that we left in shame five minutes ago and eat there, despite the price or menu. I didn't want to go, having very obviously just used them for their restroom, but Mateo was determined. The only way to relieve our shame was to face it head on in full awkwardness.

When we returned, the staff looked confused and pointed us in the right direction of the hotel we were "meeting our friends at," but we told them that we wanted to eat here now. The manager looked skeptical, but as we ascended the stairs to the second floor I gave him a thumbs-up and a big smile and his demeanor changed.

They actually did have to turn the lights on for us. The entire hotel and restaurant was barren. No one was there except for a few staff. They unstacked some chairs for us and dragged a table out to the deck and we sat down for our lonely meal. They didn't have much for food, since it was off season, but being vegetarians; we were simple to please and had some egg sandwiches with some of the local Angkor beer. As we waited for our meal, a sweet Cambodian girl in her early 20s stood next to our table to make small talk with us. We had encountered this Cambodian version of a hostess once before in Phnom Penh, but didn't know to make small talk with her, so that was very awkward. This time we chatted and she taught us some words in Cambodian ("akkon" is "thank you"). Our meal was good and it was accompanied by 80s love songs. All-in-all a good experience.

On the other hand...when we first got to our guest house I noticed a large amount of older white men milling around here, and when we went into a shop we were chatted up by a young Cambodian girl. I had concluded by this that there was some child sex tourism going on in the off season down here. Mateo insisted that was nonsense and there MUST be another reason all those men were hanging out in this hole of a town. Well, although I am not happy about it by any REMOTE stretch of the imagination:

Over the last few years, as Thailand has slowly tightened its visa regulations, there's been an influx of crusty, sex-tourist types from Pattaya, who have certainly contributed to the rising number of dodgy bars and bar-beers. Sihanoukville also has a long-running problem with foreign and local paedophiles. (Source)

Of course, we didn't know this going here. But it DOES explain some things about the town. I don't know how long we will stay here, but we fully intend to avoid the dodgy bars, etc. while we are here. CREEPY!!!

That's it for this time. Until next time, take care.

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