Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Despite my somewhat pitiful state I have managed to make the boat run to Sihanoukville and, what with the boat leaving at 8 and the border opening at 7, it is just that: a run. I made things worse for myself by imposing yet anther stupid constraint on myself. I decided, in a moment of drunken high-mindedness, not to encourage the rampant corruption amongst Cambodia’s officials. I therefore asked for what these folks hate to produce; a receipt for the various monies they requested in order to pass the border. Surprisingly this dropped the price of the visa a few dollars and made the quarantine sheet suddenly free of charge. It slowed things down a bit though as the officials slowly rustled up the dusty receipt-slip pad and often paused to glare at me.

Still, made it with my conscience intact and got to Sihanoukville, a town created in the 50’s by the French so as to have a port in Asia after they had ignominiously lost Vietnam. It has all the charm of something built in the fifties but I am enjoying being in a country whose dust (and there is a lot) I have not yet stirred with my large feet. I found a nice “restaurant” on a hill overlooking the port and got my first taste of Anchor beer. I set to watching the fishing boats go out for their nightly foray, ordered some curried crab, and subconsciously started to hum Otis Redding’s great ode to dossing by the water.

I would stay here longer if not for the vast hoards of dirty old men that haunt this place. In Thailand I was willing to admit that I might have been mistaken on the nature of the relations between elderly white men and the local women and that scorning Germans played some part in my conclusions. Here, however, the majority of these blokes are Anglos, mainly Brits and Aussies, and overhearing their conversations has left me in no doubt as to how they perceive the young women of Cambodia and what their reason for being here is. I am astounded at the level of self delusion of these chaps and the only way I could be wrong is if Cambodian girls are raised to believe that Prince charming is a 50 plus fat tosser whose amateur tattoos stylishly offset his broken teeth and tends to use the word “cunt” as punctuation.

From what I got these are the kind of fuck-ups that used to live on the Costa del Sol before extradition to HMP Wormwood Scrubs got too easy. Some of them moped about Pattaya not being the way it was and a few of them had T-shirts from Go-Go bars in the Philippines. Now that Thailand has started to get its act together a lot of these charming blokes have decided to make Cambodia their home.

I’m not being prudish here and I see no wrong with prostitution per se. In a way it’s quite an honest breakdown of many relationships between men and women. What bothers me (beside the fact that many of the girls draped around the necks of these fuckers are just teenagers) is that to believe the average Cambodian prozzie is making an empowered independent decision to sell her body is like buying coke and believing that it comes from a cute fairtrade farm and was processed and shipped by an organization that gives its profits to charity. These arseholes are creating a demand that boosts an industry that is the modern equivalent of the Slave Trade and is just as nasty as the commerce that once made Liverpool rich.

This ugly display of reality creates a sense of solidarity amongst us little doe-eyed backpackers and we huddle together in the few places that offer only peanuts as an accompaniment to beer, occasionally running the gauntlet of moped drivers to use the internet or get a ticket out of here. This means that Sihanoukville’s backpacker bars are ironically very friendly and good fun

The moped is the main way of getting around in Sihanoukville, and Cambodian towns in general as the grapevine claims, and the drivers of said machines have decided that the baseball cap is their uniform. They primarily serve as drivers (as they will let you know many, many times) but have secondary functions as drug dealers and pimps. I have heard that they make good tourist guides in other places but Sihanoukville’s tourist highlights are 3 beaches of mediocre quality, none of which require any explanation whatsoever.

So it’s out of here and off to Phnom Penh for me.

Take care,



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