Sampling Sihanoukville’s Night’s Delights…

After finally getting into my hotel room, and having a shower, I did venture out into town to have a bit of an explore.  First impression were not favourable.  You feel you have to be a bit more on your guard here, and the sun was blisteringly hot.  My first destination was to get laundry done.  This time when I went to drop it off at a local place (having rejected the hotel offer which is charged per item –  not paying to have each sock individually serviced).  I followed the directions and ended up at this bizarre place which was a travel agent slash laundry.  What the?  I peered at it, but it looked unpromising.  As I wandered off, a woman called me back.  Translating for the woman who was actually working in the travel agents.  It was very bizarre.  Anyway, upshot was I did hand over my laundry with an air of resignation.  I really couldn’t face traipsing through the heat to find an alternative, and I’m sure it will be fine, well probably.  We shall see:

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I ventured down the path to the beach.  It is very near our hotel.  Extremely touristy, lots of shops selling floating clothes, backpacker type guest houses and on the beach just a long line of bars.  It does look nice, but being on my own I felt a need to be on my guard.  No sooner do you step out than there is an onslaught of tuk tuk offers or hustlers approaching with wares various.  I decided it just wasn’t going to be fun to brave that on my own.  I could have sat in a beach side bar, but I wasn’t in the mood, we’d be doing that later.  Instead I retreated back to hotel for a bit and rendezvoused with the whole group for supper.  Beach is lovely though, but definitely a party vibe rather than a chilling one.  Ripe for pickpockets and scamming, more fun in pairs or a group I’d say.

In the evening though, with a big group, it was a blast.  We went down to a nearby bar and restaurant and had a table together.  There were children setting off fireworks on the beach which was a bit eyebrow raising, but quite spectacular.  Also periodically a lantern would float up into the air.  Neon lights lit up every bar along the whole of the waterfront. We sat at a table laid out on the beach itself.  Our waiter warned us that we were on a public beach so to watch out for our possessions.  Blimey, must be bad here then.  Having said that, in a group, with your wits about you it was fine.  Good party atmosphere.  Not easy to capture in a photo, that picture that looks like mars?  It isn’t, it’s a lousy shot of a lit paper lantern floating away, dread to think of the damage that causes to the environment on landing. Fire or metal bits for creatures to be impaled on, but it did look beautiful in the moment.

The bar made no attempt to cater for locals, having an English language menu, albeit a selection of western and Khmer food choices.  It was very cheap.  Unexpectedly so, I thought being so touristy it would be expensive.  In fact I had spring rolls and a long island cocktail for just $5.50.   Bargain.  I wanted fried egg-plant as well, but they’d not got any.

I’d expected service to be more persistent, to encourage us to order more drinks. In fact it was relaxed and unconcerned.  As people in the group had had enough and peeled off home, they paid individually.  I got a couple of not very good group shots but let’s show willing:

As time is running out.  A little hardcore group of us opted to take to the dance floor which was pretty hilarious.  We strutted our funky stuff in the way that people only do when they will never see any of the other people again.  I had no idea what most of the music was (young people’s I expect) but then again, I tend to dance in the same way to everything anyway.  There was a wild party of other women who joined in with exuberance, and we all danced like no-one was watching which is the way you should.  Having said that, one guy in our group, who was definitely not up for a dance, hovered at the sidelines, probably slightly horrified at what was unfolding in front of him.  Obviously, we knew him to be part of our group, not wanting to end up on his own, so that was absolutely fine.  It occurred to some of us later, that possibly to those not knowing who he was with, or what he was doing there, he may possibly have looked a bit too close to the creepy scale.  Oh well.  Not true, not fair, but as always entertaining.

Dancing was occassionally interrupted by waiters passing through.  To get to and from the bar the only route was via the dance floor. Not the best layout for the premises, those poor staff had become immune to the sight of gyrating tourists and passed through us unphased much as the motorbikes weave straight across six lanes of heavy traffic to get to where they want to be in the streest of Phnom Penh.  It seems impossible, and yet they accomplish it over and over again.

One over friendly exuberant woman joined in the dancing with serious applomb and concentration, a flambouyant and inclusive style. I liked her, but she was a bit too tactlie, wanting to do a lot of hand grabbing and mutual bottom bashing for example.  I couldn’t work out if it was just a more ‘hands on’ approach to dancing, or if it was trying to distract us in order to maybe pick a pocket.  It’s terrible to be so suspicious, but we have been warned over and over again to be on our guard.  On balance I think she was just an uninhibited party animal with no need for personal space.  And way not?  She certainly helped create a party mood!

There were some small children (with adults) who were watching from the sidelines, transfixed.   Periodically one of us would try to engage with them, crouching down to their level and waving our arms or whatever, but mostly it seemed to terrify them.  Oh well, we tried, besides, our guide did tell us not to be nice to children, so at least we have the following orders defence.  It was good to dance (badly but with enthusiasm) not had a night out like that in ages.   It wasn’t a late one, too much sweating and dire music (that periodically was interrupted so there could be a tinny rendition of ‘happy birthday to you’ as a cake was rolled out to some group or other having what I can only hope was indeed a birthday celebration).  This totally killed the mood, but weirdly, also enhanced it, because it was funny.  A drop down screen had random dance videos played onto it, though I don’t think they necessarily related to the music being played.  The Spice Girls aren’t a group of three rappers are they?  No idea…  Nor is Justin Beiberbest known for his hip hop I’m guessing?

Once we’d sweated enough, we mutually decided to head back to the hotel, it was only about 10.00.  None of us fancied the walk back alone.  It really wasn’t very far at all, but this feels like a place where it is wise to stay as a group.  The street away from the main beach front activity is really very dark indeed.  Maybe it is safe, but you feel you need your wits about you.  Two of our group were separately offered drugs when sat in bars earlier in the day, one other venturing out on her own got a lot of hassle.  She was so delighted when she coincidentally saw the others she ran over shrieking to join them, and at first they took her for another hassling seller and ignored her.  That would have been an entertaining interaction to watch.  We’ve only been together for over a week of constant companionship!

It was a good fun night out.  Tomorrow, snorkeling.  Hooray, another thing I’ve not done in ages.  More wonders to unfold before us!  Can’t believe how quickly the time has gone.

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