Kotoe and I caught the bus down to Sihanoukville this morning. We’d decided that after spending nine days in Phnom Penh, a change of scenery was in order. We were also hoping to get caught up in some New Years celebrations on the beach. Fortunately we’d managed to secure the last available seats on the 8:15am bus. Unfortunately these seats were right at the back of the bus, directly on top of the engine. After an hour on the bus my feet were cooking; after two hours I felt like I was sitting in a sauna and in desperate need of some fresh air. I was willing the bus to stop, whivch it did about half an hour later, at a small cafe which sold fresh papaya and green mango with salt and chilli.
When we arrived in Sihanoukville there were several moto drivers offering us a ride to Serendipity beach, insisting that it was 4km away and that it was impossible to walk. According to our map it was only 2, and as we’d left the bulk of our luggage in Phnom Penh, we decided to give it a go. In less than 30 minutes we’d passed the Three Lions Roundabout and were treading the sandy path leading down to the ocean, the fresh salty smells of the sea in the air. There is a scattering of guesthouses along the beachfront (Eden, Coasters, Nap’s House) but overall Serendipity beach was a lot quieter than I’d expected. Despite the fact that it was a public holiday and the majority of the guesthouses were full (and charging inflated prices), the beach was surprisingly empty. We managed to secure the only remaining room under $10, at The Diamond Guesthouse, just a short walk up from the beach.
We took a seat at the Same Same Restaurant on the beach and ordered a drink whilst we soaked up the smells of the sea and listened to the rise and fall of the waves. Less than 10 minutes after we’d sat down, we were surrounded by a group of young girls offering massages and manicures. One girl took hold of my little finger and proceeded to cut away at the skin around my nail, shape my nail and coat it in lemon juice. I was actually pleased with the result and we both warmed to the girl’s cheeky but friendly nature, so we agreed to treat our nails to a $2 manicure the following day.
We then spent a lazy afternoon on the beach. Kotoe disappeared for a swim and i managed to locate her about an hour later, plastic bag in hand, wading through the water. She was disgusted to find the water so dirty that she’d taken it upon herself to clean it up! Before long there were three other people voluntarily helping her to collect rubbish from the ocean. My conscience wouldn’t let me simply sit and watch so i too waded into the very warm and very littered waters and gathered rubbish in one of the many plastic bags floating around on the surface of the water. We picked up rubber gloves, plastic spoons, playing cards, underwear, washing powder packets from Vietnam, as well as the usual empty packets of crisps and drink cartons and sweet wrappers. One girl, an Australian called Kate, actually works just outside Phnom Penh, at a conservation site looking after turtles. She was so impressed with our concern for the environment that she invited us back to her guesthouse cafe and bought us both drinks. We chatted with her and her friends, and petted her beautiful black dog, Gus, before heading back to The Diamond, just as night was beginning to fall.
Photo to follow.