We moved guesthouses this morning, to the cheapest available room with two beds, which was at Sea Sun Guesthouse, right at the top of the beach road, and about five minutes walk from the coast. The room, at $7, is still expensive by south east asian standards, but unfortunately it’s the price you pay for having the beach (almost) on your doorstep!
Sihanoukville seems more of a holiday destination than a backpacker’s joint. Locals and expats living in Phnom Penh make the four hour journey here to escape the crouds and pollution that are inadvertantly part of life in the capital city. I also get the impression that it’s becoming a popular spot for westerners looking for an alternative to Thailand’s beaches.
The girl who secured our business yersterday had no trouble locating us on the beach this morning, and proceeded to give us both the manicure we’d agreed to. I’ve never had a manicure before and I liked the results but I’m not sure I’d pay any more than $2 for something I can probably do, without too much effort, myself. Kotoe bought the girl, Som, a drink afterwards, which gained us popularity amongst her and her companions. Many of her colleagues were hard at work : an older gentleman was having his nose hairs removed, a large sunburnt man was receiving a shoulder massage and one of his friends was lying face down in the sand, having his back pummled by a lady in pyjamas.
This is one of the bizarre sights we’ve encountered since our arrival in Cambodia : women and girls wearing what looks – to all intents and purposes – like a pair of pyjamas. This wouldn’t seem so strange if it were within the restraints of their own homes, but evidently it is not. Women serve at guesthouses and restaurants, shop at markets, catch lifts on motorbikes, and do business on the beach – all whilst dressed in their pyjamas. I’d love to know why they chose to dress in such a way but until I do Kotoe and I will laugh quietly between ourselves.
After removing the nasal hairs of the gentleman who was sat over the other side of the table, the lady decided to take up residence in the empty seat beside me. Disappointed that my legs were already hairless and that I’d remembered to shave my armpits, she then targetted my face. “You have small hair on your face. I can make smooth”, she said. “No thank you” I replied, “I like my small hair”. Unperterbed, she continued, “You like, I show you” as she took hold of my face and I felt something rough on my cheeks. It wasn’t until Kotoe finished her conversation with Som and turned around to face me that i was alerted to the fact that the lady had a razor in her hand and was actually shaving my face! She was shaving in places I didn’t even know I had hair – like my forehead!?! When she’d finished I felt like the top layer of my face had been removed with a cheese grater! If the fact that i’d just had my face shaved wasn’t bad enough then the fact that the lady actually asked me for money for doing it was!
This evening we walked over to Ochheuteal beach (the local’s hangout) in search of a nice restaurant at which to consume some fresh seafood. We passed many of the locals enjoying the last of the New Years celebrations, many were holding their own private firework displays along the seafront. The speakers inside several of the restaurants were spreading the jovial sounds of Cambodian music out across the ocean. Revellers dined and chatted loudly amongst themselves, sharing drinks and laughter. Others, especially children, danced in time with each other on the sand. We chose Khin’s Shack because of a lively young girl who bounced over to us and said the words “discount”. So we bartered the seafood platter down from $10 to $8. $4 is probably the most expensive meal I’ve eaten since I’ve been travelling, however the seafood here tasted so fresh and so delicious that I think it’s the best $4 I’ve spent for some time.
Photo is of two child vendors selling bracelets on Serendipity beach, Sihanoukville.