We're Never Coming Back

  email me at duncdafunc@gmail.com or check out my latest photos here

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from dunc_da_func. Make your own badge here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Day 291 - Sihanoukville

cambodia Amputees and sex pests everywhere...

Welcome to Sihanoukville. After a 4 hour bus journey (it should be two - the bus was late, then stopped for a 20-minute food stop after just 15 minutes on the road), dropping us off in some remote carpark with no clear direction to go in, we hopped in a cab and headed to the beach. and just after the sun had set, we're wandering the 2 minute walk from our hotel room to the beach, casting our flip-flops aside and wandering along the neon-lit sand as the waves splash our feet. This is Sihanoukville - a bizarre, but rather endearing seaside town in southern cambodia.

And with the daylight we shake Eve out of her slumber, apply the factor 20 suncream to our entire bodies, don our swimmers, grab our towels and before you know it we're slumped on the beach, catching some sun. Its nice. Its EXACTLY like you would imagine a third-world (but second-world priced) country to treat its beach resorts. The beach is dirty - plastic bags half-sunken in the sand line the shore. There's restaurants and cafes and bars stretching across the entire 3-mile strip of beach, complete with sunloungers covering half the sand. Aside the hoards of kids and women selling jewellery and fruit, an equal hoard are selling lobster caught that day. And there's cambodian kids everywhere.

We spent the day relaxing in the sun. Sam, as she always does, used her factor 0 tanning oil on her lilly white skin, burning so bad she had to get out of the sun earlier than me or eve. We all played in the sea with these 6 cambodian boys who were intent on catching a cheeky feel of eve's chest every now and then. And I bronzed myself with my new factor 4 suncream - seriously - i'm so brown these days.

And aside from the usual walks along the sand at sunset, drinking cocktails in the sweltering heat with only a sea-breeze to keep you cool, and hopping into the jellyfish-infested waters every 20 minutes to cool down, we did nothing for 2 whole days.

In fact, the most salient moment for me was probably the most embarassing moment in recent memory for me. Cambodia has its fair share of amputees - not least from the hideous quantity of landmines used in the wars here. But also from diseases, which whilst the government claims is not a problem and is fully under control, one glance at the child polio sufferers begging for money on the beach makes you realise its not the case.

anyway, pretty much every hour on the beach sees an amputee waddle, crutch, hop, slide, drag or crawl along towards you, smile politely, attempt some english greeting, wait for 30 seconds for you to fully acknowledge them, then they'll wave half a limb (fingerless hand/dead leg/glass eye) at you before heading off to the next table/lounger/beach towel. Its pretty grim, and the last thing you want to do is stare, but its so hard not to.

Anyway, one dude comes over (I WISH I had a photo of him, he was so cool). He's got two half-arms. So no hands. No lower arms. Just badly healed stumps at his elbow. He's smiling and happy and waves a stump at me. I wave back. And when he comes and sits down with us, I put my arm around him to show my support (he's like 45 or 50-something) and he's pretty good at english, so I ask him what happened. It seems he was in the army, as a teenager, and lost his arms to a landmine. Since then he hasn't been able to work.

Right, I'm not one to be overly sentimental. But that stuff sucks. He's lost both his hands. I had to tuck the 50cents I wanted to give him into his pocket for him. He couldn't do it himself. THAT SUCKS. so much.

Anway, onto the embarassment. So, a bit later, eve and I are walking back, and he's there, by the beach with all his family and his two stumpy arms. And he waves one at me. and his family all look. And I say "Nice to meet you mate" in my most jovial and sincere tone (I was sincere - this is a fact). And, I'm not expecting it, but he reaches out one of his stumps, as if to shake my hand.

What the hell are you supposed to do? Do I shake the stump or do I not shake the stump? I pause. He waves it a little more in my direction - half-armed waves are short and pronounced. I don't know what to do. I'm walking towards the outstretched stump, no idea what to do, knowing I have to make a decision. And so I did it - I lightly punched his stump arm ON THE STUMP BIT, ghetto style. Punch punch. Its mortifying. He laughs. His family roll around laughing. Eve's even pissing herself. I'm mortified. And I walk away red-faced with embarassment.

I still don't know what I should have done. Do you shake a stump? Is that what people do? I dunno. But he was amazing. As are the kids that spend all morning painting pictures to sell to tourists (sam bought two). As are the polio kids that spend all day on crutches trying to earn some money to support their familes. Although perhaps not the little brat girl who told eve she was 'evil' because she didn't buy a necklace, or the little boy who told sam she should 'die' because she didn't buy one of his paintings. Nasty.

There's another side to Sihanoukville which is equally unsavoury. And we seemed to be in the thick of it. Sex tourists. Right, I really don't want to dwell on these guys because it depresses me and I don't really know enough to make any fair judgements. But on Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, there is more than enough dad-look-a-likes, sitting their 40+ year old bodies up against 18-25 year old cambodian girls, promising them a better life back home, stroking their thighs, buying them presents and leering at their slender figures. These guys aren't sick or offensive or gross. But they're here. In hoards. And the girls laugh and play and stroke their grey chest hairs and you don't know what's going on. Are they being taken advantage of? are the guys being ripped off? who's winning and who's losing? is anyone losing? I dunno - but it doesn't make for pleasant beach company, and left a sickly bad taste in my mouth.

I wasn't hugely impressed with Sihanoukville. I mean, it was nice. Don't get me wrong. But the beach was SO FILTHY. For a town SO dependant on tourism, you'd think the message would filter down into the families that a filthy beach puts off tourists? But it doesn't. I actually told a kid off for dropping a straw on the beach - A STRAW? I'm such a hard-arse. And then there's jellyfish - which I hate. One stung sam on the boob - gutted. And then the sex pests. All in all - I've had much better beaches. But then, I sit on beaches FOR MY JOB. I mean, its all i do. of course I'm gonna have a bad day ever now and then.

that said - the sunsets were nice. Onto Kampot, 2 hours east and the promise of a derelict khmer rouge stronghold and views out over cambodia and vietnam.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home