The talesofasia guide to Sihanoukville and the south coast
by Jack Stephens
Updated September 8, 2006
Sihanoukville/Kampot Guide index page
OTHER WAYS TO SPEND TIME AND MONEYSea trips and islands
It’s all well and good being by the sea, with it as a backdrop, an endless view to the horizon, but what about getting in the wet stuff and doing something in the deep blue sea?
Fishing trips, snorkelling, diving courses and overnighters, excursions and stays on islands are all on offer. This section will be growing soon (because I didn’t fancy it in the monsoon season, and with fewer punters around trips take longer to fill up, or you simply pay the difference). For now, check out places on the main beaches or around town for information and bookings.
Note: rumours of a dolphin harpooning operation are to date unfounded.
Furthermore we have, in no particular order:
Go karting appeals to some. Best in groups if you like that sort of thing. There is a track behind Ochheuteal Beach near the water treatment plant. High fives, noisy engines, testosterone, male bonding, good chuckles about crashes – all that jazz is available and you get to drink whatever you like too.
Rutting is generally for the male of the species. For those who care, ‘Blue Mountain’ is a zone with painted ladies very close to downtown and the main market (P’sar Leu) and taxi stand. The port area has the shantyesque ‘Phum Thmey’ (‘new village’ – ‘Phum’ with a ‘p’ sound, not an ‘f’) known to some as the ‘Chicken Farm’. Biba disco is down there too. If this is part of your holiday schedule then I’m sure you can work your way through the paid sex ‘how to’ checklist by now.
Foreigner-oriented hostess bars are springing up rapidly, catering to gents who like a flirt, paying through the nose for ‘lady drinks’, having extremely limited and predictable conversations (and indeed perhaps something to take out later in the evening), all the while getting your neck muscles kneaded, plus the occasional prods, pinches, slaps and nipple twists that complete the Cambodian bar girl’s repertoire - and those high-pitched “ooo-eeee!!” exclamations come as standard (except on mute models).
Pool tables are ubiquitous, of varying standard and always free – for customers. Scraggy, open-air tables for locals are a common sight across Cambodia, with school kids and older competing (usually for money) an odd variation involving playing cards.
Most Khmers prefer snooker halls (pay by the hour); huge tables, the equipment is in very good condition, jump shots are frowned upon, a young lady will even set everything up and hand you the rest – all a bit more serious than a few laughs and beers with friends or strangers over a game of 8 ball. Some bars run competitions too.
Gyms , fitness centres and swimming pools are found at the usual upper-end hotels. Go pump some iron, and perhaps pick up an impressionable young local gent if that’s your scene. Alternatively you could just stick to doing lengths in the pool. Spas, saunas and that kind of stuff are unsurprisingly mostly located in the big hotels too.
Casinos and gambling machines are dotted around Sihanoukville if your pockets are sagging worryingly. Other hobbies offer a less direct method and, to most people, more attraction than simply giving your money away.
Charitable organisations have been established by some longer term Sihanoukville expats. These include the Starfish Project & Bakery, M’lop Tapang and others. Check them out if you’d like to know more.
Movies are a great way to spend many hours kicking back smoking dope and draining your motivation levels, especially during an endless rainstorm. Lots of bars, restaurants and guesthouses show non-stop DVDs; some places are more selective than others and equipment varies from a humble 21” tv to LCD projectors and home theatre set-ups.
Massage of the non-penetrative kind is also available and it’s legal. Blind massage is popular and there are various locations – but watch out as in the Kampot branch of ‘Wandering Hands’ (not it’s real name) the blind man’s hands are known to start heading south to check out your nuts n bolts. They are highly rated (the standard massage I mean, but it’s not my kind of thing) and are well trained in Shiatsu – which, I’m told, is good – and none of that ragdoll abuse Thai style ‘massage’ nonsense.
Dope smoking remains a popular pastime for many a visitor to Sihanoukville. Grass varies in quality, but good stuff is available, just be persistent and turn down any rubbish passed your way. Ganj is actually illegal in Cambodia, but it’s still common to be offered it and see people chuffing away on spliffs and choking on bongs – discretion is a good idea, it’s polite to ask, and try to do something at the same time as being stoned (tv and movies don’t count here). Some bars (in particular on the beach) are geared towards potheads – seek or avoid, as is your prerogative.
Sleeping as a hobby is somewhat underrated, even ridiculed and in some societies is considered taboo in the context of recreational sleeping. Others adore it and in well chosen quarters you can miss out on vast chunks of the day fairly easily in Sihanoukville, though it’s not a patch on the sleepers’ mecca of Kep, where even confessed insomniacs find they turn in early and wake up late, such is the womb-like tranquillity of the place. ‘Snoozing Your Way Around: Southeast Asia’ is currently going through its initial edit, so for now you’re on your own.
Live music of passable standards is performed regularly in a few bars. One of those generic Filipino cover bands might be banging out the oldies and goldies at one of the upmarket hotels – you’ll have to do your own research on this I’m afraid; it’s way beyond the call of duty.
Sokha (which incidentally is both a popular boy’s name in Khmer AND means ‘lavatory’ in Thai – my mate Sokha changed his name to William) Beach Resort probably offers re-enactments of apsara dances for tour groups, but this kind of thing is surely the realm of Siem Reap ‘cultural experiences’ (the best of which really are quite special), and not on the beach.
Drugs are your own business, but sometimes the police and/or doctors infringe upon your freedom. Sex and rock n roll featured above, get the drugs section out of the way and I’m done, off to score some quality shit as it happens. As if! It’s never been my scene in Cambodia (though joint smoking is a mandatory part of growing up in England), but you can, should you choose, indulge in lots of drugs here. And not all of the them are illegally peddled by dodgy young men.
Many drugs are over-the-counter – do your own research on this and try to be measured and relatively sensible in your big kids’ candy shop. Basically, if the pharmacy has it, they’ll sell it – much like in a butcher’s shop. Prescriptions? Ha ha. Often though your quest for the gems of the multinational pharmaceutical companies’ bag of tricks may hit a stumbling block (is that someone looking out for you?) as they automatically say “art mee-un!” (‘no have’) and you’ll have to seek it out from their vast supplies. They aren’t trying to stop your fun (if tranquillising yourself and becoming a human jellybaby excites you), they simply don’t know what stock they have and, somewhat worryingly, have little idea what the pills are actually for. Be careful if you mess around: you may not be child any more, so to some extent you should act accordingly.
Hard drugs can be scored with ease and a little discretion. Sihanoukville is a famously ‘porous’ port (and proudly so!), meaning all kinds of narcotics pass through on their routes to getting ordinary folk high across the globe. Increased purity and unfamiliarity can make some drugs even harder than you’d bargained for. Methamphetamines are bad news, horrible and highly addictive substances - the red ‘yaba’ or ‘yama’ pills, and the clear ‘crystal meth’ aka ‘ice’ are both sold in larger Cambodian towns. The effects on crime of this drug boom became more widely recognised a couple of years ago. This drug is on a level with crack – get yourself out of the gutter; this stuff is ruinous and filthy.
Smack overdoses have accounted for more than a few urns of ashes being sent to relatives of western visitors. It’s very pure, so you could easily add your name to the growing list. Coke is from Colombia, Bolivia and their neighbours – what you’re offered as coke here is unlikely to be so and/or grossly overpriced. When not in Rome, watching lions tear men apart down at the colosseum comes at premium rates.
But the most addictive and widespread drug on the planet is on sale everywhere, and for a fraction of the prices back home you can land yourself a decent, relatively uncut score, cellophane-wrapped and all. The best news for users is that it’s totally legal. Addicts openly indulge and get their fixes in cafés, street corners and on the beach…in fact it’s everywhere you look – get hooked on nicotine, no funny looks, no dodging the cops, no urine tests, no probing from customs officers. Tobacco is an insidious substance – I highly recommend quitting (forever) as on of the best life investments you can make. Get hold of Allen Carr’s Easy Way bestseller if coughing and choking, disgusting breath and failing health don’t make you feel cool any more.
For the record, Tales of Asia doesn’t condone any illegal drug abuse, we don’t deal, and, no, we can’t sort you out.
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