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ASIA & CHINA - THE "KEEP ON SMILING" TOUR

Sihanoukville Postcard

SIHANOUKVILLE

"RESORT OF THE THOUGHTLESS MIND"

Dusk, walking down the darkening streets of Sihanoukville I was struggling to find a guesthouse. But there was no need to panic as this was South-East Asia; here there were options for everything.

The first guesthouse held a sign saying it would reopen with the impending tourist season and the next two guesthouses were permanently closed. The fourth guesthouse was run by an Australian.

It would have to do for the night.

The accommodation for the guesthouse was upstairs and downstairs was a bar; similar to having a bar in the entry-level garage of your house, with the roller-doors raised during drinking time.

Pride of place within the bar was the Australian owner’s motorbike, sitting just outside the confines of the garage, tempting, enticing and malevolent.

I knew nothing about motorbikes, or cars, but I knew his motorbike was worth at least ten times the value of the average South-East Asian motorbike. It was also twice the size.

The motorbike basically said “F..k you.”

I settled in for a night at the bar, buying a $US2 bag of marijuana from the Australian, who said he used to run a go-go bar in Pattaya, Thailand. Unfortunately for him, he had left to renew his Thai visa in Cambodia and had not been allowed back into Thailand. He had started off in Cambodia with US50 and now here he was - with the 'biggest, baddest motorbike' in town.

It was enough to sit back in bewilderment, as he walked over to his bad-arse machine and revved it up, full throttle, spewing smokey exhaust fumes into the air and back into the bar.

Loud noises, deafening, the smell of an expensive machine revved to its capacity, the show to the Cambodians on the outside world had served its purpose.

He was king.

******

The Australian-run guesthouse was in town and the beaches of Sihanoukville were some kilometres away.

The original plan was to have some beach time after visiting the Cambodian tourist sites, such as the temples of Ankor and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh.

But, in truth, I couldn’t be bothered, especially since I now had a relatively mild US$2 bag of marijuana to consume.

However in the rain and blustery wind I relented; to find myself, unsurprisingly, as the only person at the beach. Except, that is, for some young girl trying to sell me trinkets.

“I can not afford to buy anything as I had no money left after been ripped off at the border by your Cambodian cousins” was my trinket-selling avoidance pitch.

“If you trusted them then it is your fault” she stated, with full knowledge and authority.

“Yes. But that still means I have no money left to buy anything from you.”

“Bullshit!!” was her last word on the matter, as she stormed off, into the rain and the blustery wind, fading eternally into the distance.