We left Thailand for Cambodia and left a relatively western way of life for a very poor country just starting it's way up the ladder, yet rising rapidly. I arrived through the southern border crossing and the change from Thailand to Cambodia was night and day. I had a bad attitude about the switch from the beginning. The roads weren't as nice, the food and accommodations were more expensive than I thought they would be and I had a general feeling that the people were not as cordial as I had experienced in other Southeast Asian countries.
Disillusioned with Cambodia
Shelly had been forced off the road on her motorbike on the way to Sihanoukville which caused her to wreck and bang up her knee and chin. We arrived in Sihanoukville to a dirty beach town and looked for a hotel. As we looked for a hotel, the prices were double what I thought they would have been, and people weren't as friendly as we had hoped. The people seemed straight-faced. We couldn't wait to get out of Cambodia and we had only just arrived.
QueenCo Casino and Hotel
Queenco Hotel & Casino
In Sihanoukville, we found at a place called the Queenco Hotel & Casino. The price was reasonable and the staff was amazing. Within a day, I realized that I was looking at our situation negatively. And within a day, I was able to completely reverse my thinking on Cambodia on a whole. I found out that these people had endured hardships that are unimaginable for someone as privileged as we were. The Khmer Rouge had killed between 3 and 5 million people, depending on who you ask.
Mass Aerobics in the Park
Understanding the Cambodians
This happened from 1975 to 1979. Many of the people we had met were without parents or family and were in effect first generation Cambodians. Nearly every person in Cambodia knows a family member or friend who was deeply affected. We also learned that the straight-faced "unkind" manner in which they presented themselves was actually their intent to be "professional". Suddenly our entire perspective changed, people were warm and kind, and we loved Cambodia.
We found places that were affordable, and food that was dirt cheap. We just didn't know where to look before. Cambodia didn't change. The people didn't change. Our perspective was the singular thing that changed. The complete shift of our vicious cycle of negative thinking regarding Cambodia had changed. We noticed that it was our negative demeanor that brought about the rudenesswe he were experiencing. When we changed our behavior, the people we encountered changed their demeanor as well. We have found Sihanoukville and Cambodians in general, are extremely nice people who are laidback and sociable. These people ring a familiarity to the people of Argentina. A place with more poverty that some places we have been.
Serendipity Beach - Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Last night we went to a restaurant on Serendipity Beach where most of the restaurants, little shops, bars and beaches are located. It's got a rugged edge to the area with sand swept paved roads. There are a lot of guesthouses in the area and a row of tiki hut style restaurants and a sea of papasan chairs. Every restaurant probably had 50 chairs, and people from all over the place were quietly talking and laughing. The beach has beggars, some without legs, some with babies in their hands, some children led blind men who chant songs. We drank a beer and ate some amazing food while sitting hearing the waves gently lapping the beach. We love Sihanoukville, Cambodia and Serendipity Beach with it's wonderful blend of foreigners and locals hanging out in harmony at beachfront dining to a backdrop of thatched roofed bars and restaurants. Finally we caved to one vendor on the beach after eating dinner.
Making Deals With Bracelet Saleswomen
The Buddha Bracelet
Then a bracelet saleswoman came to our table. Immediately, I realized how bright she was. There was something very confident in this 12 year olds demeanor. She started in on me with viable sales techniques I have used myself, added some charm, and sassiness got me thinking of getting Buddha a handmade knitted bracelet for his neck. This girl was really cool. She had the sales pitches down, and knew what to say in any circumstance. Yet, in a way that isn't pushy. People bombarded us for the entire dinner with everything from fireworks, to lobster, to some waxy chicken looking thing on a stick, to one-legged beggars walking on their hand. It's alarming how many amputees are here. Tells you something about the people.
We didn't give any money to anyone, except my 6 dollar collar bracelet for Buddha which I grossly overpaid for. And I originally told her 5 dollars. She then said, she would rock scissor paper for the price. She tells me assertively, that If she wins, 6$ if I win 5$. I loved it!! She still won despite me telling her that I was some well-known American, Rock Scissors Paper champion. She stared me down and threw down a rock and hit my scissors. We had a ball with her for a while and she came back in about 20 minutes with the bracelet. We are actually thinking of staying another day to fix some things on my bike and straighten out Shelly's steering column that was bent in the wreck, and if we can, get out-of-town.
Chaar Restaurant - QueenCo Hotel
We ate our last dinner at the hotel restaurant Chaar (which is amazing food) We ate clams in tamarind sauce, I had the chicken Caesar salad, and Shelly the pepperoni pizza. For dessert we had molten chocolate pudding with scoops of strawberry ice cream. It was beautiful sitting sea-side on the beach eating our last meal a the hotel. Soly, our waiter and new friend talked with us, and Tim the general manager came up to wish us luck. It really does feel like family here at this hotel, and I HIGHLY recommend anyone going to Sihanoukville stay here. It's worth every penny.
Change In Perspective
The simple shift in thinking changed everything and can be applied to ANY situation. I think it's important sometimes that we keep that in perspective. We can change our perspective in any situation and change an outcome. Tomorrow we go to Phnom Penh, leaving Sihanoukville, Cambodia and Serendipity Beach, and end our motorbiking through Southeast Asia. We will try to sell the bikes in Phnom Penh and will take buses everywhere else. There is a sadness to getting rid of our bikes. We have grown so accustomed to riding and having them, it will be strange not to have them. We are also a little sad to leave Sihanoukville. We would have liked to stay longer in this relaxing oasis. Wish us luck on our last leg of our amazing life changing trip.