Going to see my friend in S'ville and checking out the beaches
30.04.2008 - 01.05.2008 82 °F
I had a few days in Phnom Penh and got to see my NGO friends, the Soldner's. Ann & Alex, with the help of their children and small staff, help orphans and poor families in Cambodian. Readers of my posts know that I try to help those TP members that want to volunteer get in touch with Ann & Alex. Alex picked me up and I had a very nice evening at their house. Ann and her children whipped up a great meal for the whole crowd. I am a veggie so Ann made sure there was plenty of options for me. Daughter Sharon got me back to my GH after our evening was over. The Soldner's are a terrific family and I always stop by when I am in PP.
Most of my friends that used to live in PP have left. I cannot blame them as PP gets old after a few days, at least for me. I used to know about 10 guys that lived in PP and I would bump into them when we made visa runs from Pattaya. They got tired of PP as well and have left for other cities. The Soldner's are the only ones left in PP that I know. Everything changes as the years go by, that's for sure.
Photos of: Tuk Tuks, Capitol bus station, Mike & the Soldner family are above.
There are many buses that make the 4 hour run to Sihanoukville. Some leave from the Central Market, some from Sisowath Quay, some from their guesthouse. I use Capitol GH bus because I can walk from my room at Lucky GH II to the Capitol in a few minutes. If you do need transport, the tuk-tuks are a better option than a moto if you have luggage or there are 2 in your party. I got to the Capitol to eat by 6:30am. Had my omelette/bread and bought another baguette for the trip. Off at 7:15, one stop for bathroom/smoke. We got into the central bus station, St. 108, a parking lot really, at 11:30. I walked over to Expresso Kampuchea, where my friend Gordon lives/works. Gordon is a UK citizen and I have known him since the early 1990s. We used to stay in the same apartment complex in Pattaya until he moved to Phnom Penh in 1998. He spent about 4 years in PP and "R" and I would always visit Gordon when we would hit PP. Around 2002 he got tired of PP and moved down to S'ville. "R" and I would then stop in S'ville for a few days to visit him. In 2004, Gordon got married to a lovely young Cambo girl. He then bought the Expresso Kampuchea and now has a nice bar/restaurant to keep him busy.
I have not seen Gordon and his wife for a couple years and we had a nice chat catching up. I was only going to be in S'ville that day, so I got a room next door at the Freedom Hotel. They have a decent sized fan room for $9/nite. There were cheaper rooms across the street at the Angkor Arms, but I did not like the looks of them. I wanted a lockbox, the Freedom has them, Angkor Arms did not. I unpacked, got my shorts on, camera and went back to see Gordon. I told him I wanted a tour of the beaches, a couple hours at most. The laws renting motos have been in transition. Years ago, you could rent no problem. But, there were so many tourists injured and/or robbed, the Cambodian gov't stopped the rental bike business. Then they reversed themselves and you can now rent again. But, I did not want the hassle or problems of renting and asked Gordon to find a good moto driver for me. His wife went out and found one of their regular motodops at the market. Gordon told me $3 was OK for my tour. The guy agreed and off we went.
Readers of my older posts will know that I usually recommend staying on Victory Hill. There are cheap rooms, good food, nightlife and you can walk to the beaches. I have not been to the other beaches in years and wanted to see them. Our first stop was Ochheuteal /Serendipity Beach. I checked out a few hotels and walked the beach for some impressions and photos. I am now going to recommend TP members stay close to Ochheuteal/Serendipity. Nice combination of reasonable rooms, very nice beach and restaurants in easy walking distance. Back to the Golden Lion Roundabout, an old landmark in S'ville. On to Sohka Beach. There is a huge posh resort on Sohka, and I did not see any other places to stay that are easy to reach. A few photos and off the Independence Beach. We used walk to Independence from Victory Hill and had friends that had a beach business close to the derelict Independence Hotel. For many years, it sat there empty. Then about 3-4 years ago, we saw them starting to renovate it. Now it is open and a beautiful place to stay. They took over the entire Independence Beach and all the small businesses left. Regular people not welcome anymore at Independence. One reason I now vote for Ochheuteal. I took photos of all the new buildings going up around Independence and moved on to Hawaii Beach. Hawaii is the beach most tourists use that stay on Victory Hill. I walked around, photos and then got in a chat with some Russian guys. They are opening a restaurant/bar/disco using an old Russian plane as a prop. Photos and then up to Victory Hill. Several casinos in this area, then the old backpacking street, where Mealy Chendra is located. Mealy is the original BPers hotel/GH. They have a restaurant, great view of the ocean and a decent buffet on certain nights. The street has really gone downhill since my last visit. Many empty slots and not near as many restaurants as before. It was mid-day, so I did not see the bars open for business, but I could see several that looked like they could be in Pattaya. A quick walk around the area and it was time to head back to Gordon's. The VN consulate is on your right as you go down the steep section of Ekareach, flag out front. You can get a VN visa in a few minutes from the guy running the consulate. Figure $30-35 and 10 minutes. A real deal compared to most places in SEA. I paid my moto guy and off he went. I told Gordon how it went and had some tea. I agreed to eat with him that night and went to my room for a shower and a rest. Gordon's wife fixed a nice meal for us and we had a quiet evening, sharing stories.
Sihanoukville is a pretty nice beach town and worth a few days while you are in Cambodia. I stayed downtown this time, but usually stay up on Victory Hill. Now that I have seen the changes, I won't be recommending that area anymore. There are still cheap rooms on the hill, but the atmosphere has changed, not for the better. The Ochheuteal & Serendipity beach area have better options now, IMO. There are places to stay that won't break your budget. I looked at Jasmine Hotel and you could get a nice room for $15. Rooms for even less at Makara GH or Mohachai GH. Beach is less than 100 meters away, and plenty to restaurants to choose from. That makes for an enjoyable beach experience.
Below are my friend Gordon and his wife, the new Independence Hotel, construction at Independence Beach, photos of Victory Hill, Golden Lion Roundabout, Ochheuteal Beach, Russian plane bar/restaurant at Hawaii Beach.