As I had quickly learned on my first and second days in Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s third most-popular city is a great little beach resort but a bit dull as a P4P destination. By my Day 3, I’d come to the conclusion that making another run out to Victory Hill, or anywhere else besides the beach and the Freedom Bar, was going to be a waste of time.
So I made some decisions: First I booked a day of scuba diving that would require me to get up a 7 a.m. (and, thus, go to bed early and alone the night before) and then bought a bus ticket back to Phnom Penh, where I’d spent the previous Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Then I decided to hit Freedom Bar again, but – this time – earlier. It would turn out to be the best nightlife move I’d made all week.
I started the night like I wish I could start my nights here in Thailand: On the beach, drinking 50 cent draft and downing a mountain of fresh fish barbecue for $3. I then strolled back along the white sand back to my hotel, changed and hit Freedom around 9 p.m.
There were more girls here tonight including some I hadn’t seen and one, in particular, I’d seen and had spoken only a few words to all week. In the previous episode, I’d dubbed her The Queen. To narcissistically quote myself:
Tall, thin and in what seemed to be her uniform of white levis, mid-drift top and a Clara Bow flapper hat, she fluttered around the bar playing pretty much wherever she wanted, flirting with all the guys and collecting or handing out the odd dollar to other girls. She was more interesting than sexy and had a presence that rewarded her with at least one customer a night.
As I noted in my first Snooky dispatch, there was one particularly sad individual I dubbed Mr. Desperate, who seemed to follow her around Sihanoukville, rarely taking his eyes off her and unsuccessfully trying to regain her affections, which he’d obviously enjoyed at some point before, but was now deemed out-of-favor by Her Highness.
Me? I was intrigued, but I was not going to chase her around. So I decided to do what any fat, mid-40s guy would do to attract the bar’s top-totty: Lean up against the bar, try to look cool and make only one or two flirty remarks a night until she approached me. Dumb eh?
Well, this time it actually worked. In between shots of playing pool, she wandered over to joke and then came back to chat. Game done, she invited me for an audience at her table where two French guys were already sitting. One didn’t seem very happy to meet me.
The Queen Gets a New Nickname
I offered her a 75-cent beer – big spender that I am – and we started chatting, specifically about the Clara Bow hat, which covered up all her hair. Why does she wear that every night? I just had to know. Lifting up the hat, I had my answer and she had a new nickname:
Sure enough, she had less hair than I do after my monthly electric-clippers-on-2 haircut. Seems she’s just recently finished a stint in a temple, or monastery, or wherever females go to be monks. As I teased her about life without cigarettes, booze or sex she admitted that, in fact, she didn’t turn out to be a very good monk. Not sure how many of the vices she didn’t give up.
Looking around the bar, I then noticed another girl I’d seen twice with a long scarf around her head. I’m now thinking Freedom is Snooky’s official ex-monk hooker bar.
The Monk was as hard of a whore as you’ll find in Cambodia and would have been right at home at the back tables in Gulliver’s on Soi 5. She even adopted a Western name: Sofia. She had three pairs of genuine white Levi’s which she wore each day and tight little mid-drifts. But she spoke great English, turned out not to be a snob at all and I decided my hunt for the night was over. More 75-cent beers please.
The hat subject dispensed with, I just had to know about Mr. Desperate, whose picture I snapped and seem to have deleted before I could write this, sorry. Yup, he was a former customer. No, contrary to my assumptions, he didn’t live in Snooky. Only here for five weeks. He picked up Sofia the first week or so, spent four nights with her and fell in love. He asked, then begged, for her to live with him the full five weeks. He was, of course, a Cheap Charlie, but even if the money was good, Sofia said, she wouldn’t have done it. Too clingy. So now she simply ignores him as he follows her from bar to bar.
He, too, seemed none too pleased that I was sitting at her table.
Me? I was loving it.
By now, we’re both getting a bit drunk on cheap Khmer beer and the French guy sitting next to me – who had thought he’d be leaving with The Queen Monk – was sitting glumly as his fellow Frog auditioned lower-tier Freedom girls. Sofia, who’d gotten only one beer off the guy, didn’t even seem to notice his red face when she suggested she and I head back to the beach.
Dolphin Shack, of course. This time we sat outside on low benches on the sand. She danced a lot (me a little), drank even more and then got into powder-throwing antics with other drunk Freedom girls who’d arrived. Quickly approaching that point where the Anchor (either one) would completely debilitate my hydraulics, I suggested we mosey on back to my place for a shower and whatever came next.
Shags and Showers
The seasoned veteran, Sofia was indeed a fine shag, but the real surprise in the sack was yet to come. (No, she’s not a ladyboy.)
At the outset, she’d said this was just a short-time tryst. Until she passed out. We slumbered together lovingly until about 6 a.m. when I was awakened with a shocking sensation.
The Monk peed on me.
Yes, I do mean urinated. While in her sleep.
Now I’ve had dreams about wanting to use the toilet, but I’ve always woken up before lifting the seat in said dream. It took a fountain of yellow shooting across me and the bed to jolt her awake.
Thankfully, the room had two beds. So, after she washed herself, me and the bedsheets (as well as use the proper toilet), we simply moved to the other mattress on the condition she wouldn’t soil this one too. At least not with bodily waste.
We awoke for good a few hours later, spilled some other bodily fluids on the second bed and she departed with $20 in her hand and a sheepish look on her face as she dropped the sheets off to housecleaning.
Back for More
As I noted, Thursday night was going to be an early one. The first dive shop that opens using a speedboat will take over the market. Because getting up at 6:45 to catch a slow converted fishing boat while on holiday is ridiculous. I had some beers at Dolphin Shack until midnight, didn’t see Sofia, and went to sleep like a good boy.
After diving, resting and eating, Friday night – my last in Sihanoukville – was on tap. What to do? Who am I kidding. It was back to the Freedom Bar. Sofia, who took Thursday night off as well, it turned out, was also in the house.
She was good (albeit wet), but I thought I’d like to try something else. But that wasn’t going to happen. I was now marked. No sooner had the bartender poured my beer and she was next to me. No other women approached me the entire night.
Realizing I had no other place to go, I decided to make the best of it with Sofia. The night played out similarly to 48 hours before except this time her stay in my room was indeed a $10 short-time and no unintended urinating occurred. She talked about going back to Phnom Penh with me but, despite exchanging phone numbers, I didn’t hear from her again.
The Last Word
Sihanoukville is the youngest city in Cambodia, only incorporated in the 60s. It’s also changing faster than you can spell Sihanoukville, If you’ve been there five years ago, you’d barely recognize it. The Snooky of the 90s is gone. And what has replaced it is not what many people expected.
For years I’ve heard how Sihanoukville was Pattaya 20 years ago and how it would be the next big monger destination. And, for a while, it seemed that might be true, as the Chicken Farm and other P4P venues sprung up. But in what most sane people would consider a wise move, the government intervened. Pattaya, as can be seen here, was once a lovely place with white beaches and unpolluted waters. Cambodia’s officials decided to see if they could keep Sihanoukville that way.
Beachfront guesthouses were banned and, in their place, the government invited in the Chinese and Koreans to build plush, private casino resorts. More than 90% of Sihanoukville’s beaches are now privately owned and, unfortunately, the lure of Chinese money has prompted the government to eat into a national park to make way for more casinos.
At the same time, the crackdown on P4P bit hard. No more short time rooms. No more barfines (allegedly). The Chicken Farm is all but gone.
The overwhelming reaction I’ve gotten to my two previous posts on Sihanoukville was “sorry, seemed like it sucked pretty bad” and “thanks, I was thinking of going, but now I won’t bother.”
Both sentiments would actually be wrong. I actually enjoyed my five days in Sihanoukville, but not necessarily for the reasons I planned to go there.
The place, particularly during the day, is actually pretty great, if you like nice beaches, low prices, friendly people, warm ocean water and decent food. If you’re young, can stay out until dawn and don’t mind sand in your shoes (and your underwear and your bed…), then Sihanoukville will be a lot of fun.
And, in truth, there are more than a few bars where there are more than a few women of loose morals who find older, fatter guys sexy. (Or at least they say so.) There are also spots that I didn’t try, such as what remains of the fabled Chicken Farm. I’m told most of it has been shut down due to many places selling chickens that hadn’t fully hatched yet. And there are some discos like the Airport Club and another joint called Blue Mountain which have gotten press but, at the time I was there, were deserted.
I definitely was cursed by my timing. Definitely do not to Snooky during Songkran. And that holds doubly true for Phnom Penh, which literally shuts down for four days or more.
Would I go back? Not alone. I’d each take my own sand to this fine beach or go with some mates. With beer so cheap, drinking with the boys would be a big draw. It would also make plundering the bars more fun.
There’s also the matter of the girls themselves, and this also applies to the capital. To me, they simply aren’t as attractive as Thai girls. I favor light-skinned Asian girls. The Khmers are mostly very dark. The Monk was like eating dark chocolate. As I mentioned in my Phnon Penh posts, the Vietnamese, at least for now, are gone. Not sure why, but they are not there now. Also, if you’re into big bustlines, Cambodia will be a bust for you.
I will say, however, that I find the Khmers much more polite and friendly than the Thais Everyone was nice and you didn’t have the feeling you get in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket that you’re always a mark for getting ripped off. They may not smile as much as the Thais, but I feel these days the Land of Smiles is simply a mask for the Land of Sneers.
So, with all that in mind, if you still want to go, here are a few final tips:
- Accommodations – If you’re happy with fans and mosquito nets, there are tons of cheap rooms and bungalows for under $10 a night. Some are even free. Google it. For hotels, I can recommend Coasters, where I stayed, or Reef Resort, on the paved road near the Golden Lion circile. More expensive, but said to be worth it. And great food.
- Food – For dinner, you’d be an idiot not to eat on the beach each night. $3 for all that? Fuggitaboutit. For lunches, or a change of pace for dinner, check out Mick & Craig’s, a few doors down from Reef Resort. Reasonable prices and good menu. Skip the Mexican dishes, though. For that head right to Reef Resort which has the best Mexican I’ve had in Asia plus seemingly every tequila on the planet, some costing $10 a shot.
- Transport – To and from Phnom Penh, go out of your way if necessary to book a ticket on Mekong Bus Lines. Same price as the others, but great service, including free breakfast snack, water and wet towels. And they don’t steal your stuff like Paramount Bus Lines does. Inside Snooky, it’s “motodop” all the way. (Don’t ask me what the “dop” is for.) Short rides are just 50 cents and all the way across town is just $1.
- Shopping – Avoid the hotel shop rip-offs and go to the supermarket downtown. I forget the name, but just tell your moto guy ‘supermarket” and you’ll get there. There’s only one. And, during your quiet daytime, check out the huge covered outdoor market near the bus station. Some good deals to be had.
- Scuba Diving – There are three shops. My recommendation is The Dive Shop next to Mick & Craig’s (despite its dumb name.) But beware, diving Sihanoukville is a lot like diving in Pattaya: Long boat ride, low visibility and no fish. But the coral is pretty nice and, during lunchtime, you eat on an island where the dive shop operates a guesthouse which has the following on the menu: Beer: $1; Condoms $3; Herb: $1.50. Sounds like the perfect combination.