Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 9: Sun, Sand and Sea

Breakfast at Reef Resort

Reef Resort in the morning light

We started off with breakfast at Reef Resort's restaurant. Breakfast was included in the room tariff which was US$45 a night for a poolside room, and the breakfast menu was a nice change from the Pavilion's standard breakfast.

HM's 3-egg omelette, with tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese

my homemade pork and beef sausage, with egg and baco, on a soft bun

The breakfast was excellent. Macca's - eat your heart out. The sausage sandwich is what McMuffins aspire to be (and if they don't, they should!)

Ochheuteal Beach

While Sihanoukville wasn't exactly a one-horse town, it was clear that there wasn't much else to do except hang out at the beach, unless one preferred the delights of the massage parlours and casinos. We walked along the long narrow stretch of beach, looking for a good spot to settle down, but try as we did, we could not seem to find one. The beach was pretty by day, the sand reasonably fine and white, and the water certainly clear, but somehow we weren't excited. Perhaps the problem lay with us. If we were truly honest with ourselves, our beach bum days were over. Either that or we had turned into beach snobs.

need help relaxing? check out the signboard

Our day at the beach turned into a long walk, punctuated by the occasional happening.

the one we didn't manage to save

We found these sea creatures drying out on the beach, left there by the receding tide. At one point, HM made me pick up one with a leaf and put it back in the water.

Ochheuteal Beach is just one of several in the Sihanoukville area, but it's the most established, most developed and most popular one, not just for expatriates from Phnom Penh on weekend jaunts but for locals as well.

local kids having fun

rambutans for sale

pencil boats are apparently popular just about everywhere

harvesting shellfish

We met an old lady, possibly a vagrant, looking for shellfish. What fascinated us was how she held the plastic bag in which she stored her finds - hanging from the one tooth she had remaining.

Eventually, we wandered into a beachfront bar run by the Eden guesthouse. This was situated at the quieter end of the beach, the perfect place to just sit back and relax.

the way to Paradise?

freshness in a glass... or two

a paradise for man and animal

picture perfect

not taking "no" for an answer

The only splotch on our picture of calm was a persistent young lady who insisted that HM buy the bracelets she was selling ("I made them myself. You see all the different designs...") She stopped several times to "talk" to HM; the latter eventually caved in and bought two bracelets for US$1.

An Afternoon at Reef Resort

Even in the shade of the trees sheltering the Eden bar, the heat became an issue. We decided to return to Reef Resort.

at Reef Resort's bar

We sat at Reef Resort's bar for a while, quaffing down Coke Light while watching the young staff entertain a young guest. We had to give it to Reef Resort - they had the nicest, friendliest staff.

Thirst quenched, we retreated to our room, for some holiday reading and football on the tele. When hunger set in, HM could not bear to venture out into the heat and so we ordered lunch in.

our lunch - before

our lunch - after

We ate our lunch on the cool tiled floor, like a picnic. There was fresh barracuda and chips, homemade chicken and vegetable soup with croutons, and way too much salad; we had ordered a side salad not realising that the other items came with greens too. (We have to confess we stuck the leftover salad into the fridge and forgot all about it... Sorry, Matt and Co.)

When the sun started to dip in the sky, we moved out to the pool. It was a saltwater pool no less. It was peaceful enough till a couple, an American GI type with his Asian girlfriend, appeared. She spent the next hour literally clinging on to him, legs wrapped around him in the pool, lying on him in the deck chair, and chattering, incessantly. The sight we could block out but the sound, the sound, we had to put up with till they picked up their towels, strolled out to his motorbike parked in front of Reef Resort and zoomed away. How sad.

Dinner at Chez Mari-yan

On our last night in Sihanoukville, I decided to go to a hilltop restaurant for the view. I had read somewhere that Chez Mari-yan, a guesthouse cum restaurant perched high on the hill, had the best view of the sunset and the Sihanoukville port, so we were headed there. But first we had to cut a deal with one of the friendly neighbourhood tuk tuk drivers. I found the tuk tuks in Sihanoukville expensive, compared to the ones in Phnom Penh, but I suppose it was a sellers' market. Unless we wanted to rent a motobike, and god forbid ride it unlicensed and untrained, we were at their mercy.

The somewhat scenic ride took us across town to Victory Hill. Halfway up the hill, the tuk tuk driver stopped the vehicle at the mouth of a narrow unpaved lane. He explained that his tuk tuk could not access the last 100 m and that we would have to complete the journey on foot. He would wait for us at that very spot, for the journey home. To my dismay, the lane was unlit and the path underfoot was rocky. Going up wouldn't be a problem, but coming down in the dark was another story altogether.

The trot up the lane brought us to a set of wooden bungalows laid out in a large garden. Out on a patch of grass, a group of French men and women were playing boules of all things. They acknowledged our presence with nods and smiles. We made our way to the main building, a large rather ramshackle structure, where a flight of stairs led up to a barely lit verandah. This did not seem promising. We stood there tentatively till Madam (we assumed she was Mari Yan) came and ushered us to a low coffee table with accompanying sofa.

The verandah turned dining area overlooked the rather lush if unkempt garden but it was evident that this was no lookout point. We mentioned it to Madam who promptly asked a passing staff member to bring us up to the seaview rooms. We traipsed across the planks masquerading as wooden walkways and up wooden stairs till we reached the highest set of bungalows. There, on the verandah outside the seaview rooms, we could see all the way to the port.

Port of Sihanoukville

how romantic the town looks

It was a little odd being perched outside other people's rooms, so we didn't linger. We made our way back down to our sofa in the dining room. The space may have been romantic in some sense, a certain rustic charm, but all we could think about was the mozzies lurking under the table.

Our dinner was a simple one, steamed rice with two dishes, and iced coffee for two.

khmer fish soup

stirfried squid with ginger

The food was pleasantly homecooked in feel, and the bill only came up with US$9.10. We thanked Madam and made our way down the hill, fortunately, without incident.

Our tuk tuk driver was waiting for us. We asked him to stop at a supermarket on the way, hoping to buy some snacks for our ride back to Phnom Penh the next day. He took us to Samudera Supermarket but we couldn't find anything that we would have liked. Too bad Sihanoukville's premier bakery, Starfish Bakery, had closed for the day.

We arrived back at Reef Resort to finally meet Matt in person. He explained that he had been away in Phnom Penh to pick up supplies on, get this, his motorbike. We took the opportunity to tell him how helpful and friendly his staff were. We also decided to settle our bill which came up to US$117 for two nights' accommodation, one lunch, assorted drinks, and two bus tickets to Phnom Penh that Reef Resort had helped us to book. When Matt realised that we were due to leave early the next morning, he offered to come in early and ensure that the restaurant was ready for breakfast, a fact we were most grateful for, having failed to secure supplies for the trip. Three cheers for Reef Resort!

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