Just a week left...
Well, last time, I said its going to be relaxation these remaining days in Sihanoukville, and it has been. Sadly no more snake encounters, but plenty of lizards and bugs spotted between the beach and Victory Hill. The weather has actually been quite sunny the last few days, but as always the breezes from the sea provide welcome respite from tropical humidity, which combined with direct sunlight is at times a hot and sticky business.
A small jungle trek is possible on the way down to Independence beach. On the right, between the private bridge and the Independence hotel. Access is about halfway and via a small hamlet of shacks patched with tarpaulins and corrugated iron sheets. The place isn't particularly noticeable from the road, and the only clues to this place are a gap in the fence and a dirt track. Whether the dwellings here are official or not, just smile, play dumb and carry on should a local decide to wake up from their hammock and show some interest. Following a well trodden track through the jungle, it's impossible to get lost. Tracking straight ahead leads to the sea, while the only other track from here leads towards the hotel grounds. So, while this land remains untouched by development, for now at least, it's a good opportunity to experience a walk through some jungle and spot a variety of butterflies, dragonflies, birds and bugs - snakes are not uncommon either.
The wheels of commerce are turning slowly, with a trickle of tourists still arriving, and departing despite the rainy season fast approaching. The weather has turned again. Thunder, usually early hours giving way to steady rain. A gap of a few hours before another downpour. For now at least, the American food and hotel chains have stayed away from this end of town, which in part gives Victory Hill it's unique character. Unique in that it's not a typical holiday hotspot with all the brashness and arrogance such a place attracts. On the downside it's quite a hike to downtown, so just popping out for this and that becomes a long winded affair. There is one modern shop and two rickety, tumbledown shops selling some produce, a few groceries and toiletries etc, all priced for the western wallet of course. despite the appearance of having a reasonable quality of life, that fact is for most locals its a struggle. Each business seems to be a family affair supporting several generations. The cafe across from here is part of the laundry down the road, which also hires out motorcycles, is a travel agents and so it go's on. Many are having to bunk down on mattresses in sheds, shacks - anything that provides a roof. Some have enough to eat, others clearly don't but there is one common factor among this enduring hardship - a warm, friendly attitude without an ulterior motive. And those smiles that carry a motive, well, it's easy to spot when you know what to look for.
Just a week left in Cambodia, two more weeks in Thailand then it's homeward bound, with a stop off in the big one - mumbai!