Day 325 – 20 January, 2016
Taking care of administrative tasks is not the most exciting thing to write about or to read about, but it’s a small fact of life on a Round the World trip. I traveled to Sihanoukville with the intention of securing my Vietnamese visa. It’s not possible to obtain the 30 day visa at the border (unless you go through a questionable third party) like it is at most other international border crossings. The Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville could process the visa in one business day, much faster than the quoted 4-5 days in Bangkok or Phnom Penh, and because I didn’t want to be stuck waiting unnecessarily, Sihanoukville would be the place.
For a $10 surcharge, the hostel could arrange the visa for me and it was, surprisingly, a very straightforward and easy process. I just had to relinquish my passport to a young kid on a motorbike and wait. That’s not nerve wracking at all….but I was beginning to accept that this is just how things work over here. I had to decide what day I wanted to enter Vietnam, which also meant I had to decide what day I would leave Cambodia, no small task for someone who can’t ever make a decision about whether to eat fried noodles or fried rice for dinner. Wavering between spending less time in Cambodia because I wasn’t loving it and spending more time to give it more of a fair chance, I set my departure date 10 days in the future and continued to second guess my decision for several more days, like a good Gemini would.
Meanwhile, I parked myself at Otres Beach for the next 3 days trying to decide what to do next. Otres Beach was a long stretch of narrow white sand, lined with cheap local restaurants and bars, and absolutely infiltrated by the massage, fruit, and bracelet ladies. You couldn’t lie undisturbed for more than two minutes without a woman asking if you wanted to buy a bracelet or some pineapple. The ladies were also very territorial. If you so much as said hello to one, she claimed you as her client and would become aggressively angry if she thought you might buy something from a different lady. Competitive stretch of sand it is. I didn’t really want to buy anything so I tried to stay out of it, although at one point, I was charmed by two young girls who were making friendship bracelets and I was suckered into buying one for only $1.
The massage ladies were the worst, though. They were full service – massage, pedicure, threading. A woman, passing by with the normal inquiry, “Pedicure? Massage?,” reached out to touch my leg. As the words “No thank you” were coming out of my mouth, she interrupted me to say, “You need to shave your legs.” Apparently, this is their sales pitch for threading. I was surprised, and a bit amused, by her brazenness, but my legs were only about 2 days worth of stubble and even if they had been worse, there was absolutely no way I would let her thread my entire leg. This tactic happened again and again and I began to wonder if anyone actually fell for such a forward approach. After 3 days, though, I was keen for a massage so the first woman, who didn’t physically touch me as she walked by, was hired for a $5 sixty minute massage right in my beach chair.
Repeatedly, I was told to visit the islands offshore, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. There was no traffic, no wifi, and no ladies selling junk. After enough days dodging hawkers at Otres, this sounded like a nice break.
For my last evening in Sihanoukville, after spending several nights of doing nothing, I joined a fun group of people that I had met at the hostel – Stephie, Jest, and Evie. As I write this, they have all since returned home from their travels (I am so far behind on this blog!), but for that one night, we headed to Otres Night Market, a hidden hippie oasis with live music, organic and vegan food, handmade clothing, and drinks, of course. Where most night markets cater to the locals, this night market was purely backpackers and was exactly the insulation I sought from the constant peddlers on the street. For in the morning, I was island bound.