Ngean Pagoda

Arrival   Hong Kong   Halong Bay   Sanya, China   Nha Trang, Vietnam   Phu My, Vietnam  

Life at Sea  Laem Chabang (Day 1)   Laem Chabang (Day 2)   Koh Samui, Thailand   Singapore 

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Located 115 miles southwest of the capital Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is a province in Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. The province honors the name of King Norodom Sihanouk, who surprisingly is alive, but not well, being cared for in China. King Sihanouk is known in Cambodia as the Father of the Nation because he was the main promoter of independence from France in 1953. In Cambodian, Sihanouk means lion, and a statue of a big lion is the symbol of the city. It was Tuesday, January 31, and we had one more week of the cruise left.

Touring the City

We bought the tour of the city and environs, which looked like a good overview of Sihanoukville, given our short timeframe. The sites included:

Intra Ngean Pagoda Complex

Our first stop dropped us off at the Intra Ngean Pagoda — the city's prominent religious site. The complex was huge and consisted of a main pagoda and several smaller ones and a monastery. Throughout the grounds were statues of various gods and goddesses and a big gold reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha, Cambodia

Reclining Buddha with Curt and Dean Standing Guard

As with other religious sites, we had to remove our shoes out of respect before entering. That always made me nervous because so many shoes ended up parked outside the entrance. When I came outside, my shoes were not where I left them. Instead this little girl of about eight-years-old held them. I said: "Thank you," as I took them gently out of her hands. She then jestured that she wanted to help me tie them. I declined politely. But then I could not get rid of her. She clung to me like glue, and if any other kids came near us, she suddenly became as nasty to them as a feral kitten. No matter where I went in the complex, she was right there with her hand out.

After touring the site and taking several pictures, I got back on the bus. Only then did I finally shake off my adopted "daughter," as everybody in the group called her.

Independence Beach

We pulled up to a fine beach area and were promised a free beer or soft drink as we either swam, took advantage of one of the many women who sold massages, or just soaked up the beauty of the scenery.

          Beach, Cambodia

Curt Posing with One of the Beach Patrol

To the right in the picture is the bar area, where we cooled off with a beer or Coke or a cool bottle of water. We soaked up the sun here for about a half hour and then on to the fresh market.

Fresh Market

Our bus eased into a tight parking area with other buses and off we climbed and headed for the main market. The market looked huge from the outside, and indeed it covered a large city block.

Fresh Market in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Fish Vendor in Fresh Market, Carpet of Leaves on Dirt Floor

We entered the market on a main aisle and had to step over several beggars who were groveling on the dirt floor for money. Some had lost hands, arms, fingers, or feet. It was a pathetic sight that just made me want to cry. We continued along the main wide aisle until we ran into another tour group, whose leader was taking them down one of the narrow interior aisles. We decided to follow so that we could get to the epicenter of the activity. The smell, coupled with the insufferable heat and humidity, overwhelmed us and the dank air closed in. I felt stifled and sick and almost thought I was going to vomit, especially after the way we saw how the vendors handled the meat.

Meat in Frensh Market, Cambodia

Fresh Meat

After threading our way through the maze of narrow aisles, we found our way out of the stifling, claustrophobic market only to step back into the broiling sun. It took a few seconds to get our bearings, and then we headed for our bus. On the way, we bumped into the leader of our group, Bob McQ and our regular waiter for dinner aboard the ship, Nyoman (pronounced YO-MAHN) from Bali.

Bob, Nyoman, and Dean in Cambodia

Bob, Nyoman, and Dean

Tumnuk Rolok

We pulled into a small fishing village for our last stop to see what local life is like. Our cruise director and the local guide had both told us that life was very simple and that we should not be shocked by what we saw. The people work hard pulling in their heavy nets every morning with the catch of the day, and their bodies showed it. The men, most of whom went shirtless, sported magnificent physiques. They looked healthy and strong and seemed content with their lives, although a bit self-conscious with us foreigners gawking at them. I assume the tour nets the village a share in the fees we paid, or at least I hope the village gets more than just a visit out of letting us look.

Fishing Village, Cambodia

Fishing Boats in Tumnuk Rolok Village

As we wandered through the village, we saw nets stretched out with small skates spread out on them to dry. The skates measured about eight inches wing tip to wing tip. In another part of the village, we saw fish being boiled and salted to preserve them before they went to market. Finally, the men were untangling and organizing their nets to go out again in the evening and spend all night on the boats.

Men Organizing Nets

Readying Nets for the Night's Fishing

Farther along in a building we saw the village TV set with just a crude wire bobbing in to hook it up to the main wires outside. Some women were in the building watching TV, but most people were busy with the fish or getting ready for the night's catch.

Finally, it was time to rendezvous with our guide and take the bus back to the ship for lunch. Toward dinnertime, we weighed anchor and left Cambodia behind, heading down the Gulf of Thailand to our next stop, Laem Chabang, Thailand.

But before we get to Thailand, we had a day at sea. So, let's take this opportunity to tell you a bit about life aboard ship. Click the arrow below.

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Life at Sea