continued from here.
The tuk-tuk tuks past drab hotels and vacant earth. Palm trees and a cerulean sky forgive the city's dusty texture. The road sides are sparse, mostly occupied by flora until we near Victory Hill. We have yet to find accomodations and evening is around the corner. Sihanoukville may be Cambodia's beach paradise, but between the thieves, hustlers, and yaba addicts, sleeping on the beach is not ideal. Least of all for those lacking in Khmer features. In South East Asia, your complexion is used as a heuristic to guess your wealth and thus your potential as a mark.
A black and yellow U sits at the corner of Victory Hill. Utopia. It's a hostel, though the walled structure on the corner seems too big for a guest house- Both entrances sit beside food kiosks, no doubt for the massive numbers of drunk or high backpackers this place must see every night. We walk past the Slumdog curry kitchen, and inside it looks even less like a hostel: It is a spacious open forum. In the center is a bar wrapped in Christmas lights. In one corner is a DJ booth and a kidney pool, complete with fountains. Nobody's swimming, but it could fit the whole bar, staff included. In front of me are some lounge seats, and to the right of me are two pool tables and an upper deck for high altitude drinking. Green hues from trees lining the perimeter and psychedelic graffiti mural every wall put the final finish on Utopia. Damn worthy of the name in my book.
Down the steps and past the bar we find more party crowded around the check in desk.
"We'd like to book two beds for one night,"
A Khmer staff member hands us the room menu. Dorms priced as low as $1.00 should make you wary, not excited. A tall white guy assumed to be the owner is too focused on his weed grinder to take notice of us. To the left, a droopy-eyed girl weeks away from dreadlocks inflates a balloon with nitrous oxide. Dollar each, she says. We settle on the $1.50 dorm beds and the Khmer girl leads us around the back. The owner grinds his weed.
The room is a box with five pads on the ground, and five on the wooden level above. We lock up everything but the drugs and head to the bar. On the way, we pass by the $1 dorms. A cramped room slave traders might use for storage, next to the world's loudest generator. Strategically placed to drown out the music, no doubt.
Happy Hour is over which means prices are back up to fifty cents a beer. When you can't escape the heat even on New Year's Eve, the next best thing is to not get caught without a cold beer. More people start flooding in from all every direction. Utopia is clearly a place get drunk, high, and laid with some dorms in the back as an afterthought. In other words, it's a utopia for backpackers. The staff are more interested in partying themselves, but they still get me my drinks, and I know better than to start trouble in a place like Cambodia. The guy to my left tells me, "Don't swim in that pool. At least three people have died in there." I figure if he's quoting three, at least one's gotta have been fairly recent.
Outside there's partying going on across the street, in every bar, and all the way down Serendipity beach where the Khmers hang out. The tuk-tuk cartel swarms the streets peddling, selling drugs more often than rides. We did our due dilgence, and ate our licks, so we know our way around the game: The weed is shwag, the coke is heroin, and the heroin is cheap.
The first night ends when Brett and I are sitting by the pool enjoying some beers with an friendly old expat, and according to Brett, I got out of my chair and laid down face first by the pool. He carried me back to my rectangle of padding and I woke up the next day ready for a second portion of whatever the hell I got served.
Our first morning in Snookyville starts off so well that every morning after starts the same way. First, go to Rose's restaurant and order something we haven't tried. Everything's good from the Denver omelette to the fish amok.
Rose de-stems our weed as we eat and puts the day's harvest into an electric grinder. She shows us her weed, and if smell is any indicator of quality, Rose's weed is a step up from the street-shit. We a buy a bag from our new favorite grandma. Some days, we buy two. We get all our work done at breakfast- inventory, accounting, emails, Facebook.
Snookyville is a beach town in the middle of fast expansion. It's sparse compared to the more established beaches of the Philippines or Thailand, meaning less things to do, but also less touts. Brett and I are simple guys, our priority is to get fed, get high, and then get fed again. You can do this on several beaches, but the cleanest and quietest beach is Otres.
Otres is a small beach that runs North to South. At the far end sits Khin's Shack; one man's quest to get people high and fed. He is as gangster as his daily wear implies- large sunglasses, cargo shorts, and only a fanny pack above the waist. His calm, accommodating but not-quite-friendly demeanor tells the story of a man who has long since given up cutting throats and pimping kids for the quiet life of rolling joints and cooking "happy" food. We didn't eat his food so much as we abused it. A small mountain of assorted mood enhancers, 50-cent draught and all-you-can-eat curries, rice, and naan sing us to the sweetest shipwreck.
Every day we come back for more of the same peace and food. Few people's paths crossed with ours this far south, but one man I will always remember. A Japanese-American 30-something who walked and talked with calmness beyond zen. He leveled up Brett's joint rolling skill and we shared some drink and smoke. I wasn't looking for anything back then and I'm sure not looking for anything now, but if there ever was something worth finding, it's whatever that guy found that made him the way he was.
New Year's Eve...
Everyone is drunk and high, not just from kind stuff, but nastier things too. Otres is no place to be for a young man or woman unless you like your quiet time. Serendipity is where the party's at. I stayed faithful to my girlfriend and that is all I will say about that.
Everyone can find their own Utopia in Snookyville, as I found mine. But in a few years when those big resorts go up, be ready to pay a little extra for yours.