Sihanoukeville.Rain,Rain and more bloody rain. So much rain the frogs and ducks were staying inside. And then some more rain on top of that. I swear I would go mad if I lived in Sihanoukville at this time of year and having just spent 5 days down there for work…I almost did. I left Phnom Penh 5a.m last Thursday morning and it started Raining about 10 mins before I arrived and did not really stop until I Left yesterday. The rain was so heavy it blocked out the view of the sea from the house I stay in and turned whole streets and lanes into flowing rivers. There was almost even a surf running at the beaches! I saw foot high clean glassy waves in front of Sokha resort and cursed not having a board. Ay any rate, work kept me busy with several days spent in a classroom getting training from Dave The Lab Rat. Dave is a big affable guy who had been all over the world training dudes like me on the basics of Radiation and procedures for its detection. I thought the training was going to be VERY technical / dry and over my head and I could have opted out but in actual fact I found it extremely interesting and as it was aimed at laymen, it was easy to grasp. For example – did you know that bananas are one of the few things in the world that radiation occurs naturally in? The Khmers were flabbergasted at this and I think Dave put a few of them of one of their staple food sources. So after long days of training it was back to the house for a swim in the pool ( in the rain ) and a few cold beers before a quick meal and early to bed. I did get a couple of windows of time off and on Saturday I jumped in the car and headed up to Riem National Park. I will put the clear directions here for anyone who lives locally, has a capable 4WD and wants a Killer day trip that will really open your eyes and relax the soul. I headed out of town and then took the road out to Riem Park past the Airport which still shows no sign of ever opening. Very soon the road hit the coast and a long beach peeled off to my right but I stayed on the main road and soon went past a bunch of seafood shacks that were perched right over the sand of next beach around. I stopped to get some ice and a few cold beers for the esky and then took a left turn where the road forks. Left to the Refinery, Right to the Naval Base where off in the distance I could see a couple of small frigate / gun boat looking vessels. The small refinery popped up on my right with a few local cows ambling across the road and here the road kind turns to dirt. I took a right turn and followed the blue refinery wall down to the beach and after a quick survey of surface conditions, hubs were locked and I hit the sand in the LandCruiser. A good 500m rip up the beach was had before I pulled over and decided a jump in the ocean was in order. Nice clean warm salty water and not a single person in sight made for a sensational dip.
After the swim I uhmed and ahhed about going further into the park and luckily I decided to push on as it would turn out that there was so much more to see. So back up to the main track and then a right turn to continue on into the unknown. I was not sure where the private land ended and the public land started but I figured ( as always ) that if someone wanted to stop me…they would. The track continued in a slippery red line up into the dense jungle and before long I came across an amazing looking house or restaurant set in a clearing overlooking the coast. I stopped and asked a guy that looked like a caretaker if I could take some photos and he happily agreed so I slung him an icy cold beer out of the rub which he gratefully accepted and sat under a big mango tree to drink. The all wooden structure was just awesome with big arched windows, a vented roof and a lovely outlook to the sea. With a bar and stage, I could see it was a restaurant and when I asked the guy if a Barang owned it I did not quite catch what he said but as I found it later – it was actually a movie set !! It was built about 12 months ago for a period French film and I remember some of my mates here had roles in that movie. Unfortunately now it was just rotting away in the jungle which was a real shame because it would make a killer bar….or house.
The track continues on up into the jungle and it gets rough in some places but the cruiser is eating it up. It would also make for a sweet bike ride on a DRZ400with little single side tracks begging got be explored. Eventually you pop out right back on the coast again where a river feeds into a lagoon and then out to the sea. A strange fence on the right says ” I am private land ” which is weird if this is a a National Park but then it is Cambodia right so I guess some big boy has claimed it as his own ? After crossing the bridge over the lagoon I hit the beach for some more sand action and my progress eventually got stymied by a creek that cut a trench across the beach. I was pretty sure I would have made it across and at one stage I was in the drivers seat gunning he engine ready to go but then given how far I was from help if it went wrong, I erred on the side of caution. Eventually I could go no further so I drove back to the track and continued pushing into the bush until the road all but disappeared into heavy jungle and I was forced to reverse out and surrender.
On the way back to Sihanoukville I decided I still had plenty of time and decided to explore the beach I had first seen after passing the airport. There was also a long stretch of really muddy road and as I love getting the car dirty, I wacked her in 4WD and ploughed on in.For about a km I slipped and slided sideways and had the wipers working overtime but there is just nothing that can stop my car. I love it ! I passed men working on boats and fishing communities and crossed over more bridges before plunging into a lovely long grove of coconut palms that ran right next to the beach. Soon enough the road got sketchy but the beach was beckoning so I simply cut through the trees and used the sand to keep going. Up ahead I could see another lagoon so I forged on until I got there and again my efforts were rewarded with a very nice little location. Local villagers were fishing at the river mouth and a young chap ran over to practice his English with me. As we chatted his brother cruised past on his boat and waved and we were soon joined by a young father and his baby girl.I stayed for around 30 minutes chatting with the young student and then jumped in the car and headed back down the beach and then on to town. What a freaking few hours out and I am definitely going back with the family and the bbq in tow.
Then, on Monday I had another few hours so I ripped over to Kep to inspect with my own eyes the power situation on our land. The road across to Kampoit from SHV is perfect and I tore it up in 60 minutes at 120kph. The road from Kep to Kampot however is shocking now with terrible potholes and dips and bumps everywhere. However imagine my pleasant surprise when I arrived on our road and saw power “poles” lining the road and then got to our block and lo and behold…..we have electricity right to our front fence ! WUHHOOOOO. Best $100 i ever spent.
Yesterday I loaded up on crabs and prawns for Leakhana ( anyone who is married to a Khmer knows you do NOT come home from the coast empty handed….), pointed the car north and after 5 days in Sihanoukeville with Radiation training, highest level meetings with tricky port chiefs, incessant rain,hard pillows,cafe food and some awesome 4wding….I was damn happy to get home to my wife and kids yesterday.