Now that we’d completed the Depressing-Shit-Tour of Phnom Penh we figured it was a good time to head to the beach and just party rock for a while. It’s also my 36th birthday so that’s as good of an excuse as any to have a party.
We hop an “express bus”, which is actually a cramped and hot minivan that’s running about an hour late. We meet a couple of Canadian girls from London (Ontario) and talk to them about their plans, and we have the pleasure of listening to a guy in front of us who we dub Skeletor for his nasal laugh. The dude is a Chatty Cathy, if he isn’t going on and on and on in Khmer then he’s talking to us in English or he’s talking to someone else in Mandarin. He’s actually a pretty interesting dude, we’ll catch up with Skeletor later.
We’re dropped into Sihanoukville at about two in the afternoon without any real plans on where to go or what to do. The tuk-tuk driver swarm descended upon us before we’d even managed to grab our bags – “Tuk tuk” “Tuk tuk” “Where you going?” “Hey come on” “Hello” “Tuk tuk”. Trying to look around to get our bearings and figure out the next move and it’s just a goddamn constant stream, they don’t take no for an answer nor do they accept silence. There’s a Chinese restaurant next door, we duck in to get out of the heat and away from the tuk-tuk drivers and get some beers into us. One lone tuk-tuk driver puts along beside us at walking speed “Please – tuk-tuk?” We go inside and reckon odds are good that when we get out he’ll still be parked there waiting for us.
The restaurant is empty aside from a guy, presumably the proprietor, and half a dozen servers. They guide us to the executive suite, Chinese-style round table with a centerpiece that rotates and three large Harbin beers appear. Beauty! I used to drink this stuff up in China (if I wasn’t drinking my local Xue Lu) and haven’t really seen it around much since then. Drisdelle notes that it’s pretty much Moosehead and that’s true but our bar for beer has been set low. If it’s colder than room temperature and not skunky it’s probably going in our guts.
One of the waitresses brings us a Wi-Fi password and we discover that Donald Trump is, with a > 95% certainty, the next POTUS. About the only thing we can agree on is that it’s one hell of a surprise.
We order up some chili beef (delicious), several more Harbins and do some searching on hostels, eventually deciding that our best bet is to go with OneStop, the same crew that ran the superb Onederz joint in Siem Reap. Square up and we jump in a “Super Tuk-Tuk”, now this is a rig. It’s a Daewoo Tico that has everything behind the front seats chopped out, made into a convertible with opposing seats, a tuk-tuk-car really. A lot like riding in the back of a pickup truck but slightly more comfortable. The Iron Man colors were a nice touch.
Check in, bags on the bunks, let’s hit the pool. The place isn’t quite as nice as the one in Siem Reap but it’s all ground floor so I’d call that a draw. We get into some Gin Rickeys and ramp up a buzz. We peruse a list of the house rules – it’s a $100 fine for having sex on the premises? The sun sets about six, we’ve got the ball rolling so we reckon it’s time to hit the streets.
The key landmark here seems to be these lions in the center of a roundabout…
We don’t know the way to the beach but our totally awesome geography skills tell us it’s probably downhill so we head down a gravel road with tuk-tuk drivers on our heels. After five minutes we find our way down to a beachfront walk lined by identical resto-bars, a Hype-Man in the front stepping into our ways to convince us to go, a display case containing entirely fish and some massage tables out front on the beach.
A little joint next to the pier has fish-less, presumably safe western food like hamburgers – me and Murphy are sold. Drisdelle is like “Really?” … He may be getting a little frustrated by our prioritization of our allergies over authentic local cuisine. The menus were the size of billboards.
We order up some fruit smoothies with two shots of vodka in each and a procession of hustlers and beggars begins. Two kids, a girl about 10 and a boy of about 8 come over selling bracelets – we’re initially reluctant but they start throwing lines at us like “Come on dude!” “Have a heart, man!” Murphy was sold when they called him “bro” and got one but made it clear it was for their English skills rather than the bracelet.
A guy with non-working legs shuffled over, dragging himself by his hands with a piece of cardboard underneath of him. Jesus. A woman comes over holding a baby and begging for change, her arm between her elbow and her shoulder is fucking bent at about 120 degrees and somehow she still has use of her hand. I don’t understand that but it’s really, really gnarly.
Our waitress tells us we missed happy hour but “for us” she’ll extend it, even though her boss will “beat her up”. We meet him soon enough, he’s a hilarious Russian guy who’s giving everybody the business but her and the waitresses are giving it right back and laughing. Bring on the mojitos. Bring on the gin. Bring on the whiskey.
We’re squaring up and our waitress tells us this is the right neighbourhood to party in but things don’t really get going until midnight or maybe 1 am. We started at 4:30, we’re pretty drunk now and it’s not even 9, we’re going to be walking disasters by that time. Well, that’s how she goes. We decide to leave the waterfront for the time being and see what else we can find.
A shitty-looking casino called the Golden Sands draws us in. A bouncer nods to us and we walk from under the neon lights into a VERY bright, fluorescent-lit room full of slot machines. It’s like walking into a 24-hour KMart at 2 am. We’re the only white guys in the joint, getting the looks. There’s only one thing to do, that’s hit the tiny, tiny bar. We occupy all three chairs and the waitresses seem to have no idea how to handle the situation. The cocktail list is about four deep and they’re all girly drinks, Long Island Iced Teas it is. We tip the girls what’s probably about 20 cents and they start cutting up some kind of melon and splashing hot sauce all over it. It tastes fishpicious but it’s damn tasty, both Murphy and myself decide to roll the dice. This place has limited appeal otherwise so we’re out the door as soon as we finish our LIITs.
Round a corner and we see a sign that says “PUB STREET”. It’s on.
We head down and it’s nothing but hooker bars with half a dozen scantily-clad ladies in each who run out to yell “HELLO!!” We walk until we reach the end of a cul-de-sac and literally every single building is one of these girlie bars, probably about 15 in all. While we’re here we might as well check one out though, it’s all about cultural investigation, right? We find the only one with zero white dudes so as not to cramp anyone’s style and roll in.
Beers all around, Murphy and I hit the dartboard while Drisdelle strikes up a game of Connect 4 with one of the girls. She obliterates him repeatedly. Watching between shots initially I think he’s shit at C4 but actually she’s a goddamned ninja. He does win one after about half a dozen but I’m convinced she threw it to keep bar morale up. Murphy played one of the ladies about 10 times and lost all of them, I played about half a dozen and lost all of them. They were also damned good at pool, basically just playing us for chumps. It’s a good thing money wasn’t involved, we just bought them a procession of $1.50 lady-drinks.
They ask us to put on our own music so Murphy plugs in his phone and we grace them with what else but some XXX Hip Hop.
A British guy named Andy and his Cambodian girlfriend joins us for several drinks and between playing pool we shoot the shit about spending time there – he’s spent parts of the last four years there, the hassle he gets with dating a local (people automatically look at her and assume she’s a working girl), and, as will be the case with every English-speaking person for some while, the US election. He’s really good shit, he’s headed north but gives us his contact info so we can look him up if we head into that part of the country.
After racking up a $100 bill out of beers, Jager Bombs, girlie cocktails and whiskey we bid the ladies adieu and head back down to the beach to see how the party’s going. On the way we pass by a fiesty bull who is not having any shit from the boys. He actually starts to charge a bit during our attempts to get selfies with him.
Not bad, most of the beachside places are blasting shitty dance music and there are sloppy-as-fuck white people everywhere. We just grab one and walk up to the bar and order three “buckets” of Long Island Ice Teas (again because of a limited menu, not because our previous LIIT bucket had made us aficionados), which are actually large pitchers and not buckets. We sit down by the beach and give each others’ pitchers a tap as we cheers… And Drisdelle’s absolutely explodes, one whole side disintegrates with glass and limes and liquor going all over the table. Oh my.
Rain starts coming in hard and while we’re the last-men-standing out in the weather we eventually succumb and head under the awning to get packed in with a few dozen drunk white guys and a few dozen Cambodian girls. The boys hit the dance floor but I’m not really feeling it except for a moment of Party Rock when I just can’t help myself, instead lean against the side and get LIIT. I notice a couple of English guys who aren’t dancing but are definitely looking at me, a tough-looking guy is gesturing toward me and seems to be saying something about me to his buddy. What’s all this now? They notice that I’ve noticed and the one telling the story comes over and says “You were with me for that thing in Mexico City.” I have zero idea what he’s talking about, only been to the outskirts, but I play coy and say “You’re going to have be a lot more specific.” “That thing with the Federales.” “Nah, I think you’ve got me mistaken for someone else.” He doesn’t really believe it, says I look identical to someone who he got mixed up with in a fucked up tale of debauchery which I sort of listened to but mostly drink LIIT and pondered what kind of reputation my doppleganger might be racking up for me, or I for him for that matter.
While I’m doing this I watch two young girls drag Murphy out into the torrential rains on the beach. They start slam dancing, kicking up sand and rain in probably the best rendition of flash dance this beach has ever seen. Everyone in the bar turns to see what’s going on as the lightning starts crackling over the ocean and thunder threatened to drown out the music. They get completely drenched and after the song finishes retreat back into the bar all smiles and high fives.
The rain never stops so around 3 we decide we need to get moving and we pour ourselves out the door and right into the deluge and a street with filth streaming down towards the sea. Both Murphy and me are wearing shoes and they are immediately fucked up… Well, we’ve both hung onto them but both pairs now smell like the Grim Reaper’s dick. Still likely preferable to Drisdelle’s feet, being submerged in a flood of street shit in flip-flops.
We spot a little tropical-themed place to our left with lights on but deserted. Time for some adventure detective work. We’re greeted by a guy and a girl, both Russians, kind of wondering what the hell we’re doing strolling in off the street at three. The guy doesn’t seem convinced when we order up a round of shots and just kind of stands there watching us while the girl – who we learned is named Irina – tells us how she’s lived in Sihanoukville for years to get away from the shit weather of her native Novosibirsk. Novosibirsk?! We were in Barnaul just a few years ago. We tell her stories from another time. Drisdelle passes out on the bar while she concocts a sequence of fancy shots, all involving a combination of fire and absinthe in some way.
To get Drisdelle to take his medicine we shake him awake. He comes to, gives the shot a cockeyed glare, kills it, tells us to fuck off and goes back to sleep.
It’s something like 5 am at this point. The rain has stopped and we start stumbling vaguely towards our hostel but we’ve got a hankering for pizza. Surely there are pizza joints open at 5 am in Sihanoukville? We walk past the double lions and get a few beers from streetside vendors, it looks like we’re the only white people still up and the guys selling beer are actually just catering to Cambodians who’ll be starting their days soon. We’re a total disgrace but still trucking. We’re brushing off tuk-tuk drivers left and right even at this hour when two scooters carrying three attractive girls pull up. One who seems to be the ring leader asks “What are you looking for?” We answer “Pizza”… “Happy pizza or regular pizza?” (Happy pizza being pizza baked with weed.) “We don’t care.” “Okay jump on.”
So now I’m riding a scooter at 6 am squeezed between two hotties while the other guys are riding tandem on the back of the other. We pull into a restaurant and order up a shitload of beers and two large pizzas. Murphy and I obliterate the pizza and beers, Drisdelle’s pretty out of it but we manage to keep his face up and out of the pizza.
Oh, and given our experiences in Cambodia so far it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that at this point we discovered these girls were prostitutes, which we’d suspected but had confirmed when they strongly suggested we grab some rooms at the hotel next door. Sorry ladies, have to decline, but here’s a few bucks for being good drinking companions and driving us around on scooters looking for pizza. We trudged home and collapsed into the hostel as most everyone else was having breakfast. Happy 36th birthday to me!