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Sihanoukville

The journey down from Phnom Penh is quick, but a little bit crammed on the bus, so it's a nice feeling when we can finally get off the van and stretch out.

We had a guest house in mind by Victory Beach but surprise, surprise it's full... We then head for Serendipity Beach to see if we can find some with vacancies. It's not easy to find a place and it takes us a while of walking about before we find a guest house run by an ex-pat Briton. He only has a room for the one night so the next morning we have to look around for another place. We get a room at Mick & Craig's - it's a fairly nice room, but the place obviously has some problems with its plumbing, and there was a constant whiff of sewers in the air. Keeping the fan on in the bathroom constantly did help enough for it to be habitable though.

[caption id="attachment_1808" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville. Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption]

We go out and hire a motorbike to enable us to easily get around to the various beaches - we figured it would be very convenient that way - like it's been in places we've been before. Two minutes after getting our bike we get stopped by the police for going on red light, which was obscured by a branch and could only be seen as you cross it... I was just following the flow of traffic anyways and no-one else were taking much notice to the traffic lights - also, if I'd clamped my breaks I'd pretty much guaranteed to been rammed by the traffic behind me so anyways I would have been screwed. Strangely it's only tourists that get stopped of course, so this is an obvious way for the corrupt police to line their pockets. Everybody that get stopped are asked for an international drivers licence, and they claim the standard European licence is not accepted, which is of course absurd. We'll have to pay a small fine for running the red light (fair enough - almost), but we avoid an extra fine over the issue with the licence - if you stand your ground they will finally give up and send you on your way, but how annoying is it to be continuously pulled over every two minutes? Oh, did I say two minutes? Make that one minute.... The second time literally just a couple of hundred meters further down the road. This time we are really pissed off and won't budge at all - it's just nonsense - I HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENCE!. After a couple of minutes we're again on the move, but one poor American couple is having a real bad time and they look terrified - they have not much money on them, and is clearly scared that they'll be arrested. Luckily we avoid the police after that, mostly by going only along the small roads rather than through the centre of town. Another stop by the police would probably have pushed me over the edge. The scooter is very convenient for getting around Sihanoukville, but every time I get onto the bike I'm very conscious about the fact that the police might be around the corner wanting to give me fictional fines. Before, I used to get stressed about driving the scooter because of the lack of experience and trying to learn how to drive these things. Now that I'm used to them I suddenly have a new worry - bloody dirty corrupt police...

We go to the Vietnamese Consulate for our visas to cross the border Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) which is our next stop. It's quite an expensive visa - just gone up from US$45 to US$60 - so it's very welcoming news to learn that I don't need a visa for Vietnam because I'm Norwegian - don't ask me why, but apart from the majority of the Asian countries and Russia only the Scandinavian countries are exempt from needing a visa. The consulate is very efficient and we're out of there and ready for going to Vietnam in next to no time.

After sorting the Visa out we head out to Victory Beach, or should we call it the Russian Coast? It's really strange - absolutely everyone at this beach seems to be Russian. We're almost a bit surprised they let us on the beach, being the only "foreigners" there. We have a little stroll along the shore, but as we didn't bring any towels and swimming-gear we're confined to stay on the dry and have a beer in one of the bars. It's quite a nice bar with a whole plane inside as decoration - it's got the very suitable name Airport Club. Afterwards we scoot over to have a look at Ocheuteal Beach (which doesn't look very inviting) before whizzing over to Otres Beach where we have a walkabout and a quick snack and a beer at Mushroom Point. It's a really quirky guest house and bar where the bamboo and straw bungalows are shaped like mushrooms, as well as the toilets/shower-rooms. It's got a really relaxing atmosphere here, which is exactly what we need after the hassle with the police earlier in the day.

[caption id="attachment_1814" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Otres Beach, Sihanoukville. Otres Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1815" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Otres Beach, Sihanoukville. Otres Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1816" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Otres Beach, Sihanoukville. Otres Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1817" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Otres Beach, Sihanoukville. Otres Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption]

The next day we head back to Victory Beach for a bit of sun-bathing. We found the Airport Club quite nice so we get a couple of sun-beds with them. Although it's like a "Little Russia" and us being "outsiders" it's really quiet and relaxed and we enjoy a rare treat of lounging on the beach - the water is also really nice, as is the fine white sandy beach.

[caption id="attachment_1809" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Victory Beach, Sihanoukville. Victory Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1810" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Victory Beach, Sihanoukville. Victory Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1811" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Victory Beach, Sihanoukville. Victory Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1818" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Victory Beach, Sihanoukville. Victory Beach, Sihanoukville.[/caption]

The transport to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam we arrange the evening before planned travel, and we're surprised to find there is a very big demand for this route so all the direct busses are already booked out days in advance. Our only option is to travel to Ha Tien first, and then book another bus from there to Ho Chi Minh City. With no other alternative we do exactly that.

On the morning of our departure we decide to have breakfast at Mum's Kitchen - a lovely little restaurant across from our guesthouse. Unfortunately it would take quite a while before the food was ready to be served, and we end up having to ask for take-away doggie bags as the minivan turns up to collect us. We could have easily had more time to finish our meal though if they'd come back for us at the end. They were driving us around in circles for about 20-30 minutes afterwards passing the restaurant twice... The minivan slowly gets filled to the rafters and we're thankfully lucky enough to sit on a row of seats where it’s not too crammed. First stop is in two hours time they inform us, which I'm sure is not welcoming news for the ones that are almost sitting in each other’s laps. Slightly squashed we get to the border of Vietnam and then have to get onto motorbikes to take us over the border-crossing and into the town of Ha Tien. We get dropped off from the motorbikes outside a branch of the travel agency we booked our trip to Ha Tien with, and luckily they've got spaces in the bus for us to take us up to Ho Chi Minh the same evening. We have three hours to kill while waiting for the bus departure and go to find some food, and of course a couple of beers.