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Partying in Sihanoukville - Suasadei Chnam Thmei

By: Matthew Spriggs Posted: January-31-2008 in
Matthew Spriggs

In years gone by Sihanoukville was a quaint seaside getaway reserved more for seasoned expatriates than tourists. However, in recent years the town has blossomed into not only a traveler's haven but also a popular hangout for families. The birth of Sokha Beach Resort, the first Five-star resort in the area, has propelled Sihanoukville into a more contemporary town.

Sihanoukville provides enough activities and a nightlife to satiate even the most active of visitors. Serendipity Beach plays host to many of the areas most popular bars, namely Sessions, The Nap House and The Dolphin Shack. Serendipity (a.k.a. Ochheuteal) beach can become hugely overcrowded, especially during high season, this claustrophobia is only exasperated by the hordes of salesmen and women, selling bracelets and sunglasses and the like.

Otrés Beach could be described as Serendipity's younger and mellower brother. The sands are white and the place is generally devoid of any screaming children or obnoxious tourists. The bars and restaurants, although not dissimilar to Serendipity, give off a more relaxed vibe. All in all it is a place where one could easily while away an afternoon. Near the centre of Otrés is a bar named Freax. Although aesthetically unimpressive and virtually unattended the French bar staff are some of the best company a traveler could ask for. As per usual in Cambodia the drinks are cheap and the owners won't hesitate to throw a few of their homemade concoctions down your throat. One must note the surreal artwork hung behind the bar, pieces painted by two of the owners themselves.

The anticipation of the coming New Year Celebrations, grew thicker in the air each day, flyers began to appear at every bar. But this year a coalition of the town's most 'prestigious' bars had organised something different. Freax Bar, Sessions and Zion's Den who had been united by a small troop of earnest travelers formed a trinity, which would ultimately become the biggest party in Sihanoukville's known history.

We paid $20 each and rendezvoused outside Sessions at 7pm on the evening of December 31st 2007. We found room aboard a very unstable long tail boat, left the shores of Sihanoukville headed into the dead of the night. For over an hour we headed south into the darkness until beyond a thick layer of foliage on a tiny island we saw a hint of light. That light grew into a visual treat of florescence and flame. As we drew nearer there came a symphony of music, to the left a wonderful synthesis of reggae and trip hop, to the right a stampeding and haunting attack of Drum 'N' Bass.

The layout was simple. Nearest the beach Zion's Den had erected a small bar and a sandy dance floor. Opposite Zion's Den in a huge wooden shelter Freax had prepared a Shot bar. Serving only shots at prices so cheap it almost felt like stealing. Across from Freax and elevated by a slope fashioned from sand was Sessions; the humblest and most relaxed of the bunch. Of course, at some point even the most hardcore among us need some R 'n' R so adjacent the toilets was a small platform of Tatami mats serving coffee, tea, brownies and other victuals. All proceeds earned by this established went to a children's charity. Drinking coffee to sober up while giving to charity may not be altruistic but it is always nice to see that while much is taken something is returned.

By 11pm the party was in full swing. Three hundred eager tourists had somehow arrived by boat in the space of a few hours. The place was coated with a layer of hospitality, so much so, in fact, that it was almost unnerving. After a few B52's and some Buckets though the festivities became a blur. Hordes of whacked-out Drum 'N' Bass dancing, joints past freely around and conversations amongst the cliques floated freely through the air. Suffice to say the atmosphere was sublime.

We bounced between the bars sampling the poisons and meeting the faces. Canadian; British; Swedish; Khmer; South African. The party ensued and as the clock hands neared zero hour the culmination of satisfaction and utter ecstasy brought us into a new, and slightly belated, New Year. Needless to say as the families retreated to their hillside resorts our Island continued to illuminate an otherwise black horizon.


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