Afternoon of June 26th - 28th
In the afternoon we took a bus to Sinoukville, Cambodiafs only deep-sea port and home to some very nice beaches. The bus took five hours along a decent road. Here's the countryside:

>Jon and I spent two nights enjoying the beaches and the sun. And, being the Cambodian has no traffic laws, you can rent scooters for as little as $3 a day. Jon felt compelled to rent a dirt bike, a stunning $7 a day.

The beach at Sihanoukville:

Compared to Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville was far less eventful and we spent our time swimming and relaxing. But there is one very funny story worth relating from our first night in Sinoukville. Jon and I are both keen chess players, but we had played each other so much on the bus and on the plane that we were accustomed to each otherfs strategies. The tourist brochure we received on arrival displayed one hostel that offered one-on-one chess matches, and Jon and I decided to go and check it out.

The hotel was little more than a shack, and the owner happened to be a German guy who ran the place with his Cambodian girlfriend. It was the off-season and he had no customers, and when we arrived he was sitting at the bar with an Austrian friend. He agreed to a match and brought out a large chess set. But while Jon and I played in silence, the German and the Austrian loudly discussed strategy with each other that Jon and I didnft understand -- they were talking in German. It was probably meant to be intimidating, and in some respects it was -- the subtle implication was that they could speak without us understanding, but if Jon and I spoke in English, they would understand.

But we had our own trick to play. My game with the German went down to the wire, with each side holding just a few pieces. I didnft know how to proceed, so Jon gave me a detailed strategy -- speaking entirely in Japanese. (Neither of us knew how to say gbishoph in Japanese, and Jon referred to the piece as gthe Christian guy.h) I asked some ewhat iff questions, and Jon explained the situation -- I could afford to make an otherwise dangerous move because my opponentfs piece was gpinnedh. Jon finished explaining his proposed battle plan by saying, gOf course, if these guys understand Japanese, youfre screwed,h to which I chuckled.

Just as I reached to make my move, my German opponent stared at us and asked, with a shocked and bewildered look on his face, gYou guys speak Russian?h

Afternoon of June 28th
There are no convenient roads and no buses from Sihanoukville to the Thai border, and the only route available is a boat. The problem is, this isnft a proper seaworthy boat -- the boat we took was meant for going up and down the Mekong, not cruising in the Gulf of Thailand. Fortunately for us the weather was rather pleasant and it was only slightly rocky.

A rearview look at the boat:

A view of the shore from the boat:

Getting into port, we took a truck to the border, crossed over, and were back into Thailand. The difference in transportation was noticeable instantaneously. No more cars without license plates, no more scooters; we took a commercial van to the bus station, and then a Greyhound-esque bus back to Bangkok. Bangkok as a city is far more impressive after a trip to Phnom Penh

June 29th
Jon and I spent one day in Bangkok picking up some bargain goods before heading back to Japan in the afternoon. And that sums up our journey, a remarkable ten-day trip.

 

C. 2005