Sihanoukville: a future coastal paradise or a town in disarray?

Dear readers,

following my last travel experience spent in Cambodia of which three days in the coastal city of Sihanoukville and some latest news about the renovation process of the town, I have gained some insights to deal with such a hot topic.

This town is the landmark to transfer by ferries to the Koh Rong islands and until two years ago used be a lively and ordered town in which most of Cambodians spent some relaxing holidays, however later on 2019 some radical changes started occurring, some Chinese investors had come to the place to finance a huge project to transform the city into a temple of luxury Hotel Casinos, brothels and shopping malls, for not talking about wild yields and clay roads, although my expectations were positive as I just landed at the airport, at first sight I noticed that something was wrong and on the way to city by a taxi cab it was more and more negative impressing, and when I reached my accommodation they delivered me the bad news that there was no water supply in that street since two days ago, nevertheless I didn’t give up and I started taking a look around, it didn’t take me much to realize that town itself is ruled by Chinese people which are more than 50% of the residents, moreover it is under the anarchy of the yields and the bulldozers which suddenly can block the access to the streets or narrow the lanes.

Here below I have embedded an impressive YouTube video about what it is going on Sihanoukville, watch it carefully:

Overview picture of the serious decay in Sihanoukville

Now, we all know that ‘fortunately’ and ‘unfortunately‘ the power of the business leads and rules most of the globe, however the question is how can they have run multiple yields at once throughout the town without a structured organizzative plan and moreover with no control from the state?

As for my short experience of staying in Sihanoukville, I would say that most of streets are land of nobody then especially in the night time, besides that, I was personally advised by the guest house owner of not leaving the motorbike parked outside the guest house hall because of the raised level criminality around town, so I had the feeling I was in the wrong place.

What appeared to be clear is that the Chinese investors corrupted the political representatives and therefore they gave them the power to do whatever they wanted no matter if this causes serious pollution and environmental disruption, they just concern about to speed up multiple constructions such as buildings, renewal of the water supply pipes and canalize the traffic in most of town streets. As a result all this at once turned out a serious mess.

Look below at the emblematic paradox at the landmark picture of the roundabout by the beach:

From this perspective above, we would say that there is apparently nothing wrong with the town, however when turning round the corner the enormous mess will show, here below there are few picture of the dark face of Sihanoukville:

I believe that this is enough impressive to show the huge contradiction between of the landmark symbol of the town and the disaster just few metres away. This photo report was made on the period February 29th to March 2nd. I know that I might have missed some further details, however having rented a motorbike I believe that this scenario is representative of what it is going on.

One side note is that I personally had the feeling to be one of the few daredevil adventurers, but on the other hand to be fair if I had made a deep research of the region itself, I would probably have avoided such a destination, so the learned lesson is ‘Always do your own deep research‘ and do net rely on what Google maps shows you.

The only attraction I feel to recommend (perhaps one day when the order is restored) is gorgeous Buddhist pagoda called ‘Samathi‘ which is about 20km far from the town, here below I have attached two pictures:

Such an attraction is ideal for chilling and meditating 🙂 behind the pagoda there are some walking stairs to a nice Chinese Buddha statue 🙂 and few more shadowed spots around.

Here below you have the google map link: https://goo.gl/maps/JCGW38RENcuw6BAD7

To sum it up, the running of multiple constructions does not work out by any means but instead put into serious healthy risks the living community by raising Luxury Hotel and Casino with gambling, is really that what we want? If the intention of the Cambodian government is to turn the town into a VIP destination ruled by an oligarchy, the question is:

Are we sure that both foreigners and Cambodian will be still willing to travel here?

Here below in this detailed articles we find some answers with some detailed explanations of the wild mafia of investors is dealing with the transformation of Sihanoukville:

https://www.voacambodia.com/a/a-pandemic-and-gambling-ban-has-left-cambodia-new-shenzhen-unfinished/5458750.html

https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/3051344/sihanoukville-cambodian-magnet-chinese-casinos

Whatever the future of Preah Sihanouk region will be, the huge clutter spreaded all around will not be cleared any time soon and the local community will sadly suffer out of it.

Any remark is welcomed on this HOT topic!

Giuseppe

Easter time over the COVID-19 outbreak: a great opportunity to research and plan something new

Dear readers,

this Easter (fow who celebrates it) is by no doubt different than any other previous Easter we ever experienced so far in our life, the keen travelers like me are now on stand-by and forced to deal with some other activities, let’s say we are just out of the conventional every-day lifestyle we have enjoyed so far, for instance, our social activities are narrowed as well as the sport activities, however the world is not over, we just need to be more flexible than ever in adapting to a pattern of a new life.

One day, after spending few days at a friend’s place by meditating about ‘what next’, we found interesting the aspects of human spirituality by watching the following YoutuBe video that I share here below for you:

No worries! Just the cover is written in Italian and it means: ‘Arise the level of energy by staying sat down at home‘ , the speech of the video is delivered in english, the guy himself is an Indian yogi and author who raised a foundation focused on various fields of spirituality.

Regardless the religious belief that each of us belongs to, the content of the video is instructive, just don’t get discouraged with the beginning of the video which opens up with spiritual meditation of the body, after that he delivers his speech, during that he points out that the spiritual exercise can be very effective and can help us to re-discover our blissful of joy.

I believe that nowadays most us humans struggle in finding the (real) joy and as a result we let our brain to reason what makes us happy, what we believe that makes us joyful in fact is fake (just appearance) however most of us dislike facing the truth and this is how our ordinary life-style works.

Having traveled to India and few more asian countries where Hinduism and Buddhism are the dominant religions, I venture to say that they emphasize the meditation and spirituality a lot as a part of the ordinary the life-style, by this I do not mean that everybody in India, Thailand, Cambodia, etc. strictly follows this as a rule, the frenetic consumerist life-style contaminated everybody who works for a corporation business, and this is a sort of enemy for our spirituality.

Amongst other things, nobody knows whether we will be able to resume our ordinary ‘life-as-usual’ as it used to be until few months ago, therefore if some of us was entirely focused on making profitable business on the individual basis then we should resize our vision of the world, I believe that we all know that money at the end is just an illusion of happiness, for example people regardless their pockets are naturally supposed to actively contribute for a better collective life environment and we can not expect that someone will do it for us, otherwise the principle of human equality will never be applied 😦

To sum it up, I consider myself lucky enough to have explored thirty Countries of the globe, of which 23 in Europe and 7 in Asia, however these numbers would be meaningless if one doesn’t commit oneself to learn something from someone’s else culture, perhaps now for a while we won’t have chance to explore other cultures, so my recommendation is: let’s try use the best of what we learned out of having visited different cultures and see how it works, I believe that everybody is able to do so 🙂

Having said that, enjoy watching the video and feel free to share your thoughts!

Giuseppe

BEING A WORLD EXPLORER DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC TIME

Dear fellow readers,

most of us are aware of the fact that the pandemic spreading the coronavirus prevented us from travelling around the globe indefinitely 😦

However, few of us were lucky enough to afford to travel and stay safely until a certain point, this was my case and I am glad to share with you some relevant facts about what went on while exploring another part of the world: I traveled for a period of twenty days from 26th of February through 17th of March to South-East Asia, I explored Cambodia and Thailand, being an Italian living abroad but still holding an Italian passport it was not an easy challenge:

I was originally supposed to travel to Cambodia and then to Vietnam, by the time I started travelling all the way from Europe to Cambodia everything was smooth with no hassles, despite the media already on February started getting us warned and scared about the growing cases globally, for instance at Vienna airport nobody checked the temperature of the boarding passenger, only when I approached Bangkok airport they checked my temperature before transferring to another gate to fly to my final destination, in addition, I noticed that at Bangkok airport they provided everywhere spare hand-sanitizer gel.

Generally speaking, after entering Cambodia most of people appeared to be very-relaxed like they did not want to care much about precautions for coronavirus, the clerk of the villa resort where I stayed in Siem Reap told me that there were no (recorded) cases in the region, however if you went to some pharmacies you could buy all the precautions you needed e.g. antibacterial hand gel and masks with filter.

This situation gave me lot’s of motivation to quietly continue on my trip, however this does not mean that we do not have to care about hygiene and so on, we MUST: Roads are usually dusty with red sands aside and badly-surfaced, so when you trip around either by a tour agent or on your own by (motor-)bike you will inevitably get dirty skin, I recall that I treated my hands with the antibacterial six times a day, dry hot weather and dust are terrible, look at the pictures below:

The most extreme scenarios I ever experienced were in Sihanoukville region: the city is completely being rebuilt with constructions, water pipes, road infrastructure and so on all at the same time with no safety rules, here the hygiene was an extreme challenge, I count that I disinfected my hands ten times per day for not talking about that I got to wash urgently my nose masks and even my backpack which became from blue to black colour!! This is just a not-to-go place for the time being.

Other than that, Cambodia has reported only 103 cases so far, it is difficult to argue on it, perhaps many factors like weather might leverage the spreading of the viruses, who knows? In any case you can keep following up the cases on this link: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

After seven days spent in Cambodia, I got ready and keen to fly to Vietnam, I had a scheduled flight early in the morning from Phnom Penh airport, but here a rocking surprise came out:

Being an Italian traveler with Italian passport I was denied at the check-in counter to fly to Vietnam, the reason for that? Vietnamese government enforced new restrictions for the italians just two days before my flight (3rd of March), no reason was worth to persuade them that I am an italian resident in another European Country, so I had to re-think my travel plans for the other 13 days. I would suggest you the following basic approach

  1. What do we want to do next?
  2. Where do we want to go next?
  3. How to manage it with some improvisation? 🙂

Even if a badass happened, it is a valuable experience to take it with energy to move on! Despite the clerk at the check-in was not so kind they still gave me a hint by suggesting me to stay and enjoy Cambodia longer, so I sat on a bench and picked-up my laptop, I started doing my own research and I gave myself an answer about What and Where, the outcome was Thailand, indeed it turned out to be a wise choice since any other Country few days later started to close the borders for the Italians (Thailand included), at least I could catch the final vector of the returning flight back to Europe, also the travelling life got simplified!

Now you may be asking how I managed it:

Being provided with a laptop and a smartphone with local SIM mobile data, I checked forthcoming departures to Bangkok and I caught an Air Asia flight to Bangkok which was just three hours upfront the current time, I just booked and paid for it, since I had time I could afford to make a research about where to go and what to visit since Thailand was not a new Country for me, this made me to decide to explore the North Thailand which is just a way less touristy than in the south and characterized by some national parks with some jungle trails to go for. Look at the pictures below:

Thailand itself is nowadays a well-developed country, in every public place they always provide you with hand-wash gel, they seemed to me to be more picky than any European country at least in the urbanized areas, when it comes to the life of people in the rural village they feel safe by doing their own life and as opposite they felt scared as they saw some exploring foreigner hiking through, one tour guide said that they think we could spread them COVID-19 , so all we did with some of them not friendly was just keeping some distance as a sign of respect, however nobody of us was not allowed to say them ‘hi‘ or better ‘S̄wạs̄dī‘ in Thai!

All in all, this is a life experience that I strongly suggest go for it, cancel your time off and go back to your ordinary country is the very last thing you should do, in these circumstances would have been a huge mistake which only could get you a way more frustrated, so never give up as long as you have a leeway to adjust your plans but let’s be responsible with the hygiene in this time! Finally, try to improvise some situations when ‘shit happens’ 🙂

Feel free to share your own experience!

Giuseppe