Bits From The Beach – February 2019

Well the big news in the ever dwindling Barang community in Sinoukville is the closing and swift demolition of the long-time Backpacker behemoth the Monkey Republic. Its closure was almost immediate after the announcement and the wreckers did not waste any time in moving in.

That leaves only the Big Easy in that part of beach road, one wonders how long they will last, at least they are doing good business due to a lack of competition. The Big Easy has begun expanding its chain/empire with the recent opening of the Big Easy on Kho Rong Sanleom which followed a relatively recent opening of the very stylish Big Easy in the heart of the Phnom Penh Backpacker Ghetto in street 172.

Hot on the heels of the Big Easy is the announcement by popular Sihanoukville eatery Olive and Olive that they are planning to open a branch somewhere in Phnom Penh in the near future. Olive and Olive is one of the few remaining Western restaurants in Sihanoukville.

Rumours are circulating that two of the Chinese Casinos have found that they cannot make enough money in Sihanoukville and are closing. If this is true, we are sure there will be plenty of other operators willing to lease the space as the numbers of Casinos seems to grow weekly. The Chinese invasion has been gaining more publicity recently in the overseas main stream media with even Al Jazzera running a piece.

But the best piece on the invasion of Sihanoukville came recently from a Chinese Blogger looking at the invasion from the eyes of a Chinese national. The blogger was none too complimentary about the quality of their fellow nationals in the town, apparently the casino workers are referred to as Spinach Dogs and the Chinese name for Sihanoukville is Westport. It is a good idea to rename the town Westport as little of Sihanoukville as people remember it remains. The blogger may be right about the quality of the people because there were the usual reports of brawls and kidnappings over un- paid gambling loans/debts and arrests of Spinach Dogs by the Cambodian Constabulary, (ably supported by the plain clothes Chinese Police that appear to have a base in Westport) in the news over the past month. It is believed that there could be as many as 120,000 Chinese in Sihanoukville at the moment, which given the continual traffic jams (that rival peak hour in Phnom Penh) is believable.

The Chinese Navy are sending a few of their naval ships on a visit to Cambodia to celebrate the opening of the new Cambodian Naval Base on the seaward side of Kho Rong. The Chinese have denied that they will establish a naval base in Cambodia, but helping the poor Cambodian Navy does not count as establishing a base so it seems.

The good news is that construction of the 190km new express- way between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is about to begin soon with lots of workers and machinery having been delivered from China. The cost is mooted at $1.9 billion – that right $1,900,000,000, which works out at a phenomenal $10,000 per metre length of road. How this loan will be paid back is any ones guess as is how much is being paid in facilitation fees.

The rubbish situation got so bad in Sinoukville that the Competent Authorities sent down 170 workers and 30 garbage trucks to clean up the town. One electrical fire has been blamed on the Garbage piled up around the transformer. Once they go it should be back to situation normal as the new contractor does not have the resources to cope with the population boom.

Things are so dire in Sihanoukville that one of the last Barang hold outs, the Party cycle tours has even moved to Kampot and the people behind it and are astounded that they now have customers. These are not the only Bikers in Kampot, the Rebels Motor Cycle Club appear to be opening up a chapter in Kampot after most of their members fled Sihanoukville. Their new hang- out is located near the Salt workers roundabout in the ex- Sihanoukville ghetto near Salt and Bundy Bar.

Another business that has relocated from Westport to Kampot is the popular Top Cat Cinema which opened around the time Ecran Movie House near the river closed it’s cinema after being unable to sell the business or lease for their desired amount. Speaking of the Bundy Bar, old Kevin apparently never go around to running the book on how long affable Dave-Ex would last at running the aptly named Bogan Villas in Kep that we referenced in last month’s Bits. Too late, it was a bit under three weeks, Dave can now be seen back in Kampot.

One of Dave-Ex’s former places of employment has also changed hands recently. The Walkabout Bar (and some say boat in rainy season due to road flooding) has been sold with the now former owner back in Australia licking his financial wounds. The bar is briefly closed but should be reopened in early February apparently as the Raging Bull Sports Bar, which will be an air-conditioned sports bar with outdoor beer garden.

There seems to have been some happenings in the poker community in Kampot, with the game at the Durian Sports bar being forced to move due to personality issues. The game has finally moved to its own premises, but how long it will last remains to be seen as it is rumoured that another operator is eying up the town.

Westerners seem to be increasingly keen to leave this world here in Kampot with the number of Western deaths increasing markedly. So much so that it prompted a Doctor who formerly worked in the town last century to issue a warning to Westerners, he seem to believe that it is energy drinks that is the cause. Whilst that could be true, we believe it is just due to the massive increase in the numbers of Expats that now reside in town since Sihanoukville became Westportand the subsequent increase in numbers (and decrease in quality) of tourists. Sihanoukville was number two behind Phnom Penh for western deaths for years, now it looks like Kampot has claimed that spot. So to those older Kampotians that dislike the influx of Sinoukville refugees, you should be grateful that Kampot is now being put on the death map.

Not all Westerners leave Kampot by death, recently (we forgot to include it last month) a well-known British writer who wanted to move, but was hampered by a lack of funds to pay for a 3 year overstay, handed himself into the immigration authorities. It got him out of paying the fine and out of the country.

Recently it was reported that immigration were making the rounds of some businesses in Kampot checking on peoples visas and there were more than a few nervous people in town as a result. Still they were able to drown their sorrows in with one of the increasing choices of craft beers that are available in Kampot town. Flowers Nano Brewery makes a variety of different craft beer on premises, with the selection changing regularly. Razor Back BBQ (for sale, down from $40,000 to $29,000) and Stumble Inn both stock a selection of craft beers imported from Vietnam.

The food and beverage scene in Kampot just keeps getting bigger and better, no wonder Dave-Ex could not wait to come back