Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sihanoukville -- The Next Ko Phangan?

Angkor Beer

Can you believe the travel section of this week's New York Times? Two articles about Asia, when they typically only do about one article per month. This story provides a sharp contrast to another story they published a few months ago about Sihanoukville, where the author apparently spent his vacation at some five-star resort and perhaps took a quick drive around the district.

This week's story is almost the complete opposite, though a better comparison would have been Sihanoukville to Ko Phangan.

THE "largest and wildest" full-moon party, promised the yellow flier taped to a phone booth on Khaosan Road in Bangkok. Another installment of Thailand's girls-gone-wild bacchanal on the island of Ko Phangan? Or its bigger brother, Ko Samui? Or maybe it was the newcomer Ko Phi Phi, a remote island that is luring younger partygoers in the post-tsunami boom.

Not quite. This particular moonlight spectacle, in fact, wouldn't even be in Thailand, but across the border, in Cambodia's budding seaside town, Sihanoukville. It is "just nine-and-a-half hours from Bangkok," according to the flier, the work of Cambodian entrepreneurs hoping to turn Sihanoukville into the latest party hot spot.

Like bohemians colonizing a sketchy up-and-coming neighborhood, European and Australian backpackers have been blazing trails through Cambodia steadily since the mid-1990's. Although the last of the Khmer Rouge traded their machetes for plowshares only eight years ago, this nation of 13 million is fast becoming a companion destination to Thailand — that is, another seemingly safe haven of lush landscapes and warm embraces for Westerners.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on the low-key but alluring beaches of Sihanoukville, where development is being modeled after Thailand's resorts. Along the touristy strip of sand known as Serendipity, several restaurants brazenly advertise "happy" pizza and "happy" pancakes, seasoned with a certain illicit herb. Nearby, Victory Hill is trying to become Cambodia's version of Soi Cowboy, one of Bangkok's more garish red-light districts.

New York Times Link

No comments:

Post a Comment