Tuesday was the long anticipated grand opening of the new bridge in Sihanouk Ville. The Techo Morakot Bridge, funded by the Koh Puos (Cambodia) Investment Group, links the mainland with Koh Puos, the nearest island. Rumour has it that it was entirely funded by local Russian investors. That may be true, but rumours always claim that everything of any size and scope around here is funded by the Russians. Be that as it may, it’s a beautiful bridge and in a few years, Koh Puos is meant to become a resort haven for the wealthy. There are already a couple of billboards around town advertising the luxury villas that are going to be built there.
I’ve been watching the bridge’s progress since rumours of its construction began. At first no one believed it would be built. Then almost no one believed it would be completed. Despite the fact that work never stopped, about a year ago, the rumour being passed around by the local expat community was that the investors had run out of money and Sihanoukville was forever going to have a half completed bridge.
As you can see, the bridge has been completed and it’s a beauty. It was a real pleasure to drive across it on opening day. I’m a little sad that the island is going to be developed. It’s so beautiful just as it is. Hopefully, they’ll leave some of the jungle there as a reminder of what this whole coast used to look like.
As little as fifteen years ago, my wife spent 3 years wandering alone through the jungles of
Cambodia. She managed to make her way all the way up to the far north of the country without passing through a village. Though loneliness finally got to her, she still speaks nostalgically of that time, when she was free to do as she liked and lived amongst the tigers, elephants, monkeys and other wildlife that were still so abundant in Cambodia such a short time ago.
Like her, I wish there was a way to turn back the clock and rearrange history. What if Cambodia had never been occupied by the French, bombed by America and devastated by the Khmer Rouge? What if it could have continued to flourish as it did at the time of the Khmer Empire? Like Sopheak, I long for a simpler life, but, like her, I’m caught in the matrix of modern life.
The Techo Morakat Bridge is a symbol not just of Sihanoukville’s growth, but of all of Cambodia’s growth. All Cambodians are proud of it. By Thursday, after word had gotten out, half of Cambodia had come to Sihanouk Ville to see it, or so it seemed. We took a ride out there and it was packed. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
While I personally have mixed feelings about this new symbol of Cambodia’s growth and prosperity, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade. Congratulations, Kampuchea! You’ve come a long way.