I published the first entry in my Sihanoukville Journal on February 15, 2011 – less than a year and a half ago. Titled simply, Welcome, it begins:
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, nothing’s wrong with it other than the fact that since it was taken in February of 2007, Sihanoukville has changed dramatically.
The picture these words were referring to was this one, taken from the middle of Ekareach Street:
I couldn’t take a similar shot at any time before around midnight now – there’s just too much traffic.
I wish I’d started my journal much earlier, but at least I have a photographic record of the nearly six years I’ve lived in Sihanoukville. When I went through my photo archives the other day, I ran across this picture of the morning after the old Psar Leu (the downtown market) burned down. According to my digital camera, the picture was taken on the 8th of January, 2008. That sounds about right, even though it seems like it was only yesterday that it happened.
I wonder how many tourists who wander through the new Psar Leu looking for bargains or just looking around realise how new the market is or how different it is from the old Psar Leu, with its narrow dirt aisles and ramshackle wooden stalls. I can’t say I don’t prefer the new version, but do feel nostalgic when I think about the older one nonetheless. Everything was new to me in Sihanoukville then and going to the market felt like an adventure.
Here’s another snippet from my first blog:
This city, once a sleepy little town whose official name was Kampong Som (roughly speaking, “village by the sea”), is now Cambodia’s fastest growing city and one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. Sihanoukville and its surrounding villages was declared a Province of Cambodia in 2009. An airport has been built and although it is yet to be used, it’s only a matter of time.
Some of my expat friends thought I was dreaming when I insisted the airport would open, but it has. Now they’re saying it will never start accepting international flights, but I believe it will. Time will tell, but so far, everything the doubters have said wouldn’t change, has changed or is changing.
If I hadn’t kept my blog to myself, they probably would have told me it would never attract a following – for some reason, too many expats here didn’t listen to Eric Idle when he sang, “Always look on the bright side of life.” I didn’t expect my Sihanoukville Cambodia Journal to grow as fast as it has, but reckoned if I kept at it, people would eventually find it. Partly a labour of love and partly an SEO experiment, I reckoned it would take 3 or 4 years before I got more than a handful of monthly visitors. Well, I was wrong. As this screenshot from Google Analytics shows, my traffic has increased something like 500% in the past year. On Wednesday, June 20 of this year, 71 people visited Sihanoukville Journal. Exactly a year previously, I got a total of 9 and can remember feeling thrilled that so many people had found my blog.
So what’s next for the Sihanoukville Cambodia Journal? Well, for one thing, I’m scouting around for a new WordPress theme. I want something that has more dynamic visual imagery. I may bite the bullet and pay for a custom WP template, but before I do that, I’m experimenting with a couple of interesting looking standard themes. If you see changes here (and perhaps even glitches), it’s because I’m fiddling around with templates.
I’m also adding more pages in an attempt to better organise my content and make it easier for my visitors to navigate my site. My goal is to have everything done before my 101st entry, but that may be pushing it a bit, since I have a lot of regular writing assignments to keep up with as well.
Anyway, that’s enough self-indulgent reminiscing and bragging for one post. I want to thank the 21.59% of you who are returning visitors for stopping by regularly and welcome the 78.41% of you who are visiting Sihanoukville Journal for the first time. Please let me know how I’m doing and what I can do to improve my site.
See you next week, if not before.
ps: excuse the long winded references to Sihanoukville Cambodia Journal. That’s for SEO purposes.