When you drive into or out of Sihanoukville on Route 4, you pass an uninspiring looking row of retail shops. That’s the visible part of Klang Leu. What you don’t see is the residential district just behind the shops. Sopheak’s sister lives there and we visit now and then. It’s like another world from Sihanoukville.
I took the shortcut to Klang Leu. It took less than 10 minutes to get there from the new Douceur du Cambodge (Artisan Cafe). They moved from their old location between Samudera Supermarket and Psah Leu on the 1st of September. Now they’re on Ekareach Street next to the Sokimex station. The new place is much larger and nicer than the old, but they haven’t upped their prices.
The shortcut takes you up a steep cement street that is often crowded with traffic moving too fast for such a narrow road. The first thing I noticed was that building was going on even here. This large apartment building wasn’t there the last time I took the road
You can barely see the little roads that lead to the residential district of Klang Leu. A couple of them are paved, but the paving peters out quickly and the dirt roads get rougher the further you ride. After just a couple of hundred metres, you feel like you’re in rural Cambodia. The houses are simpler and wide areas separate them. I took this photo at a birthday party, but if you look at the background, you get the idea.
Klang Leu isn’t a rich suburb, but it’s not poor, either. Most of the people have jobs at the port, the nearby Cambrew Brewery or in town. It has a rural feel and most of the people seem happy. I ran across these boys playing with their homemade kites and they all smiled when I asked them if I could take their photograph.
We have our eye on a piece of land in Klang Leu. We’re not likely to sell our house, but if we could, we would buy it. It’s a large parcel and has hard title. It has a wonderful view and a rural feel, but it’s just 10 or 15 minutes away from Sihanoukville. I imagine we’d have to improve the access road. It’s hard to get down even in the dry season, but 20 or 30 metres of gravel doesn’t cost that much and the land is cheap at the far edge of Klang Leu.
So next time you’re on Route 4 and you pass one of the many dusty towns along the road, don’t judge what you see by the shops on the side of the road. Behind those shops are thriving villages where Cambodians live much as they lived before the Khmer Rouge.