About Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider is a writer based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he has lived since 2006.

Sihanoukville is Growing Fast Everywhere You Look

big development at otres beach sihanoukville

They cut down a tree in front of my office last week. I loved the tree and had been watching it grow for over 10 years. I was surprised by what I saw after they cut it down. I saw two high rises in the distance and three cranes. They look much closer than they look in this photo. It just reminded me that Sihanoukville is growing fast.

sihanoukville growing fast

I know where these developments are. I often pass them when I ride my motorbike along the beach road. I just didn’t realise how close they were to my home.

Sihanoukville is Growing Fast

It wasn’t raining today, so I went for a motorbike ride out to Otres village. Sorry, I forgot to take photos, but it has changed a lot in the six months since I was last there. For one thing, the dirt road has been paved with cement. For another thing, bungalows are springing up everywhere. It used to be quiet out there, but with all the new developments, it’s beginning to look like another city. I even saw one hotel being built in the village.

That didn’t surprise me as much as the giant development I saw going up on the second road back from the beach. I’d heard a rumour that Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba, had bought a huge chunk of Otres in that general area. I don’t know if the development is his, but whoever owns it, whatever is going there is going to be massive. I took one photo, but it’s just one small area of the total development. I almost played chicken with a huge bulldozer, but decided to pull over and let it pass. Too bad. I wanted to take a picture of it. This is the one photo I took.

big development at otres beach sihanoukville

Like I said, that’s just a tiny corner of the development.

On the way out to Otres, I passed through Ochheuteal beach. Hotels are going up there, too. Some are smallish by today’s standards, but they would have been big developments not too many years ago. I remember when I never saw cranes or heavy equipment here. Now I see them everywhere.

Rumour has it the Chinese are responsible for much of the development here. It’s quite possible because more Chinese tourists are coming to Sihanoukville. They don’t travel in packs, either. I’ve seen everything from Chinese backpackers to families and larger groups here. I see them everywhere, even on the Hill. For the most part, they are quiet and polite, but like every large group, there are some bad ones.

Sorry about the lack of photos. I wasn’t thinking of writing a blog, but it’s been awhile since my last update, so I thought I’d write a quick one. Next time I’ll make sure to take more photographs. For now you’re just going to have to trust me: Sihanoukville is growing fast.

Published Another Book: The Girl with Tiger’s Eyes

Serendipity Road is about 97,000 words long. Originally, it was going to be a biography, but it turned into a biography/memoir. The Girl with Tiger’s Eyes is closer to what I originally wanted to write. It’s only 18,000 words and didn’t take me long to write. I formatted it and made the cover myself, so I’m giving it away for FREE on Smashwords. You can pick up a copy HERE.

I loved writing Serendipity Road and even enjoyed the editing process. My friend Penny Sisto recommended writing another book and she suggested the title. If you’ve read Serendipity Road, you’ll know what a prominent part Penny has played in my life. She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met and is a fountain of wisdom, kindness and generosity. I sent her a copy of my new book. This is what she had to say about it:

Dear Rob, Well done! It is a smooth and a delightful read.
Tt is concise..It reads like a joyful poem, light, musical, lyrical, fascinating ..
I meant to read a passage or two and in a flash had finished it..SPLENDID!
I was a little stunned by her response. I wrote the first 6000 words of The Girl with Tiger’s Eyes in one sitting and added more as I found time. Unlike my other book, which took a couple of years to complete, I finished this one in under a month.
If you’re interested, you can grab a free copy of my new book. If you like it, you will find much more in Serendipity Road. It’s only $3.99 and I’ve received positive feedback about that book, too. Most recently, someone said they downloaded it: “It was late, but I couldn’t put it down,” they said. “I think you’ve got a winner on your hands.” Here is the link again: The Girl with Tiger’s Eyes

Why I’m giving away Serendipity Road

If you notice the sidebar, it now says Serendipity Road is free. Why am I giving away my book?

My new cover

Writing Serendipity Road was a joy. I didn’t think about what I was going to write. It just popped out. I didn’t self-edit, either. I told embarrassing stories and I told stories I didn’t think everyone would believe. The first version was kind of a mess. The chapters were in no particular order and there were a lot of spelling mistakes and some grammatical errors. Seven edits later, I caught most of the mistakes and put the book in an order that made sense to me. That’s not to say I don’t jump from 1969 to 2006 or 2014 between chapters, but that’s the nature of the book. It travels through the “honeycomb of time” rather than taking a direct route.

I was inspired by magic realism. The problem with most books written in that style is they are fiction. Magic realism has been a real part of my life, so I didn’t hold back from writing a true story in that style. As I wrote in a blog, When Magic Realism is Real:

Magical realism is not speculative and does not conduct thought experiments. Instead, it tells its stories from the perspective of people who live in our world and experience a different reality from the one we call objective. If there is a ghost in a story of magical realism, the ghost is not a fantasy element but a manifestation of the reality of people who believe in and have “real” experiences of ghosts.

That’s a quote from Bruce Holland Rogers from an article titled, What is Magic Realism, Really?

I’ve had an experience with a ghost. I didn’t see the ghost, but Sopheak did. I may not have believed her if the information the ghost wanted her to pass on to me hadn’t been so accurate. He hit the nail on the head, but Sopheak had no way of knowing what he told her. He then complained that I didn’t offer him cigarettes when I was smoking outside near the mango tree he lived in. From that day forward, I had to light one for him. Sometimes I even had imaginary conversations with him, as if we were sitting next to each other in a bar.

There is another story in the book about our housekeeper, Sokha, who became possessed by her mother, her baby sister and her older sister. Psychologists would call it “multiple personality disorder,” but psychologists are not nearly as successful at treating the disorder as the people who finally got our housekeeper’s older sister to leave her. Her mother and baby sister just showed up for a few minutes and then went away. Her older sister had been raped and murdered by a policeman and a monk. She was angry and wanted to take over her body or kill her. She even threatened me with a knife.

It took a few tries, but finally her older sister left for good. Sokha hasn’t had a problem since then. I looked it up and psychiatrists have a very poor record when it comes to treating multiple personality disorder. The monks did it in three tries.

Why am I Giving Away Serendipity Road?

I’m giving away Serendipity Road because I never expected it to sell well, but I’d like people to read it. Not everyone will like it, but that’s okay. The one person I wanted to like it loved it. I won’t be giving it away for long. I’ll put a price tag on it in about a week, but if you’re interested, give it a try. If you don’t have a reading device, download calibre. It’s a free program that allows you to read epub books on your computer. I downloaded it and it works brilliantly.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll get a new phone soon and be able to take some photos of Sihanoukville. I did something really dumb with my old phone. I wanted to take pictures of the places I go when I swim, so I wrapped my phone in three plastic bags. They leaked and destroyed my phone. I’d had the phone for seven years and I’m annoyed with myself for thinking those plastic bags would protect it.

Serendipity Road Published

As you can see from the sidebar widget, I’ve published Serendipity Road. There was a minor glitch with the first upload, but the guy who formatted the book for me fixed it and it’s now available on epub. I’ve asked Smashwords how to make it available in more formats, but I’ll have to wait for a reply. To buy the book, click the sidebar widget or click here. If you don’t have an ereader, download Calibre. It’s a FREE program and works brilliantly.

My new cover

I’m a little nervous about publishing for two reasons. I put a lot of effort into writing the book. I did seven edits and have no idea how many hours I spent writing and editing. I published on Smashwords and don’t expect enough sales to pay for my time, but I wanted to publish Serendipity Road anyway. I’m also a little nervous because I don’t hold anything back. I did as many stupid things when I came to Southeast Asia as others do and didn’t edit to make myself look good. That’s why it has “adult content” in it.

One thing I can say is that I learned from the stupid things I did when I first arrived here. I realised I didn’t want to be a sex tourist, a sightseer or a dope smoker. I was looking for a new life: not a diversion from life. I found that new life and am happy here, even though things have changed radically over the past ten years.

Some readers may not believe some of the stories I tell in Serendipity Road, but I assure you they’re all true stories. I wanted to do something I don’t see in many memoirs: I wanted to tell the truth and not leave out stories of the miraculous and mundane. That’s the reason for the subtitle: “between heaven and hell.”

my old cover

A friend made a beautiful cover for me, but it showed me at my present age. I ended up having a retro cover made for me because the book takes the reader back to the late sixties and early seventies. Those were the years that shaped my life and took me on a new trajectory. I let fate be my guide in life and fate took me from a yoga retreat in the Sierra Mountains, to India (where I almost died on my first trip), to Australia, Bali and ultimately Cambodia.

If you want to find out more about my book, here are some good starting points:

I suppose I could do a better job hyping my book, but I don’t want to do that. What you will find is an inside look at my life and Sopheak’s life. You’ll learn things about Cambodia I don’t mention on my blog. Okay, here’s one bit of hype from Penny Sisto, who plays a prominent part in the book:

I am not sure how you arrived..but..you have changed an interesting and amateurly written tale into a short book of brilliance..riveting..read it in one gulp

The book will be available for a $2 discount for two weeks. If you like it, please give it a favourable review. Thanks!

Renting in Sihanoukville

renting in sihanoukville

Many people come to visit Sihanoukville and decide they want to stay longer. Some stay a month, some stay a few months and some stay for years. Whether it’s for a month or a year, renting in Sihanoukville is far cheaper than paying for a hotel or guesthouse. There are tricks to it, though.

renting in sihanoukville

New apartments are springing up everywhere in Sihanoukville

First of all, how much do you want to pay for a Sihanoukville rental? If you look around, you can find decent studio apartments for around $70 to $85 a month (US$). If you want a one-bedroom apartment, they start at around $150, but I’ve heard of people finding them for less. If you have a family, you might want a more secure location with parking. That can cost up to $450 a month if it includes a wall, gate, guard and CCTV cameras.

You can find rentals on the Sihanoukville Real Estate Facebook page, but don’t take them at face value. As anywhere, the landlord will publish the most flattering photos of their property. You want to see the property first and decide if it’s in a location you will be comfortable living in. Some properties might be in a noisy area or on a bad road that might be almost impassable during the rainy season. Others may be too isolated for your taste. Have a look at several before you decide on one.

Renting in Sihanoukville: Tips and Tricks

I don’t rent, but I recently got an assignment about renting in Sihanoukville. I interviewed several people and learned a lot. They gave me some tips and tricks to share with readers:

  • Don’t rent long term before you’ve stayed here and know you like it. Some guesthouses will rent by the month. A month will give you time to have a look around and find an area you want to live in.
  • Rentals are negotiable. If you love a place, you can get it cheaper than the asking price. One man I interviewed saw an apartment he liked for $150 a month and talked them down to $120 a month.
  • Most landlords prefer longer leases and will accept less money for a year’s lease than a three month lease. A mansion I know of rented for $3000 a month for three months. Someone offered $1700 a month for a year’s lease and the landlord accepted it.
  • Take a good look at the access road. If you come during the dry season, remember you’ll also have to negotiate the road in the rainy season. If the road is badly rutted or there’s a depression in it, it might be barely passable in the rainy season or flooded in heavy rains.
  • Ask about electricity and water. You may have to pay for electricity and/or water.

It’s worth repeating that rents are negotiable. So many apartment blocks are springing up here, some landlords are struggling to find tenants. They will accept a lower offer just to get tenants in their apartments. If you want a house, those rents can be negotiable, too, but it depends on the area. Some homes are in popular areas and the landlords know they can get what they ask for.

renting in sihanoukville

Even mansions are available in Sihanoukville

Cheaper homes tend to be Khmer style homes. They can be brick and often have walls, but they may not have fresh coats of paint and you may have to pay electricity and water. Most of them won’t have air conditioning and you may have to buy a TV, a fridge and other things you need. Some are furnished, some are partially furnished and others may be unfurnished. In most cases, you will be responsible for paying for repairs.They can be cheap, though. I saw one for only $150 per month.

You can find rentals in Sihanoukville, but shop around first. There are plenty to choose from. You can even find bungalows and a few houses in Otres Village. Most of the better and cheaper rentals are a little outside the main centers. I interviewed one man who rented a small room on the Hill for $150. He eventually found a one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the Hill for the same price.

Looking back at 10 years in Cambodia

I created a Facebook page for my book, Serendipity Road. I’m still waiting for it to be formatted. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to publish. My book is not illustrated, so I’ve included photos and quotes from the book on my Facebook page. I’d like for readers to visit my page, so I’ve included a few photos from the past 10 years in Cambodia here in hopes you’ll visit my page and look at more.

charcoal oven in CambodiaThis is a charcoal oven similar to the one Sopheak’s family built when they lived on the edge of the jungle near Virh Riengh. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“All it took to eat well at the edge of the jungle was a few hours of foraging, hunting and gardening. Anything they lacked, like rice, they bought with the proceeds of the charcoal they made in their charcoal oven and the occasional turtle they sold in the market.”

When we went to Svay Riengh, we stayed in this house. Svay Riengh is near the Vietnam border. Sopheak’s family lived in the rice fields when she was young and she still considers Svay Riengh home. I can’t say I blame her. Life is slower, quieter and easier there than in Sihanoukville. She’s considering selling our house in Sihanoukville and buying land closer to the main city in Svay Riengh. Either that or we’ll move to Klang Leu so the kids can continue going to school in Sihanoukville.

Svay Riengh, CambodiaWhen I first met Sopheak, we travelled a lot. On our trip to Ratanakiri, we stopped off in Kratie to view the Irrawaddie dolphins. On the way back, Sopheak took the helm for a photo op. When we were viewing the dolphins, I tried zooming in, but they were too quick. I stopped zooming in and cropped photos of the dolphins. That worked much better. They were pretty magical and I’m glad I had the chance to see them.

Kratie, CambodiaThe next photo is of our first housekeeper, Sokha. She was a sweet girl, but on more than three occasions, she became possessed by the spirits of dead relatives. Her mother and baby sister were benign, but her older sister had been raped and murdered. She was angry and didn’t want to leave Sokha’s body. Believe it or not, an exorcism did the trick and Sokha has been fine since. I wrote about Sokha way back in 2011. Here’s the link to Surrealistic Pillow.

Sokha at the beach, somewhere in CambodiaHere’s a short excerpt from the chapter about Sokha. The chapter title is Surrealistic Pillow. It’s from an old Jefferson Airplane song, but also refers to the pillow Sokha laid down on between visits from her mother and baby sister.

“Sokha! You put salt in my coffee instead of sugar!” I laughed. I had to shout, because she had gone back down the hall and into the kitchen. Not hearing a reply, I walked down the hall. When I got about halfway to the kitchen, Sokha stepped into the hallway brandishing a big knife.

“Now Sokha,” I said gently, trying to calm her down. Then I felt a whack across the back of my head.

“You skoot?” Sopheak shouted. “This one not Sokha! This one want kill you!” Then she pulled me back out of the hallway as she called out for Longh.

When Sopheak was a little girl, she wandered into the jungle with a phnong family. She left the family, but wandered for nearly two years, living on small potatoes and other foraged food in the jungle. Her only companion was her pet squirrel, Yuri. It’s an amazing story and I cover it in the first chapter and later in the book, when Sopheak told me about her time in the jungle when we were building our house in 2007. When we went to Ratanakiri, we went to a showcase phnong village and Sopheak met this woman. Contrary to what some people think, phnong is not the name of a tribe. It means “savage” in Khmer and unfortunately refers to all indigenous Cambodians.

Ratanakiri, CambodiaHere’s a brief excerpt from the book. Sopheak was remarkably brave for such a young girl.

Fear and loneliness plagued her in equal measures during her first weeks alone in the jungle. She kept fear at bay by saying “Maybe I sleep, not wake up” before she slept at night. Every morning she said, “Maybe I die today, but not dead yet” and found the courage to keep going.

Finally, here’s my new book cover. The photo was taken in 1972 when I was in India. Neem Karoli Baba is at the bottom of the photo. He’s best known as Ram Dass’ and Krishna Das’ guru. I’m the guy with his hand on his hip at the top of the photo. My Guru Who Wasn’t My Guru tells the story of the nine months I spent hanging around Neem Karoli Baba in India in 1972. I met him in 1971, but almost died from a bout of hepatitis. I returned after I recovered and scraped together enough money for the trip.

In India, 35 years before I moved to CambodiaNote the subtitle: Between Heaven and Hell. I’ve had some remarkable spiritual experiences in my life, but I didn’t want to pretend I don’t stumble along through life. I’ve done as many dumb things as anybody and didn’t want to leave them out of the book. Some are embarrassing, but that’s okay. I don’t mind being embarrassed as much as I would mind pretending to be someone I’m not. This is my latest short description of my book. I’m still polishing it, but this is the best one yet, in my opinion anyway.

Take a magic carpet ride through the honeycomb of time. Serendipity Road is set in Cambodia, where the author has lived for over 10 years. He tells the remarkable story of Sopheak, who wandered into the jungle at the age of eight and didn’t return home for nearly two years. Sopheak introduced the author to a side of Cambodia most foreigners don’t get to see: a land of ghosts and spirits just behind the surface of life. In a series of flashbacks, the author recounts many miraculous experiences he has had. He experienced miracles in India in 1971 and 1972 and experienced energy healing in Bali and as a practitioner in Australia.

Serendipity Road is more than stories about miracles. The author has had his ups and downs in life and doesn’t hesitate to recount the stupid things he has done. As he writes: “Experiences like those should have been enough for me to become a more exemplary person, but there’s an inescapable magnetism that binds us to this thick, dense, dark world.” Hop aboard the magic carpet and discover how fate in the guise of a beautiful goddess he calls Serendipity guides the author through this world from the United States, to Australia, Indonesia and finally Cambodia, a destination a psychic predicted three years before the author even imagined he would visit, much less call home.

I’d also like to add that a palmist friend read my palm while we were having lunch in Hyde Park in Sydney. She saw four children in my life. “The lines are a little fainter, so they may not be your biological children, but they will be yours.” I didn’t believe her at the time, but she was right.

Sihanoukville beaches

From some articles I’ve read, I’ve gotten the impression that Ochheuteal Beach is the only beach in Sihanoukville. If not that, it’s touted as the most popular beach in town. I almost never go to Ochheuteal. I like to swim and I choose quieter beaches where I can enjoy a view of nature while I swim. Here’s a rundown on Sihanoukville beaches you might not have thought about.

I’ll start with this satellite view of Sihanoukville. It covers all the beaches in the area. Admittedly, it can take some time to reach some of them, but if you want to be surrounded by nature instead of restaurants, it can be worth taking the time to get to some of them.

Towards the bottom of the photo, you’ll see Ochheuteal and Otres. Look at the very bottom of the photo and you’ll see the outline of another beach. Well, it’s a narrow beach, but it’s there at the bottom right. It’s hidden because it’s not developed and there are trees on the beach. It’s a bit rocky on the ends of the beach, but you can still find hundreds of metres of beach to swim in.

I don’t go there often because it takes about an hour to get there. I usually don’t have time for day trips, so I go to beaches closer to my home. My two favourites are the free end of Sokha Beach and what I still call Victory Beach (because it’s below Victory Hill). My current favourite is Victory Beach because it’s often windy when I go swimming and Victory Beach is sheltered from the wind. When there are whitecaps at other beaches, the water is fairly calm there.

I also like to take the kids there because there is an inexpensive restaurant on the left side of the pier and the water is shallow for a good distance. I like to go swimming alone there, too, because once I get past the beach, there’s a rocky, undeveloped area and I can swim between the rocks and have a wonderful quiet little nook where I can imagine I’m on an unspoiled island. Here’s a photo of the beach as seen from the restaurant.

What you don’t see is what I see when I go swimming there. This satellite image shows the area past the beach. There’s a little unnamed beach on the other side of the headland that is usually empty. Then you come to Hawaii Beach, which is also relatively quiet.

This photo illustrates a point I want to make about Sihanoukville beaches. The beaches with the biggest names may not be the beaches you want to go to if you want to get away from the crowds or want to go to a beach that isn’t lined with restaurants. The Airport Disco used to dominate the right side of the pier at Victory Beach, but it wasn’t very successful and they tore it down. Now it’s a relatively quiet beach with a few palm trees to provide shade.

If you really want to get away from it all, you can go to the beach I mentioned above (the one at the bottom of the first satellite image). It will take a while to get there and you’ll need to take food and water with you, but you will be surrounded by nature. Arguably, it will feel more remote than some of the islands, which have been developed since fast boats became available.

Think outside the box when you’re in Sihanoukville. You can find Sihanoukville beaches that suit you better than others. You may have to search for your ideal beach, but it will be worth it.

 

About my ebook: Serendipity Road

I’ve sent my manuscript to a professional formatter. I don’t trust my ability to format it for ebook distribution. It’s on hold for now because I want my friend Penny Sisto to read the revised version. She liked an earlier version, but I’ve chopped and changed a few things and want her feedback before I publish Serendipity Road. Here’s a link to her website: Penny Sisto.

my old cover

This was my original cover. I was tempted to use it because my friends went out of their way to help me with it. We spent half a day looking for the right path and my friend formatted the cover. When I decided it was time to publish, I realized I wanted a retro cover, so I hired someone to make one for me.

I may still use the photograph, but I think it would be better as a back cover. The front cover is the beginning of my journey. Having a time towards the end of my journey would be appropriate for the back cover. Whether I use it or not will depend on sales. If I sell enough copies, I may have the book printed as a Print on Demand (POD) book or may have it printed here in Cambodia and try to sell it to bookshops here.

I almost changed the title, but Serendipity Road is the perfect title. Not only is there a Serendipity Road in Sihanoukville, the title reflects the road I’ve taken in life, too.

I’m enormously grateful for all the help my writing group gave me and the feedback I’ve received about the book from Penny and other people. Jan Cornall, turned out to be partially responsible for my having a writing group to help me. Jan holds writing workshops in exotic locations like Morocco, Bhutan and Bali. I attended one of her workshops in Bali. She came to Sihanoukville and I organized a mini-workshop here. One of the attendees started our writing group. If it hadn’t been for the group, I would never have written a memoir.

About My eBook Serendipity Road

My new cover

Serendipity Road is a departure from what I usually write about on Sihanoukville Journal. Originally, it was going to be about Sopheak’s remarkable early life, but that only took up a couple of chapters. My writing group encouraged me to write a memoir, so that’s what I did. It is set in Cambodia, but covers my life from 1968 to the present day in a series of flashbacks. I dropped out of college in 1969 and worked as a yoga instructor during the summer at a yoga retreat in the Sierra Mountains. When I became disenchanted by the retreat, I traveled to India twice. I got hepatitis and almost died the first time. I came home and after I recovered, I went back and hung around Neem Karoli Baba as much as I could.

I went back to San Juan Ridge after my second trip to India. Then I moved to San Francisco. In 1985, we moved to Australia where we lived an almost idyllic life in a beautiful coastal suburb. I started surfing again and probably would never have left if my life hadn’t fallen apart.

A tarot card reader in Bali told me to take the Fool’s path and let fate be my guide. By the time I traveled to Southeast Asia in 2006, I’d run out of ideas and elevated fate to goddess status. I called her Serendipity. She looks kind of like one of these goddesses. I know, she might be a product of my imagination, but that’s okay. I’d rather see a goddess floating on a cloud than a stern god with a long beard and angry frown.

Writing a memoir gives you the opportunity to write flattering things about yourself. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to tell the truth: hence the subtitle, between heaven and hell. I’ve had some remarkable spiritual experiences, but I’ve also done a lot of dumb things. I didn’t edit out the dumb things. Some of the spiritual (or paranormal) stories some readers may not believe. They are true stories, though. If I have doubts about some of them, I admit them, but I have no doubts about many of the stories.

Here are a few chapter summaries:

  • Inside Tree, tells about Sopheak getting lost in the jungle at the age of 8 or 9. She may have lived alone in the jungles of Cambodia for up to 2 years. When she came out, her family had moved on and she lived in an orphanage in Phnom Penh for a while until a man and his wife gave her a series of jobs. Then she reunited with her family.
  • The Honeycomb of Time, tells two stories about people who predicted my future in Cambodia. I went to a psychic workshop and a fellow amateur psychic described my house in Sihanoukville to a tee and even saw me working on my computer. A palm reader in Sydney told me I would have two more children. I doubted her, but she was right.
  • A Cambodian Ghost Story is about a ghost who lived in a mango tree outside the little house we lived in while we were building our house. He visited Sopheak and told her I wasn’t being forthcoming with my kids in Australia. He was right.
  • Surrealistic Pillow tells the story of our first housekeeper. She was a sweet girl, but had a hard life. I saw her possessed by her mother and baby sister, both of whom were dead. Then her older sister possessed her. She had an axe to grind and was harder to get rid of.
  • My Guru Who Wasn’t My Guru is a flashback to India. Krishna Das sent me a link to a photograph of me in India in 1972 with Neem Karoli Baba and I relive the amazing experiences I had there. I sent the photograph to the person who made my cover and the picture above is what she came up with.

Other chapters are more mundane and cover things that happened in Sihanoukville.While they may be more mundane, I didn’t choose boring stories. The stories are about life, death and the good and bad things in between.

As I wrote the book, I realized fate had been responsible for much of what has happened in my life. Granted, I had to take advantage of the opportunities fate placed in my path, but so many things wouldn’t have happened without the intercession of fate (or Serendipity), my life would be much different. If I’d followed a safe career path, I might still be in Manhattan Beach, California, but I chose to let fate be my guide when I dropped out of college. I’m glad I did. Life has been much more interesting and rewarding since I let go of the reins of my life. When I’ve tried taking back the reins, things haven’t worked out quite as well.

As I said, I’m waiting for Penny’s feedback. I don’t know when it will come. She has a busy life, so I’ll have to be patient. When I get her feedback, I’ll make revisions if needed. Then I’ll publish Serendipity Road and see what happens. Like everything else in my life, it is in fate’s hands. 

Back streets of Sihanoukville

shop and barber shop on back streets of Sihanoukville

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com
Before I lost the cartilage in my right knee, I often rode the back streets of Sihanoukville on my mountain bike. Five years ago today I wrote A Random Motorbike Ride in Sihanoukville. That post inspired me to revisit some of the back streets of Sihanoukville I used to take on my mountain bike.

I’ve written about developments in Sihanoukville before. I was surprised by how many big apartment buildings are being built even on some roads that are still dirt roads. Here’s an example. Note how it’s on a rough dirt road. Maybe the owners know that the road will be paved soon. They’re doing a lot of that now. Usually they pave with cement and many roads I used to ride on that were dirt are now paved.

apartment on a back street in SihanoukvilleI went to get a closer look and ran across this row of old houses on the opposite side of the road. You see that a lot in Sihanoukville, too. Old and new are often next to each other on the same road. I kind of like that.

Old homes on back streets in SihanoukvilleThe road I took was kind of a diversion. It came to a dead end, so I turned around and took another road I frequently rode my bike on. The road is dirt and not very well groomed, but it pops out on the road that leads from the Golden Lions Traffic circle to Sokha Beach. There didn’t used to be much on the road, but it’s better known today thanks to the De Luxx Hotel. It’s a popular guesthouse and has beautiful grounds and a very nice café.

deluxx-hotel-sihanoukvilleI never liked to retrace my steps, so I often took a winding route up to a wide street above Psah Leu. I decided to do that today. I took a dirt road I often rode on and discovered they were even developing here. It looks like someone is subdividing it into blocks of land for houses. That’s fairly new, but I’ve seen a couple of other big areas that have been subdivided. The building on the left is a café/beer garden. There were about 10 motorbikes there at noon, so I guess it’s a popular spot.

subdivision on back streets of sihanoukvilleContinuing on, I came to a familiar paved road. It wasn’t as familiar as it used to be, though. I wrote Coffee Houses in Sihanoukville Go Upmarket in October of 2016. Surprisingly, there was an upmarket coffee house even on this road. Or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. A lot of people are building nice houses in this area and a number of expats live in this part of town now, so it might be a good location. No one was there when I passed, but you never know. Sometimes they fill up at certain hours of the day and in the evening.

coffee house on a back street of SihanoukvilleAs is so often the case here, just a few doors up the road was one of those little shops you see everywhere in Sihanoukville. The little building on the right is a barber shop. They were both busier than the coffee house I passed.

shop and barber shop on back streets of SihanoukvilleFrom there it was back out to a main road. That road had changed a lot, too. I counted three motorbike shops, a new car dealer and even a large place that was selling speedboats. The road leads to Otres Beach, but I went in the other direction and turned on to the road that goes down to Ekareach Street. I was back in the fray. After a cappuccino and cake at one of my favourite cafés, I came home and wrote this post about the back streets of Sihanoukville.

 

 

Why I like living in Sihanoukville

Victory Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia

I started this blog because I hadn’t read many positive blogs or articles about living in Sihanoukville. Most of them focused on the worse parts of the city and others made stuff up. That includes some mainstream publications. I read one article in the Sydney Morning Herald that said half-built hotels were “derelict” and wouldn’t be finished. If the writer returned to Sihanoukville, she would see they have all been completed.

I wanted to avoid making my site personal, so I’ve written little about why I like it here. It’s a blog, so I should be able to write what I want to. I have no idea why I made up that rule, so here’s . . .

Why I like living in Sihanoukville

I could focus on the negatives, but I chose to focus on the positive things about living here. Negatives include trash on the beaches. I don’t like it, but I can ignore it and focus on the warm water and beautiful views. Here’s a photo of one of my favourite swimming beaches. I still call it Victory Beach because it’s near Victory Hill, but I’m not sure it’s called that any more.

living in Sihanoukville: beautiful beachesI used to go to the other side of the pier, but now I go to this side. For one thing, they keep the beach clean on this side. Since they tore down the Airport on the other side of the pier, no one picks up the trash on the beach. This little restaurant serves coconut milk straight out of the coconut and other snacks. They also look after my stuff for me. I gave them my phone and wallet yesterday and the waitress didn’t steal any money. During the week, the only sound is the lapping of wavelets against the shore. On weekends, children play on the pier and you can hear them laughing as they jump off the pier and play on their rope swing.

When it’s not windy, I go swimming at Sokha Beach. When it’s windy, Victory Beach is sheltered from most of the wind. Yesterday, for example, there were whitecaps at Independence Beach and even more whitecaps at Sokha Beach. There were none at Victory Beach.

I love to swim. The water is always warm here and I can always find a place to swim. That’s one reason why I like living here. Another reason is that I am able to support a family on my freelance writing income here and indulge in daily cappuccinos and dinners out. If I lived in Australia, I’d only be able to support myself and would rarely if ever be able to indulge even in a cappuccino. Here I can have one or two cappuccinos every day and have my pick of restaurants. I can get a good meal and two small glasses of wine for $5.00 at one Cambodian restaurant. If I go upmarket, I can get a delicious Italian meal and a glass of wine for $7.50.

living in Sihanoukville: good restaurantsThese are my two current favourite restaurants. They’re both on the Hill, but they both serve delicious food. I usually go to Irina Franca because Raphael’s is more popular and I can’t sit outside. Irina is a wonderful Russian woman who serves home made Russian and Italian food. Both restaurants are reasonably priced. I’m not a big fan of the Hill, but the food is good and there is less traffic when I go in that direction.

Swimming and food are two reasons why I like living in Sihanoukville, but they’re not the only reasons. I was able to make freelance writing my career here because I could afford to. The first year was tough and I didn’t start making enough to indulge myself until about 2013. Now I’m making a reasonable living and freelance writing is the first job I’ve had I really enjoy. I’ve had others that were okay, but I love freelance writing. In Australia I could only do it sporadically. I made good money on articles for print publications, but never enough to make a career of it.

The reason I’ve written this article is because some people think I’d be better off in Australia. I disagree. I live comfortably here and have a Cambodian family. I get a lot of pleasure out of knowing I’m being of service to my family. In Australia I’d only be able to take care of myself. Living in Cambodia has made my life fuller than it would be in Australia. Australia was great, but times have changed. I like living in Sihanoukville for the reasons stated above and more. The city is growing fast and we’re talking about moving, but I don’t think I’ll leave Cambodia.It feels like home to me now.