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.

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. 

Serendipity Road Revisited

Looking up Serendipity Road from the bottom

I’ve been having my afternoon coffee at Escape lately. I still like Artisan, but the sun is lower at this time of year and it’s sometimes hard to find a place in the shade. After two weeks of watching tourists, I decided it was time for a Serendipity Road revisited post.

Golden Lions, Sihanoukville Cambodia

It’s easy for me to step back in time and remember the first time I saw Serendipity Road. It was a narrow, rutted dirt road the first time I saw it. I was on a rented motorbike. I decided my motorbike skills weren’t up to the task of negotiating the road, so I continued up Ekareach Street. At that time, there was almost no traffic in Sihanoukville and most of it was motorbikes. Times have changed. Even at 1:00 p.m., when traffic is slowest, there were plenty of cars and motorbikes on Ekareach Street. As you’ll soon see, there were also a lot on Serendipity Road.

I took this photo to show that they’ve widened the top of Serendipity Road. They didn’t widen it as radically as planned, but the extra width helps. There used to be bottlenecks as you approached the Golden Lions. You still have to go around cars and sometimes buses, but the bottlenecks aren’t as bad as they used to be.

Serendipity Road Sihanoukville Cambodia top

Before continuing down to the pier, I stopped for a cappuccino at Escape. Actually I had two cappuccinos and a bottle of water. I’m reading a brilliant book and I couldn’t put it down. After an hour or so, I forced myself to leave, but not before I took this picture. It’s not as dark as it appears in the shade of Escape, but this is the view. Basically, the view is of the passing traffic. When I came here, most of the traffic was male and white. Today, we get tourists of all ages, sizes and races. As many women visit as men and I often see families and groups of older women.

Serendipity-Road-from Escape

I had to stop and take a photo from the top of Serendipity Road where it goes down to the pier. They paved it recently, which was a good idea. The old cement road was crumbling under the weight of the cars and trucks that rolled down it. Building is still going on on the road and some of the buildings are big.

Serendipity Road Sihanoukville looking towards the pier

New hotels on Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Finally I reached the bottom of the hill, where I took a photograph of the pier. You can see the boats, but the throngs of people on the pier are a little harder to see.

Pier at the bottom of Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Then I turned around and took this photo up the road. The bottom of Serendipity Road is clogged with tuk-tuks, motorbikes and cars. That’s the main reason why I rarely go to Yasmine for coffee. The views are nice, but it’s hard to find a place to park.

Looking up Serendipity Road from the bottom

I came back from my little tour of Serendipity Road marveling at how much it’s changed in just ten years. Sihanoukville was a haven for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation, cheap beer, cheap drugs and, sometimes, cheap prostitutes. I didn’t like walking down Serendipity Road in the past. Every tuk-tuk driver said, “Want drugs? Want girl?” They don’t say that anymore. They just say, “tuk-tuk?” The tourists are mellower, too. They seem to be here to enjoy the sun, the water and the islands.

The city is growing faster than I’d like, but I have to admit, it’s improving every year. One thing I love about it is that visitors come from everywhere. You see Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, American and Australian tourists here. Most of the time, I don’t understand a word I hear around me when I’m having my daily cappuccino. Sometimes I recognize the language, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. I like the cultural mix. I think I’ll be staying here for a long time to come. As my book, Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese says: “Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” I have a family here and feel wanted. This is my home until or unless something changes.

What’s New on Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach Road

Nataya Resort, Sihanoukville Cambodia

The last time I reported on Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach Road (or Serendipity Road, if you like), it was to cover the fire that destroyed Mick & Craig’s, Monkey Republic, the Dive Shop and adjoining properties at the top of Mithona Road, which seems to have been renamed Serendipity Road by some interested parties. Anyway, I’m happy to say that work is proceeding rapidly on Mick & Craig’s and the Dive Shop seems to be near completion. Monkey Republic is fenced in and I couldn’t see any real signs of construction. With that out of the way, let’s move on to the cement road I call Serendipity Road.

Mick & Craig's on Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Mick & Craig’s taking shape after the fire.

I mentioned a new complex at the top of the road awhile ago. The garden has filled in, the shops are thriving and the resort and restaurant at the top of the complex seem to have been discovered. The resort is called Blue Sea Boutique Resort and the restaurant trendily named “Pure.” I’m not sure if it’s operational yet or how well it’s doing, but will take a closer look as soon as I get a chance.

Blue Sea Resort and complex, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Moving along, I’m sorry to say that one of the last remaining timber structures, the one that housed Le Bistro Gourmand, has been torn down. It was just a matter of time, but I used to really enjoy having breakfast there. It will be interesting to see what they erect to replace it, but one thing’s for sure, whatever it is, it will be dwarfed by the nearly completed Nataya Holiday Villa. The photo below doesn’t really do the size of the resort justice. You can get a peak of the back of the hotel from Mithona Road and it looks like most of the rooms are behind its impressive front.

Nataya Resort, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Once it opens, Nataya will take over from Serendipity Beach Resort as the road’s biggest and most luxurious accommodation, but it looks like Serendipity Beach Resort will soon have another rival to contend with right next door. So far, it’s just a bunch of sticks and concrete, but that’s a lot more than was there just a month or so ago, so it looks like they’re moving full steam ahead.

New hotel on Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

And that brings us to the bottom of the hill but not the end of what’s new on Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach Road. In fact, the “road” is being extended even further out on to the pier, which is being lengthened considerably.

Pier at Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Stepping off the pier and into the water, the Bali/Thailand-style upmarket health and yoga retreat set will be pleased to know that Akaryn Hospitality Management Services (AHMS), owner of 3 successful island resorts elsewhere, has announced plans to build a similar resort on Koh Krabeay. Called Akaryn Koh Krabeay Retreat & Spa, it’s scheduled to open in 2015. According to AHMS founder Anchalika Kijkanakorn as reported in the Thailand edition of the Nation:

The exciting thing about this project is that it gives us an opportunity to define, refine, innovate and create the ideal destination holistic and medical spa that redefines how we live today and equips the guest with tools they can use upon returning home to incorporate these measures and wisdoms into their daily lives.

It’s a good bet accommodation at this resort will probably be a lot more expensive than the many bungalows that have sprouted up on Koh Rong or Belinda Beach Lovely Resort on Koh Sdach, but not as expensive as a night on Song Saa Private Island.

Back on the mainland, her are some Sihanoukville accommodations on and around Serendipity Road you can check out:

Ocean Walk Inn
Coolabah Resort
Sea View Villa
Koh Pos Guesthouse