‘Snookyville’ and Koh Rong Sanloem

‘Snookyville’ and Koh Rong Sanloem

Whilst we’ve been travelling, accommodation and food are probably our single largest bills. Finding cheap accommodation big enough for two adults and two young children isn’t always easy. The less we spend the longer we can extend our travels. We easily spend $5-1000 per month in most places.

‘Great!’, we have a house-sit for 2 months in Sihanoukville, saving us $500 USD per month (by Cambodian standards). How wrong could we be!

It was essentially a disaster. From the end of June to end of September is the rainy season in southern Cambodia and it’s not unusual for the rain to pour down for four to five days on end. It also doesn’t help that the property we were in had no A/C and flooded three times including the ceiling collapsing in two of the rooms we didn’t use. Yes, it was that bad!

While spending 2 months there we were constantly on the search for child-friendly places, such as ‘King Fried Chicken’ and ‘Café Awaken’.

I honestly don’t know why people live in such a place, other than to escape civilization because of some secret they have. Many of the people we met had some very interesting story to tell :‑X

We became experts in many different cafes & would recommend the following:

Starfish bakery – they even do free Khmer lessons every Saturday afternoon.

Enocafe – Best coffee & pizza in Sihanoukville

The Bavarian – Best German food in Sihanoukville.

Hugo – I loved this place, run by a couple of Czech gents – the beer & food is cheap & wholesome!

You and Me restaurant – great local food & expat hangout

The Sandan – part of a non-profit charity chain. Expensive but nice for a special occasion

Waterhouse café (Otres)

There are some Vegan options, but I really don’t do cardboard food so can’t recommend them. I’m sure others have a better opinion than I. These were:

The Dao of Life

Yellow breakfast

As a treat get to Sokha beach resort, where you will be spoilt, but at $20 each for a day pass it is expensive. You can sit in and use the restaurant for afternoon tea and dinner for free though.

Otres beach is the main attraction, but the build-up of rubbish, which isn’t helped by the fact that the refuse company stopped removing waste whilst we were there, is making it worse. I believe it has been rectified, but it’s easy to throw rubbish over a wall, hoping n-one will notice.

Living in a basic hut with a fan can be great fun, as you can see from our Koh Rong trip, but some of the places on Otres are far too small.

Otres 1 is plagued by the poor road surface, which means you can’t even get a scooter to many of the places.

Koh Rong & Koh Rong Sanloem

The main attraction for Sihanoukville must be the islands of Koh Rong and its baby sister, Koh Rong Sanloem.

We only stayed on Sanloem for four days & it more than made up for the remainder of the time spent in ‘Snooky’.

I managed to get a couple of dives in Koh Rong Sanloem, but it’s not recommended as the visibility is so poor you can hardly see anything. Even when visibility is good, there’s not much to see as it’s been overfished, like so many places in Asia.

It’s definitely worth staying there for longer to explore the island and the many bars.

One of the highlights is the bio-luminescent algae in the water. As you swim, the trails of your arms and legs light up. One of those rare activities that a photo is almost impossible to capture.


We will still look for housesits but be more careful about the conditions we are prepared to accept.

Next stop – Kuala Lumpur

Phnom Penh – The troubled capital of Cambodia.

Phnom Penh – The troubled capital of Cambodia.

After Siem Reap, we stupidly decided to transfer to Phnom Penh and extend our visas there which takes a week. In hindsight, we wished we would have extended our stay in Siem Reap and extended our Visas there. (we didn’t do our research very well here for the visa options!, but the not so friendly customs officer in Hanoi, Vietnam didn’t help either)

There isn’t really that much to do in Phnom Penh apart from the Royal Palace, National Museum ( where there are a few original relics from Angkor) and the killing fields. It’s a worthwhile trip, but only for a maximum 3-4 days. As we travel as a family, I would n’t recommend SL21 and the killing fields for the faint-hearted and very young children.

Wat Phnom – Birthplace of Phnom Penh
King Ponhea Yat – the last Khmer King

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is a sight to behold. The buildings and mausoleums dedicated to the Royal family are tremendous. The monarchy is still held in high regard in Cambodia.

National Museum

When in the Angkor Museum, Siem Reap, there is reference many times to the original artefact being at the National Museum in PP. This is a slight exaggeration, as the museum is very small and many of the artefacts are in overseas Museums, such as Paris.

You can easily get around the museum within a half day.  It’s a worthwhile visit including one of the many not-for-profit cafes or restaurants nearby.

One of the torture rooms – you can make out a picture on the wall of one of the remaining victims left behind after the Khmer Rouge evacuated quickly.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – SL21

If you’re interested in modern history, a highlight (or lowlight depending on your viewpoint), was the visit to the ex-School-turned-prison for the Khmer Rouge in the late 70’s. The history of the Khmer Rouge and a chronicle of the Cambodian Genocide as part of Pol Pot’s ‘experiment’ into collectivist farms and forced labour. He was responsible for the deaths of approximately 25% of the Cambodian population, an estimated 1 to 3 million people.

Bear in mind the Khmer Rouge was in alliance with the Vietnamese Government against US-backed forces so the whole area is linked to the Vietnam War & so-called ‘Communist’ threat raging across Asia at the time.

Of 20,000 inmates of Tuol Sleng, there were only seven survivors, of which two were in attendance, Chum Mey being one of them. It is an uncomfortable experience meeting the survivors of such a camp. What do you say? I was lost for words when Chum Mey smiled and nodded to me. All I could think to do was return his smile, with my hand across my heart and lightly bow to him (as is common across Asia).

Kaung Kek Leu (also known as ‘Comrade Duch’) the prison commandant was sentenced only in 2010 to life imprisonment by a UN war crimes tribunal in Cambodia.

It is a harrowing, unforgettable visit which certainly tests your emotions.

Tuol Sleng Memorial within the gardens

Ghosts of Tuol Sleng

As everyone who has visited Tuol Sleng – I too have been stunned by the photos of the victims staring at me from the past.

“Ghosts of Tuol Sleng” is an attempt to shed new light on the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide, by presenting them in a different way than the usual mug shot, that everyone who visits Tuol Sleng will be familiar with.

By photographing the individual pictures in different light conditions, and with visitors to the museum interacting, my aim is to revitalize the victims, show them as human beings – who like you and I – just wanted to live, but never got the chance, dehumanized by a gruesome regime.

None of the pictures are manipulated, but are reflections of the light cast by the images on the glass that protects the photos.

Photographing the reflection of the image instead of the image itself, a ghostlike feeling passes through the pictures.

According to popular Khmer belief, a person who hasn’t been given a proper burial will have to live on as a ghost, unable to find peace. While shooting the pictures this was unknown to me.

When a person dies in Cambodia, the body is usually taken to the local monastery, where it’s cremated. At the funeral, Buddhist monks will chant prayers, to comfort the family and give the mortal’s soul a safe passage to the afterlife.

The gact that none of Tuol Slengs inmates were given a proper burial after being executed in the Killing fields at Choeung Ek 15km. outside Phnom Penh – is a continuing source of suffering for surviving family members.

Of Tuol Slengs 20,000 inmates only 7 survived.

Contrary to popular belief – we can only hope that the victims of Tuol Sleng have been able to find peace, and won’t have to live like ghosts in the afterlife. It’s hard to imagine that their suffering should continue after what they endured. I prefer to believe that it didn’t.

Yours sincerely,

Stefan V. Jensen

It is worth going to Phnom Penh but for only a long weekend, as then you will have covered most of the sights.

We stayed at the NKS hotel also known as Ny Ka Smy Hotel, which was one of the cleanest hotels we have stayed in. It is in an upcoming area of PP, a short walk away from the Russian market, with many bars. Unfortunately, the open sewer runs beside the hotel and we all fell ill. I assume when it rains the lack of a hygienic drain system means you walk the dirt into your room, even though it is common practice to take your shoes off at the door. Young kids with a severe bout of projectile vomiting is not fun.

It’s not really a place we enjoyed (possibly due to falling ill), but also due the lack of interesting activities.

Why troubled as I state in the title? While we were there the current ruling party declared they could dissolve any other party they wished. It doesn’t sound good for any form of simple democracy that exists at present.


Next Stop – Sihanoukville