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Welcome to paradise

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Beach restaurants at Serendipity Beach, CambodiaSerendipity Beach in the southern Cambodian city of Sihanoukville is a backpackers’ paradise.

Dive shops, a tattoo artist and a couple of massage places line the unpaved road from the town down to the beach.

They get you in the mood for the beach life.

Down by the waterline, dozens of bars and restaurants have put out rattan chairs and sofas.

Happy meals and happy hours

The international backpacker-scene meets here every night for “happy hour”. And “happy hour” at Serendipity actually has two meanings.

For one thing, drinks get cheaper in the early evening hours: a glass of draft beer will cost you 50 US cents, Sundown at Serendipity Beacha cocktail shouldn’t cost more than $ 2.50.

The other meaning of “happy hour” at Serendipity is connected to the happy pizzas or shakes you can order from the menu in many bars.

Happy in this case means that the kitchen has added a sprinkle of dope. This will usually cost you a dollar or two extra.

But I didn’t try that kind of happy hour. Honestly.

In any case, the happiness at Serendipity beach usually lasts well into the morning hours.

At some point during the night, when the backpackers are reasonably drunk and home-sick, the dj’s will play “Take me home, country roads” or Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at full blast and everyone wil sing along and start feeling just a little bit melancholy…

From the look of it, large numbers of 20-somethings from Europe, the U.S. or Australia hang out at Serendipity for weeks on end. It’s a daily party. Beach, booze and bikinis. And the communal sing-along before turning in.

The original island getaway

If you feel you’ve had enough of the daily party (or if you’re no longer a 20-something), a trip to the islands off the coast of Sihanoukville might be a good antidote.

Boat trip to the islandsMost of the islands are small, barren and uninhabited. Just rocks and jungle, surrounded by some coral reefs that make  pretty good snorkelling grounds.

Local tour operators offer day trips to three islands just off the coast. The trip will cost you $ 15 (and that includes soft drinks and lunch).

If you’d like to stay on an island, you can also take the ferry boat to Bamboo Island, or Koh Russei, as it’s also called.

Bamboo is the only island with some very basic hotels on it.

The ferry costs $ 10 and leaves the mainland at 10 a.m. and returns at 4 p.m. every day.

What you get is pure paradise

Bamboo Island is small enough to cross it on foot in ten minutes. It basically consists of two beaches and a few no-frills bamboo huts where you can stay.

Bamboo Island, CambodiaDon’t expect comfort.

But if you’re willing to leave all luxuries behind, if you don’t need 24-hour electricity and hot water, then Bamboo Island can be like paradise.

The island’s beaches can only be called under-crowded. Xou’ll only see the few people living or staying on the island. And for a few hours around noon, they’re joined by the visitors the tour operators have ferried in.

But come four o’clock, they’ll all return to the mainland and Bamboo Island will fall back into its almost-paradise-tranquility.

A handful of tourists and locals, who are one with the sea, the breeze, the sand, the jungle.

Cows on the beachOh – and not to forget the cows, chickens and goats that belong to the locals. I’m afraid you’ll have to share the beach with them.

They cows, for instance, love to stroll along the beaches looking for food (e.g. left-overs from the picknick lunches on the beach).

I guess we’re talking about real beach animals here. And real Chicken of the Sea

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