Krong Preah Sihanouk – Kampong Som City – Kompongsom City – Sihanoukville – Snookyville IRL is about as glamorous and randomly defined as it sounds – if this toponym doesn’t already evoke a favela feeling in you, then the sight of the town certainly will. On the other hand, city beaches offer something else entirely. There will be time to talk about that, first here’s a brief overview of Snooky’s beach names and my schizophrenic attempts at understanding their origin.
It sounds like the name of an exotic place someone from the Philippines once told a local hairdresser about and then the word spread and then the Spanish feel of the word somehow got preserved while the idea and the notion behind it vanished into thick durian-laden air. There’s Otres I and Otres II, separated by kilometres measured in physical units and by lightyears measured in actual differences. Otres also serves as a natural habitat for most subspecies of the common Hippicus Albus Borealis and hosts the best pineapple-enriched kebab this side of the Mekong. More on those two parallel universes in another entry.
As far as I can currently see, there simply could be no sensible explanation as to why a beach, or rather the city part of a larger beach, in a small coastal town in a Third World country would bear a name which so obviously shows it was baptised by a foreigner. With so many hippies enthusiastically wandering around, theories practically write themselves: Was there a cult leader whose followers called themselves “The Serendipitous Ones”, who persuaded everyone to jump to the other side of the fence a long time ago? Perhaps some of the long-haired professional relaxers drank too many “Ankgor” beers, or the mescaline yield from Mexico was too generous that year, but how can we be sure? The mystery remains unrevealed to this day, which is a Saturday.
I’ll give 20,000 Zim dollars to anyone who can honestly tell me how this spelling nightmare should be properly adressed. Variations range from one-worded designations e.g. Occheuteal all the way to smartass cataclysms like Ou Chhueteaeeal. Is it speaking Khmer that will help you decipher the concept behind such a sequence of immorally placed syllables? No, it will not. It’ll be pointless. After having considered all of this, you will either abandon figuring it out altogether, or engage in severe drinking sessions twice a day in order to forget. That said, drinking on Occheuteal Beach for the sake of leaving behind the horror its name put you through could sound counterproductive but isn’t, mainly because of Bombay Sapphire prices found in restaurant menus all over it.
Commonplace beach name? Sure, but yet again the logic escapes us – why “independence”? Which one??! From whom?!?!? There isn’t a single reminder of any subjection to any foreign force anywhere in town, not a hint on a possible colonial past – if anything, the country is now newly colonised by Thai and Vietnamese products so we could talk about an economic dependence, but this is 1) ongoing, and 2) not an event anyone has attempted observing so far. My safest bet would be the French who lifted their baguette-shaped anchors some sixty years ago.
Mlop Chhrey Beach
I totally see an immense airport, or a space station, or why not, a cosmodrome being named “Mlop Chhrey International”. My imaginary twin sister says it reminds her of an already damp rope dipping into a swampy body of water on a moonless night somewhere in Novosibirsk Oblast. Not a pretty picture, however the beach is surprisingly pleasant if you count out drunk Chinese casino owners who sometimes use the beach as a toilet in broad daylight. Not intentionally, of course, they certainly get confused just like everyone else. After all, they’re under a lot of pressure. I mean, it’s not easy laundering money away from home, in a foreign country, not speaking the language, surrounded by strangers. Poor drunk Chinese casino owners.
Of all the beaches in and around Sihanoukville, this is probably the only one I don’t have a picture of, and also the only one with a real history and a real name associated to it. According to omniscient Wikipedia, there was a baby boy named Ratanak (Khmer for “precious gem”) who died because he didn’t have access to basic health protection. A documentary was made about the boy, and that’s as far as Wikipedia will go to provide information about the actual boy. The rest is about some Christian dude from Canada who founded a charity organisation of the same name having been inspired by the tragic story he saw in the documentary. I sincerely hope the beach was named after the boy and not after the Western charity organisation. Nënë Tereza dislikes this.