The perpetual heat engulfs the open-air bar as Zeb sits back on his wobbly Rattan chair; raising an ice-cold beer to his smooth pink head; he lets a cool drip of nectar abseil his frazzled nose and mount his double chin. Stretching his right foot to the opposite chair; he takes a sip of the refreshing liquid and lights a cigarette. As the balmy day slowly drifts into night; he glances through the bamboo tavern and watches powdered, golden sand merging into glistening ripples of blue, wavy, paradise. His bulbous eyes pulsate with joy when he witnesses distant coconut trees dancing in the tropical evening breeze. He sits back even further and tells himself – this is the life!
As a seasoned traveller on his seventh adventure – chilling on the beach is Zeb’s little slice of heaven. It had been over five years since he’d left the UK; he thought about settling down after his previous trip through South America, but fed up with his job back home – decided to come to Asia to rediscover himself. All clichés aside – he simply missed the freedom and carefree lifestyle of travelling.
Before Zeb has time to fully embrace this pensive state of calm – a tumultuous sound penetrates his ears like a drum – the sound of backpackers and bongos. Like a kid at Christmas – he advances to the bar with an exultant welcome of ‘hey guys – we here to party?’ A shirtless, dreadlocked man named Shane with plump breasts and a belly like a space hopper retorts – ‘hell yeah dude!’ Another backpacker – also shirtless; with shoulder-length, wavy blonde hair and limbs decorated in colourful bracelets, raises a high open palm and introduces himself as Moe; Zeb counters with an array of high fives.
It’s around nine o-clock when the trio settle-up their bill and vacate the bar. The old bar lady smiles and flashes her teeth like a benevolent vampire as they toss her a handful of notes. The trio and bongos hop onto Moe’s bike with Zeb sandwiched in the middle like a slice of sun fried, pink bacon. The streets of Sihanoukville are bustling and Moe confirms – he can do this. Key in ignition, throttle squeezed – they hit the road and back-alleys of town. Like a five-foot-six baby, Zeb’s pink, bald head glistens under the moonlight and seems a-top attraction to the locals who appear more than satisfied at the sight of it. Zooming past a street market they see a juxtaposition of grilled bats, tarantulas, fake watches, and straw hats; Zeb lights another cigarette and tries his best not to set Shane’s dreads on fire.
The beach party is already in full effect when they arrive; whistles blow, glow-sticks illuminate, and the beat causes ripples to scatter through the ocean like a perfectly skimmed pebble. Slinking to the bar – they point and grunt in an intoxicated stupor and end up with a gargantuan bucket of something resembling dehydrated urine. Coolly making their way to end of the beach – they discover a chill-out area with bean bags, guitars, reefers and Bob Marley fans. Zeb is in his element and cannot resist asking a fellow backpacker if he can have a go on his guitar. As he sinks into his chair – Zeb strums away a perfect rendition of “no woman no cry”; Moe and Shane are in awe. The intoxicating sound of distant ocean-waves fill the air with a sense of love and unity; and Zeb, Moe, and Shane sing until the sun comes up.
All in all, Zeb thinks – what a wonderful first day.
A.T Hawthorn – July 6, 2019