A few months ago Big John, who runs a guesthouse, restaurant and bar in Sihanoukville, irked a few of his potential customers when he left the following comment to Chris of Backpacker Banter’s post, 10 Myths of Backpacking Travel:
“Backpacking, is that travelling where roughing it is carrying your “backpack” to a taxi or bus, walking more than 50m to an ATM machine and a slow internet or wifi connection? Sorry guys, but the original meaning of the word “backpacker”: hardy, adventurous traveller/hiker, has been well and truly lost, now meaning little more than, lonely, desperate, substance abusing moron who thinks the world owes them a favour.”
It was suggested that although John is entitled to his opinion Chris’s site wasn’t the place for it, so we thought to offer him a forum here and ask him about his life on the Cambodian coast.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
Born in Lae, PNG, to Australian Parents, moved back to Adelaide SA when I was two, Port Lincoln, SA when I was 10, Sydney NSW when I was 16, Brisbane when I was 19, back to Sydney at 24, Bangkok at 34, Sihanoukville, at 50, Now 52.
And what did you do there, then?
Sydney, studied graphic design; Brisbane, graphic design and sales; Sydney, printing sales, design and studied marketing. Bangkok, advertising agency, printing and publishing, then internet cafe, restaurant, pie bakery, supermarket sales and hostel.
How did you end up in Sihanoukville?
Bus. Looking for a quieter place to settle down.
So what’s so good about Sihanoukville?
Warmer, but reminds me of Port Lincoln, 40 years ago.
And what don’t you like?
Also attracts expat scum of the earth who wouldn’t get away with what they do anywhere else.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
Insider with Cambodian wife and child, outsider with the scum of the earth.
How do you support yourself?
So John, how do you really feel about backpackers?
Real backpackers, or would be if they could be flashpackers? How do I feel about the young and naive who think they know everything and have preconceived ideas of what the world is and/or should be like? Regardless of age, I like people who have open minds, willing to learn, explore, experience, understand, and make the world a better place, backpack or no backpack.
Finally, tell us about something typically Sihanoukville
Inexpensive Khmer food, limited good western style food. Taxi and tuk-tuks selling drugs, beggars on the beach, pick pockets and bag snatchers. Draft beer from 50 cents a glass. Unpaved, pot holed riddled roads. Logic, what’s that? Road rules, what are they. Traffic Police only want money, try to get by with one or two dollars, not $50. Expensive electricity. Frequent power cuts. Garbage on the beach. Sex from $5. Haircuts from $1. Beds from $2 per night. Rooms from $5 per night. FREE bed bugs if you’re not careful.