Still on the coast: Sihanoukville


16 December – Two days have passed here in Sihanoukville, the last stop in my passage through Cambodia, and I spent my time relaxing. The beach is good enough, but doesn't send thrills down my spine. I regard it more than any other beach as a repository of vane people and revellers with no set purpose, but spend the day between a massage immodestly in everybody's full view, booze and night entertainment… little else.

The guest-house I'm staying at is efficient, but with an industrial touch to it. Its young clerks play the busy yuppies, always bustling around quicker than necessary. They give the guests the impression they are treated like an office file that they would like to get rid of as soon as possible, rather than honour them with attention and a smile as it's usual here. Smiling is very important in south-east Asian manners and transcends all language barriers to bring a touch of warmth, cordiality or simply to underline a welcoming reception.  In our culture, I often feel that a smile, especially a man's, is often considered as overindulgent, syrupy sentimental, effeminate, at any rate a signal of weakness; whoever smiles shows himself too meek… I would like to smile more when I get back home and receive many smiles back.