A couple of Germans are getting some sun in Cambodia. One afternoon, during a relaxing boat trip, they see fire coming from the island. Their hostel had burned down, but unfortunately, this was just the start of their problems.
Me: Alright, your hostel burned down in Cambodia?
Max: Yeah, it was in 2012. I was traveling with a friend, and it was Easter Sunday. We went on a nice boat trip, leaving all our stuff in the Monkey Republic Hostel. It’s the most fancy place in Sihanoukville, a real party village in the south of Cambodia. Really cheap. It was the dry season, 40 degrees in the shade, and there was a water shortage. There was no water, you couldn’t shower in the morning. There were only a couple of hours you could use water.
Anyway, it was a really nice boat trip. It was on Easter Sunday, making it an Easter trip. We left, and a couple of hours later when we’re on the sea, we saw smoke coming from the town where we were staying.
“What’s this? Probably someone burning tires or something.”
We’re enjoying our day, getting the sunburn of our life. Even we burned our feet because the sand was so hot. I got blisters on the bottom of my feet because the sand was like, walking on…
Me: Hot coals?
Max: Yeah. Really, it was like walking on hot coals. On the way back, we even got more sunburned. We’re getting back to the hostel, and I just wanted to take a shower. It’s the one thing I wanted to do. We arrived at the hostel, and it was completely burned to the walls. It was made all of wood and only some brick walls. It was completely gone. There were still some firefighters working in the ashes.
Then someone came to us, because we were just standing there for five minutes, our mouths wide open, thinking, “OK, what is this?”
They said, “Ahh, you’re Max and Felix! We’re looking for you, because you are the two missing names on our list.”
“Yeah, ok, we didn’t burn down.”
“Everyone’s gathering in a hostel around the corner.”
We got there and we were thinking, “OK, everything is gone.” Everything was burned, and the only thing we had with us were our shorts and and a tanktop. But our passports, we knew, were right across the street in an office because we were applying for a visa in Vietnam. At least we had our passports.
We got to the hostel where everyone was gathering, and, in the end, only two rooms didn’t burn down. There were 25 little huts, and all of them burned down, but two didn’t. One of them was ours.
Still everything was gone, because the locals ran into the burning buildings and stole whatever they could steal.
They even ran into the burning kitchen, where the gas bottles were, and stole them. People told us later on they were stealing everything that was worth something. It’s a really poor country.
Me: It is a really poor country.
Max: Our backpacks were still there with all our clothes, but everything, like iPod, camera, all the credit cards, were gone.
Me: What a roller coaster of emotion! “It’s burned down… Oh! Our room is fine! No… everything is stolen.”
Max: You had this little wooden closet that you could lock, but the people were just kicking them in, stealing everything. We even asked the firefighters and the police if we could have a look, but they said no. So, you don’t even know who took it.
Me: Do you think it could have been the firefighters who took it?
Max: I don’t know why the hostel burned down. The next day we went to the police station, filing a report for the insurance in Germany, and they were not really investigating why it burned down. So we don’t know if they were doing an insurance scam, burning the whole hostel, making money out of it, or… Sihanoukville has a really long history of a lot of crime. There has even been a lot of kidnappings before. I only read into it after I was there. Now it’s this party town, so I guess the locals don’t really appreciate it. But there are so many party people there, so maybe someone… we don’t know.
In the end, the firefighters didn’t have enough water as well, that’s why they couldn’t extinguish the fire.
Apparently they went to a nearby hotel and were getting water from the pool, because their fire trucks didn’t have enough water due to the water shortage.
In the end, we didn’t know what to do, so we got drunk the same night, with $20 in our pocket. Still a good night. Cambodia is cheap, and everyone was paying for our drinks. The next day we left for Vietnam, getting money from Western Union. We still had our passports, that’s really important. It’s an Easter fire, I guess. Apparently now they rebuilt the hostel. It’s a money machine, everyone’s going there.