Sihanoukville in Cambodia, detailed description

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville or Kampong Saom – the port city in Cambodia, sprawling on the Gulf of Thailand, which appears in the guidebooks under the code phrase “the country’s main resort with miles and miles of excellent beaches. The latter here and really not bad, so it is quite able to compete with the beaches of Thailand, which in recent years is so occupied by Russian tourists, they are more like the good old Black Sea coast.

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Highlights

Due to the tense political situation in the country, Sihanoukville has long been a resort for backpackers: if not the most prosperous, but incredibly cheap. Today, when the situation is relatively stabilized and the influx of adventurers has increased, the city has raised the price tag significantly, but it does not prevent it to remain one of the best places for beach holidays and downsizing. They come to Sihanoukville, mostly for the notorious Asian exotic, eternal summer and tropical landscapes. Well, for some, this picturesque corner of Cambodia, and even becomes a second home, where so nice to wait out the depressing Eurasian winter.

The history of Sihanoukville.

Ironically, until the 50s of XX century there was no Sihanoukville. It all began with the tiny village of Kampong Saom in the Gulf of Siam, whose location seemed to the Cambodian authorities the most suitable for the construction of a deep-sea port. As a result, thanks to financial injections from France, the village quickly evolved into a city and was named Sihanoukville (after King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia). In a very short period of time the port acquired industrial facilities such as an oil depot and its own brewery and even managed to build a flashy hotel “Independence.

During the U.S.-Vietnam conflict, the city became a transit point for weapons and even participated in the seizure of a U.S. Navy ship in 1975. But after the Khmer Rouge came to power, resort life in these places quickly stalled, and Sihanoukville, renamed by then in Kampongsaom, returned to the slumdogging provincial past. However, in 90s the city opened a “second breath”, as the Cambodian government began to actively develop the tourism industry in a vain attempt to catch up and surpass neighboring Thailand.

Today’s Sihanoukville is a typical developing resort, where not everything is smooth and certainly not everywhere is clean. However, the American media pins high hopes on the former Kampong Saom, predicting that soon the prestigious status of “Asia’s trendy beach” goes to it.

Geography and climate

Sihanoukville is located in the hills of the South China Sea coast, about 200 km south of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The city is located on a small peninsula and, accordingly, is surrounded on three sides by water. The main and so far the only beach resort of the country is characterized by a tropical climate, so the heat in Sihanoukville is almost always. Since the end of May in the city is the rainy season, which lasts until October. By December the showers are gradually fading, so this time of year the streets of Sihanoukville begin to flash the so-called “winterers” – tourists, who came to the resort for a few months to wait out the European slush and Russian frosts.

Population

Today in Sihanoukville, approximately 90,000 people. The vast majority of local residents are employed in the tourism sector, so the English is spoken here by almost everyone, and relatively well. There is a traditional Asian obsession when it comes to the possibility to scam a visitor for a dollar or two. This is especially evident in the beach areas. Fruit sellers, strolling masseurs and girls offering the national type of depilation with a thread – all this motley company daily occupies the quays in the secret hope to impose their own services to the first tourist caught. Somewhere offer and cheap varieties of drugs. The second most popular way to earn money in Sihanoukville – open begging, which is often peddled by children.

The urban outskirts look more like the slums of Mumbai than the neighborhoods of the best resort in the country, and still live here very poor. The main activities of the local farmers – fishing and agriculture. At one time Sihanoukville was discovered by sex tourists who migrated here from Thailand, and provided a stable income for local young ladies from poor families. However, with the tightening of visa controls, this financial stream gradually began to dry up, which can not be said about mixed marriages. White men whose wives are natives of Sihanoukville are increasingly common in the city. For Cambodian women, such relationships are the height of prestige and signify a kind of transition to a new, higher level.

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In general, despite the difficult past and not always happy present, the people here are positive and welcoming. The inhabitants of Sihanoukville are philosophical about things, but also about their absence, because they have the main thing – the country’s best beaches, fine weather and year-round warm sea. In general, all that allows to take conditional units out of the wallets of rich compatriots and thirsty for exotic oriental Europeans.

Sihanoukville attractions

Sihanoukville is a classic young resort with not the most developed infrastructure and a very limited set of attractions. And what is the point of numerous museums and architectural monuments, if almost all tourists come here anyway in a hurry to the sea. The first unofficial symbol of the town, welcoming guests on the central square, are golden lions, against which 99% of resort selfies are taken. By the way, these same lions will accompany you during the whole vacation: all local souvenir kiosks are full of statuettes, magnets, t-shirts with images of a feline couple. Another interesting place worth a look for all motorists – the salon rental luxury cars owned by our countryman Nikolai Doroshenko, in the 90’s emigrated to Cambodia, and quite well advanced in the Asian business. On the roof of the place there is an observation deck with a real airplane (An-24).

Spectacular views of the city of Sihanoukville and the surrounding area from the observation deck of the temple Wat Leu. It is certainly not Angkor Wat with its bizarre bas-reliefs and endless staircases, but just a modest Buddhist sanctuary that is not roamed by crowds of tourists.

You can see the dormant Buddha at the temple of Wat Krom. Access is free and the only thing a traveler needs to do is to remove his or her shoes before entering. There is an observation area on the roof where you can admire views of the surrounding area. In addition, there is a romantic legend associated with the sanctuary, which will tell you any guide or Sihanoukvilians. Well, according to tradition, there are always groups of children hanging out here, offering small services in exchange for a small fee.

About 7 km from Sihanoukville there is a waterfall Kbal Chhai. It is better to get here by cab, as the country road leading to the attraction is dusty and runs through the jungle. Until 1963, this famous spring literally watered the resort until it became a Khmer Rouge camp. Today, Kbal Chhai is one of Cambodia’s favorite vacation spots. Enterprising locals have managed to organize here some semblance of infrastructure in the form of paid hammocks, benches with trinkets and fruit trays, so if you do not burn desire to merge with the tourist crowd, daily attacking the spring, choose the morning hours. Kbal Chhaya is less crowded this time of day.

You can get acquainted with the mysterious flora of the tropics during a tour to Ream National Park (Preahsianuk). Jungle tour includes a boat ride on the river, hiking through the marshes, as well as special hiking trails in the mangroves, and a short rest on the beach. If you wish, the locals will organize you something like a picnic on the veranda of one of the huts.

Beaches

The beaches of Sihanoukville – it’s worth putting up with the peculiar system of public transport, and the elusive pickpockets, and even the lack of really significant attractions in the area. Well, if you remember that the rest of the Cambodian coastline is not suitable for swimming, the attractiveness of the former Kampongsaom increases dramatically.

In the list of the most unspoiled beaches of Sihanoukville leads Otres, which stretches a few kilometers south of the port. Despite its remoteness from the central part of the city, the place has a relatively well-developed infrastructure, but does not give the impression of a noisy crowd. Nearby are a few budget hotels, where you can stay if you have no desire to reel in the daily kilometers on the bumpy road to this little paradise. By the way, Otres is considered the cleanest beach and the best option for families with children: the descent into the sea here is gentle, and the sand is soft and not littered.

A nice and well-groomed piece of beach called Sokha Beach belongs to the hotel of the same name, and anyone can get here – just pay for your stay. Cleanliness in Sokha Beach is monitored by hotel staff, so the chances of digging up a “treasure” of bags and plastic bottles in the beach sand are reduced to zero.

If you want to combine relaxation with a fun night out, welcome to Serendipity Beach, where you can’t miss a spot in the evening. Stores are within walking distance, and there are endless rows of souvenir stands and cheap cafes lining the beach. The downsides are the ubiquitous Cambodian beggars and the garbage that can be brought in by the current from time to time.

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The continuation of Serependiti Beach is beach Ochutel, or as it is sometimes called by Russian tourists, Ochetel. The place is beloved by Khmer, so often relax here in groups under specially equipped shelters. Ochetel quite a long beach – the coastline stretches for almost 3 km. Its most civilized part is considered its northern half, where there are bars and comfortable deck chairs. But the farther to the south, the more unsightly the picture: some parts of the coast completely closed to visitors, and the rest look outright neglected.

For seclusion, meditation, and romantic photo ops, Independence Beach is the place to be. The best piece of area here “won” the posh hotel Independence, but something has got and ordinary mortals, such as fine white sand, the cleanest sea, stunning silence (on weekdays rest of the minimum) and cozy beach bars. The only thing that clouds this paradise a little – a ban on entering the hotel territory. However if you offer the workers of the institution a fair sum, the passage to the Independence property can miraculously open for an ordinary person.

Next to the port, at the bottom of Victory Hill, is Victory Beach. The place is crowded, as there is a lot of inexpensive housing in the area, and therefore not very clean. There is also a pier, around which the boats and boats of locals are concentrated, offering travelers walks to the nearby islands. At night this area of Sihanoukville, turns into a mind-blowing disco with all the ensuing, so the adventurers and seekers of hot spots – definitely here.

If you go south of Victory Beach, you can get to another Sihanoukville beach – Hawaii. This area does not live up to its promising name, so hang out here mostly Sihanoukvilians themselves. The place is quite dirty, so if the prospect to rest among garbage you are not tempted, you can go to the elite territory of the beach, attached to the hotel Emario Beach Resort. Here the sea is cleaner and the beach is systematically cleaned.

Islands

Sihanoukville, of course, not a bad city, but to sit there all the vacation is to miss all the fun, especially since the best beaches are just outside the resort. Perfect, almost untouched by civilization landscape style “bounty” look for the island of Koh Rong Samloem. This little piece of land with impenetrable tropical thickets, amazingly clear water and inconspicuous village – a paradise, where you want to escape from the ravages of technological progress. It’s also a suitable place for snorkeling and diving, the only drawback of which is the lack of electricity.

You can snorkel and scuba dive off the islands of Ko-Tang and Ko-Prince. They are officially considered uninhabited, which has clearly benefited their nature. The water in this part of the bay is as crystal-clear as the retouched advertising brochures and the white sand is so soft that it resembles flour. In addition, on Ko-Tang you can find perfectly preserved docks from the Vietnam War. Sail to the islands will have a few hours, so excursions here suggest an overnight stay. On average, the pleasure will cost from $ 85, including diving. By comparison, the cost of two dives in the vicinity of Sihanoukville is about $ 70.

Fantastic natural views, romantic sunsets and unbridled joy perfectly combines the island of Ko Tang. Mostly young people hang out here, so weekends here are celebrated in a big way, and alcoholic cocktails and the infamous “happy cupcakes” are consumed non-stop.

Food in Sihanoukville

The main advantage of Sihanoukville catering establishments is that they are not fixed on the national cuisine, which, for all its originality, is not always adequately perceived by the digestive tract. There are plenty of eateries and cafes serving Thai, Mexican and European delicacies in the vicinity of the resort. There is a typical Asian menu, decent portions and not the most intimidating prices in Green Lantern. Olive&Olive and Mediterraneo, which have made a reputation for delicious pizza, are quite decent Italian restaurants. If you plan to get acquainted with Cambodian culinary traditions, go to Nyam, where they still fry frogs’ legs and cook fish amok by a classic Khmer recipe. But the once popular Snake House, formerly owned by Nikolai Doroshenko and combined the serpentarium and restaurant, is no longer the same. Because of the change of owner, the snack bar has thoroughly faded, and the animals are kept in disgusting conditions. When looking for seafood, it’s a good idea to stop by the bazaars, where the local fishermen sell their daily catch.

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Shopping

Maybe in the foreseeable future Sihanoukville will get large malls, but so far its guests have to be content with ordinary supermarkets, small souvenir stores and two markets: Phsar Pinichicom and Phsar Leu. The first one is more oriented for Sihanoukvilians, but Phsar Leu is not shy to push the foreigners as well. Traditionally, for visitors there are “special” prices, that is, one-third higher than the price at which the goods are sold locally.

Did you know that in Sihanoukville.

  • periodically carry out power outages;
  • The local police love to stop tourists riding a bike, and pick on the driver’s license. The reason is banal – the policemen are waiting for the tired driver to offer them a bribe;
  • The city’s ATMs give out your choice of dollars or reels;
  • Serendipity Beach has a permanent Happy Hour, during which visitors are entitled to a serious discount on Angkor cocktails and draught beer;
  • a term of its own has been coined to identify foreigners. Since some time, every light-skinned “non-Khmer” is referred to as a barang.

City transportation

The resort’s main transportation is tuk-tuks and motorcycle cabs, which for $1 to $3 will take a tourist to the right part of Sihanoukville. Journey to remote beaches can cost in the region of $ 5-7 dollars. When choosing a “carrier”, be sure to bargain, because they artificially inflate the price in Cambodia is very fond of. If you do not want more freedom of movement, you can rent a bike or scooter. Just be aware of the fact that the observance of traffic rules local drivers look typical Asian, that is, almost do not comply.

Buses in the former Kampongsaom never seen, so, depending on the well-being of local residents, they are replaced by personal vehicles, bicycles or your own feet. Approximately 18 km from the resort is the airport, from which there are only three departures per week. In 2016, after a long break, train service between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh was resumed. Travelling by train will cost about $4-7, for which the passenger will be given a seat in an air-conditioned general carriage. The city port remains in operation to this day and is engaged mainly in freight traffic. Not so long ago in its harbor appeared a yacht anchorage with the romantic name “Oceania”.

Communications

Wi-Fi in Sihanoukville can be found even in the tiniest cafe. In addition, the city provides communication services several local mobile operators.

Security

Despite the fact that nothing threatens the life of a tourist in this part of Cambodia, here they still like to pick pockets, so the financial well-being in the former Kampogsaom better not demonstrate, and the bag should be held tight. Extreme activities like night walks in the streets and beaches should be avoided as it’s very easy to find unwanted adventures after 9 pm. And if you’re desperate for adventure, remember that qualified medical care is a rare thing in this country.

Where to Stay

Most five-star hotels are located in Sokha Beach (Moha Mohori, Sokha Beach, Lakeside By Sokha Beach Resort). A more or less modest room for two in such hotels starts at $109. The legendary Independence is one of the good four-star hotels. Here, too, you can rent a private room or a full-fledged villa with a pool. The latter will cost about $756 per day. If you want you can check into an apartment, which once stopped Jackie Kennedy herself.

The most authentic type of Sihanoukville accommodation is the romantic wooden bungalows and their semblances that dot the city beaches and neighboring islands. Houses on stilts, in which ants and snakes can not get, futuristic creations of modern architects, covered with palm leaf huts, and sometimes just an incomprehensible pile of planks, inside which lonely sway canvas hammock – the options can sometimes be very exotic. By the way, often the owners of such properties are Europeans and our compatriots, who have changed the harsh climate of Russia in the eternal Asian summer. An intermediate compromise between hotel and beach hut – hostels (Backpacker Heaven, Boho). You will have to spend from $ 5 (for a bed in the common room) up to $ 25 (for a double room).

How to get there

Since Sihanoukville Airport has direct flights only to Siem Reap, it is better to fly to Phnom Penh and take ground transportation the rest of the way. Mekong Express and GST Express buses are available from the Cambodian capital to Sihanoukville. The trip traditionally takes no more than 3-4 hours.

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Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a young but rapidly developing seaside resort in Cambodia, which has become a new point of attraction for tourists in Southeast Asia.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia is Cambodia’s premier and, in fact, only first-class resort, located on the coast of Kampong Saom Bay on the Gulf of Thailand.

Founded in the mid-20th century as a deep-water export port, Sihanoukville over the past 30 years has gained fame as Cambodia’s best beach vacation destination and a competitor to the Thai resorts.

When you arrive in Sihanoukville it is not necessary to change money for the local currency. U.S. dollar is widely used, it is freely accepted in hotels, stores and cafes of the resort, so the local currency riel may be useful only in the markets of Sihanoukville.

How to get to Sihanoukville

According to tourist reviews, the beaches of Sihanoukville are not as crowded with vacationers as seaside resorts in Thailand, but for diving more suitable shores of the many islands in the vicinity of the city. For a beach holiday in Sihanoukville tourists offered a dozen beaches, so choose the most suitable is not difficult:

Victoria Beach (Victory Beach) is located in the vicinity of the port, so the water is somewhat dirtier than on other beaches. The advantage of Victory Beach is that it grows palm trees, and the sunsets here are considered the most picturesque in Sihanoukville.

The pine-covered beach of Hawaii is located south of Victoria Beach. It is very popular with the local population, so prices here are slightly lower than elsewhere. Minus is the abundance of holidaymakers and littered coast and water.

Independence Beach, or Independence Beach. One of the quietest places on the coast of Sihanoukville, besides it is clean enough.

Socha Beach. The neighbor of Independence Beach boasts cleanliness and excellent landscaping, as it is supervised by the staff of local hotels. Only part of the beach is free to visit, and you will have to pay extra for accommodation on most of the coast at Sokha Beach Resort hotel.

The beaches of Serendipeti and Ochutel practically merged into one. These are the most popular beaches in Sihanoukville, so it is always noisy and crowded. But here are the lowest prices and an excellent choice of entertainment.

Wild beach Otres 5 km from the city. Here tourists are waiting for the most secluded vacation on the longest coastline of Sihanoukville (the beach length of several kilometers).

Sihanoukville is primarily a winter resort, as the summer rainy season. From November to April there is almost no rain, but go here in April is not recommended, as the heat is almost unbearable. The best time to visit this resort is from December to February, when the average temperature ranges from 30 to 32 ° C. The water temperature in the Gulf of Thailand during the year is almost the same – 26-27 ° C.

The rainy season does not mean that during this time tourists can not leave the hotel because of the constant rainfall. As a rule, there are short but heavy downpours in summer, and otherwise, holidays in Sihanoukville in the rainy season is no different from the “high season”. But the prices for accommodation during the summer period are much lower.

Organized tourists prefer to stay in the best hotels in the city:

Sokha Beach Resort 5 star category is the largest hotel in the city. A superior room will cost 110 USD, but if you want you can order a deluxe apartment or even a separate villa with private access to the sea. The advantage of the hotel is the best beach in town, which belongs to the hotel.

Moha Minori Hotel is the most expensive hotel in Sihanoukville and the second with 5 star rating. The cheapest room in this hotel costs about 200 USD per night. Hotel Moha Minori is also located on Soha Beach.

The 4-star Tamu Hotel is located near Otres Beach, so it provides a quiet stay on Sihanoukville’s most deserted beach, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and other vacationers. The cheapest room at this hotel will cost 70 USD – 80 USD per night.

For tourists who prefer a more economical options for renting accommodation will be interesting numerous bungalows or gesthouses. A gesthouse is the same as a hotel, but with fewer services. For example, the gest house has no swimming pool and offers no breakfast, but the price for a room may be 10 USD or less. When choosing a guesthouse you should specify the location and services provided, because the cheapest rooms often have neither air conditioning nor hot water. According to tourist reviews, the best Sihanoukville guesthouses are:

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Zana Beach, located 10 minutes walk from Ochutel Beach. Room rates start at USD 15 per night. When renting a room for a month the price is reduced to 10 USD per night.

Pat Pat Guesthouse, located on the shores of Otres Beach. Room rates start at USD 10 per night.

Sunset Lounge Guesthouse, located on Ochutel Beach. The most economical accommodation option at this guesthouse will cost about 25 USD per night. Sunset Lounge has its own fenced area on the beach, accessible only to the tourists accommodated at the hostel.

How to get to Sihanoukville

The distance to the resort from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is more than 200 km, so the journey will take at least a few hours. The easiest way to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is by intercity bus. The ticket will cost about 6 USD – 10 USD. The second option – take a cab, such a trip will cost 50 USD – 80 USD, depending on the time of day and the comfort of the car.

From Phnom Penh Airport to Sihanoukville there is a flight 2,5 hours, economy class ticket costs 100 USD – 110 USD.

Sihanoukville attractions

Because of the modest age of Sihanoukville, which is not even 100 years old, the city does not have an abundance of attractions, especially historical. Besides Sihanoukville suffered during the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, and its revival as a resort began only 20-30 years ago. Of the interesting places in the city can be distinguished:

  • several Buddhist temples (Wat Leu, Wat Kraom);
  • a new symbol of the city – the sculptural composition “Golden Lions” in the center of Sihanoukville;
  • Independence Square with sculptural copies of famous Cambodian landmarks.

Therefore, tourists who prefer an active educational vacation will have to go outside the city in search of sights. The best option – to go on a tour as part of an organized group.

Tired of a beach holiday, any tourist can join the rich history of Cambodia or explore the beautiful local nature. For this purpose, Sihanoukville offers special tours designed to distract holidaymakers from the sea beaches. All organized trips from Sihanoukville, accompanied by a Russian-speaking guide.

Sihanoukville sightseeing tour includes a visit to the Buddhist temples of the city, a crocodile farm, the complex “Classic” with the exhibition of rare cars and observation deck on the roof. The cost of the sightseeing tour – from 20 USD to 50 USD per person depending on the occupancy of the group. The tour will take up to 6 hours.

Sail on the islands of the Gulf of Thailand on a three-deck boat. The highlight – a visit to the “paradise” island of Koh Rong, where tourists have the opportunity to swim in wild lagoons. There is also a stop in the open sea for snorkeling (diving and snorkeling). The total duration of this tour is 7 hours. The price is from 25 USD.

Excursion to the National Park Riem. Learn about the flora and fauna of Cambodia, swimming in waterfalls and visiting mangroves and the Tree of Destiny – a place of energy power. Duration – 6 hours, the cost – from 25 USD.

Overview tour of the Gulf of Thailand Bokor – Kep – Kampot. Includes a visit to Mount Bokor, Popokville Falls, an abandoned Catholic Church and the ancient Buddhist temple Wat Sampov Pram. At the top of Mount Bokor is an abandoned French town with a casino, hotels, and villas, abandoned by the colonizers after Cambodia gained its independence and destroyed during the civil war.

Next, tourists will be taken to the Kampong Trach Caves, home to monkeys and several Buddhist novices. After visiting the caves, tourists will go to the famous Kampong pepper plantation and then to the town of Kep, where you can walk through the local market and look at the sale of seafood delicacies. The total duration of the tour – 12-13 hours. The cost – from 50 USD to 270 USD, depending on the filling group.

For tourists from Sihanoukville guided tours to the main treasure of Cambodia – the ancient city of Angkor, with its famous temple complex Angkor Wat. In addition to Angkor Wat during the tour you can visit the so-called “Small Circle of Angkor” and look at 7-8 of the impressive temples of the city. The duration of the tour is two days. Cost: from 100 USD for a bus trip, from 300 USD for a plane transfer. You will also need to pay an entrance ticket to the complex – 37 USD.

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