Surrounded by swaying palm trees and cloudless skies, its easy to lose track of time whilst in Sihanoukville. And why should’t you? This location is directly on the seafront and is numbered with restaurants and bars, perfect for tourists to soak up the sun. Although an ideal location, the tourism industry has transformed its main beaches, such as where we stayed Serendipity Beach, into a congested and dirty beach swarming with drunk backpackers, and old foreign men with young prostitutes.
No tranquillity or peace will be found here, so for many it is a let down. Head to Otres Beach where the beaches are filled with fresh faced smiling tourists, rather than hungover moaning ones. One can escape the pestering young children whom sell bracelets on the beach at Serendipity here, you are more likely to find table service to your sun lounger. This beach used to be quite empty and unheard of, although over time, and the recurrent attitude one finds in Asia of finding somewhere beautiful- development soon began. There has been some restraints, mainly the government enforcing no hotels, instead boutique bungalows are in place, which still allows this beach a level of sophistication, without an overload of all inclusive tourists. Come here to escape the mania of Serendipity and spend the day paddle boarding, wind surfing or kayaking.
Or, if you fancy a more rustic experience, head to one of the islands off the Cambodian shore. The most famous is Koh Rong, famous for its backpacker vibe and insane full moon parties. However, when I travelled around Cambodia (back in my day), the islands were untouched natural wonders of beauty. No electricity was on the islands and finding transport there meant making friends with a local fisherman, but as tourism floods South East Asia, each island off the coast of Cambodia has been explored and ventured, made into new travel destinations. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, as accessibility to the islands has improved, however finding an island to transport you to harmonious solitude might be much harder than you necessarily thought. I would advise visiting whichever island you feel fits you best, I look back and wish I did the same.
Backpackers come to this area of Cambodia to relax and rejuvenate, enjoying themselves by taking in the essential vitamin C from the sun, and the glorious Chang from the bar. I am afraid during our stay here we did nothing which could be seen as a cultural experience- unless having a dance off with a prostitute is classed as one? Days we spent sunbathing and nights we spent obliterating our livers. I would recommend going to the bar right at the end of the dock at some point and staring out to the sea, it truly is enchanting. We spent most of our nights starting at JJ’s watching the fire shows and leading on to Dolphin Bar for cheap drinks and an always packed dance floor, and finally, ending up at Utopia to chill in their hot tub.
What I loved about Sihanoukville has to be the large variety of seafood restaurants on the coast whom sell fantastic fresh sea food and cook it on on a BBQ, this meal was the best meal I had in Cambodia. You have a wide choice of seafood and although so simple, it works so well with all the other ingredients, all combined together. It is a must to eat this fine dish of barbecued succulent seafood, hot buttered jacket potatoes and fresh healthy salad, whilst the sand runs in between your toes and the waves lap against the shore.
We stayed at Monkey Republic, a hostel which combined cleanliness, cheap prices and comfort, (unlike Utopia), I recommend this place as the beds are comfortable, the staff welcoming, and the food tasty.
Although this might not be the best beach or atmosphere in Asia, or even in Cambodia, Sihanoukville acts well as an express beach visit for time restrained travellers.