Sihanoukville: A Paradise Found

One late afternoon, we arrived in Sihanoukville after a 5 hours bus ride from Pnom Penh. The bus dropped us off in the city center, from there we were swarmed by the Tuktuk drivers who offer us a ride to the beaches around. Flat rate was 10 USD and will take us just anywhere. They were asking too much for such a small island!

There are around 5 major beaches in Sihanoukville: Occheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach, Sokha Beach, Independence, Victory, and the most discreet of all, the Otres Beach.

Occheuteal Beach is a long and narrow strip of beach lined with trees, grass umbrellas, rental chairs and little drink huts as well as bigger restaurants and night-time party spots.

Sokha Beach is located just west of Occheuteal Beach. This beach is privately owned by Sokha Beach Hotel, the first five-star luxury beach hotel in Cambodia. It provides many facilities with a wide white sandy beach, but hotel guards may prevent visitors who are not guests from going on to the beach.

Independence Beach is located next to Sokha Beach on its west. The beach was named after the old Independence Hotel. This beach offers a good stretch of clean sand.

Victory beach is situated at the furthest north of the peninsula of Sihanoukville. It was the original backpacker beach and is still popular with budget travelers. At the northern end of the beach is located the deep sea port. Apart from white sand and blue sea, this beach offers a good spot to enjoy the sunset.

Beyond a small headland at the south end of Ochheuteal is the similar Otres Beach. Otres beach is the dead-end of all the beaches in Sihanoukville. It is not even on the map of Lonely Planet. Anyway, we picked the Otres Beach – it was highly recommended by Mr. Khoun of Jasmine Guesthouse in Siem Reap. It is located 12km away from the city center.

We stayed at the Papa Pippo’s Bungalows  – it is a father and son business, they’re from Italy too, so Valerio and I got a very good discount for the bungalow with a big bed, a mosquito net, own bathroom (others have communal) with a consistently running water. For a week in Sihanoukville, we stayed so close to the waters that it sounded like the waves are just underneath our bed.

Our days were amazingly simple. We would wake up, walk down to the beach, order a breakfast at the Mushroom Point and eat there, alternate reading and swimming, order lunch and eat there, alternate reading and swimming, ride the moped around the whole city (moped for 5 bucks a day!!! and around the city is feasible for a full tank – 2 bucks) shower, and get back in our seats to watch the sunset.

Kids sold fresh fruit on the sand, the ladies sold seafoods, others offer massages and mani and pedi on the spot.

Sihanoukville has a special place in our hearts, we kept picturing ourselves coming back there. But we’re kind of hesitant, for it will no longer be the same. It will be full of tourists (blame Google!) The culture, time and place and people are not static; Changes will happen soon, good for the businesses but not too good for the mochilleros!