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Sihanoukville , formerly Kompong Som and familiarly just Snookyville or even Snooky is a seaside town featuring Cambodia's best-known beaches.
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Points of Interest in Sihanoukville
The town itself doesn't offer much to see. The main areas of Sihanoukville of interest to tourists are Serendipity Beach, Otres Beach, Victory Beach, and the various islands off the coast.
The main reason to visit Sihanoukville is the beaches. They are not as crowded as many of those in Thailand, but can be cramped on weekends and holidays. Like many beaches in Southeast Asia, they are often covered in a lot of rubbish.
- Independence Beach (also known as 7-chan beach after the seven-storey Independence Hotel).
- Ochheuteal Beach (ឆ្នេរអូឈើទៀល - Chnay Occheuteal). A long narrow strip of white sand beach located in Sangkat No 3. The northern section has now become known as Serendipity Beach, a popular beach with Western tourists, noted for small guesthouses right on the beach. There are around 30 beach huts serving good value meals and a wide selection of drinks, a golf-course development at the southern end, and a cluster of mid-range hotels and restaurants in the middle. Grass umbrellas, rentable beach chairs, and little drink huts line the beach from one end to the other. Further south along the beach in front of the golf course development, a number of budget traveler/backpacker oriented bar/restaurant/beach hangouts have sprung up offering chairs, umbrellas, drinks, and a chill-out atmosphere. Expect noise and exhaust fumes though from the numerous 2-stroke jet skis in the area. Swimming can be dangerous and several tourists have been killed by jet skis.
- Otres Beach (Southeast of Serendipity and Ochheuteal Beaches). Amazing 4 km long stretch of clean, white sands. Far less crowded and more relaxed than other beaches in Sihanoukville. Every season more and more beach bars and guesthouses pop up along the beach. Tourists will find accommodation in rooms or bungalows (prices ranging from USD5-30), e.g., Cinderella Beach Bungalows, Castaways Beach Bar and Bungalows. Like most of Sihanoukville's budget accommodation, no air-con is available in Otres Beach lodgings, except for the Secret Garden Resort, a three-star located at the far end of "Old Otres" (Otres 2). Otres Beach is great place for lazy sunbathing, but other activities also available (catamarans, windsurfing, kayaks, various boat trips, bicycles.) Unlike Serendipity Beach, marijuana and marijuana-based baked goods are openly and safely smoked and sold at the beach side bars/guesthouses and on the beach itself, which is now attracting a young Western crowd to the area. A second part of Otres beach located about a 5-10 minute tuk-tuk ride away, referred to as "Otres 2" and has several guesthouses open and is beginning to attract tourists looking for an even less crowded beach than the relaxed main strip of Otres Beach. Otres 2 is far less developed and less crowded, but offers only minimal activities and locations.
- Serendipity Beach (Serendipity Beach is connected to Ochheuteal Beach). Guesthouses and bar/restaurants right on the beach, open until the early hours. This beach is the most popular and typically has the greatest number of people on the beach.
- Sokha Beach. owned by Sokha Beach Resort, it is private, but you can access it by paying a couple dollars. You won't have many people begging or trying to sell you something here.
- Victory Beach (south of the commercial port). Plenty of budget accommodation nearby on Weather Station Hill. This beach is close to the seaport.
- Kampong Pier Nup Lok (2 km north of the commercial port). The old fishing port. Offers some nice views.
- Koh Rong (Monkey Island). Advertised all around Serendipity Beach, Koh Rong is a small island located 2-3 hours away from Sihanoukville by ferry that offers a relaxed location away from the crowds, a long beach, a small jungle to trek, as well as a handful of bars, restaurants, and guesthouses located directly on the beach covering an area of only about 2 km. Ferries from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong leave 3-4 times daily from various docks and several different ferry companies in Sihanoukville. Ferries can be booked from any guesthouse or travel agent. Round trip tickets are sold from between USD5-$15. A tourist may be quoted more for the ferry, but can be negotiated down, and should not pay more than USD15. Both dorm beds (USD7) and private rooms (USD15-$30) are readily available on the island. Fishing, diving, and snorkelling are available as well at prices similar to the rest of Sihanoukville. Most places on Koh Rong run electricity on a generator and usually have electricity from sunset until midnight, though a few bars will run throughout the day and go until 04:00. Koh Rong does not have an ATM. USD5-15.
- Koh Russei (Bamboo Island). See the separate article on Koh Russei for more information.
- Ream National Park. A wonderful mangrove nature reserve about a 30 min drive from Sihanoukville. Take a moto to park headquarters for USD2. From there, park rangers offer walking tours for USD5 or boat tours for USD20 (4 people). Call in advance. The organised trips from Sihanoukville can be disappointing, as they sometimes fail to supply a proper guide and the food can be a bit dodgy.
Popular events in Sihanoukville in the near future
In a land with thousands of years of history, Sihanoukville is a colourful but tragic upstart. A mere fifty years ago, a joint French-Cambodian project carved a camp out of the jungle and started building the first deep-sea port in a newly independent Cambodia. Named Sihanoukville in 1964 after the ruling prince of Cambodia, the booming port and its golden beaches soon drew Cambodia's jet-setting elite, spawned the first Angkor brewery, and the modernist seven-story Independence Hotel which, claim locals, played host to Jacqueline Kennedy on her whirlwind tour of Cambodia in 1967.
Alas, the party came to an abrupt end in 1970 when Sihanouk was deposed in a coup and Cambodia descended into civil war. The town, renamed Kompong Som, soon fell on hard times. The victorious Khmer Rouge used the Independence Hotel for target practice and, when they made the mistake of hijacking an American container ship, the port was bombed by the U.S. Air Force. Even after Pol Pot's regime was driven from power, the bumpy highway to the capital was long notorious for banditry and the beaches stayed empty.
Peace returned in 1993 following historic elections organised by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and in the ensuing ten years Sihanoukville has been busy picking up the pieces. First visited only by a few intrepid backpackers, guide books still talk of walls pockmarked by bullets, but any signs of war are hard to spot in today's Sihanoukville, whose new symbol seems to be the construction site. After 30 years of housing only ghosts, the Independence Hotel is up and running again, more and more Khmers and expats have settled down to run bars and restaurants, and the knowledge of what the New York Times dubbed "Asia's next trendsetting beach" is starting to spread.
Since Snooky is a relatively new city (1950) and grew along with the steady growth of tourism, all the negative elements came along too. It is not safe (even for men) to walk alone on the beach after 21:00, there are plenty of glue sniffing kids and a lot of java (methamphetamine) smoking girls and boys and a price-fixing tuk-tuk cartel.
For more information on topics discussed by tourists and expats living in Sihanoukville: http://www.sihanoukvilleonline.com/forum/index.php
- Scuba Diving. There are many islands off the Cambodian coast that have lots of coral and fish. All dive boats leave from the Sihanoukville port area. There are 4 PADI dive centres, one of which, Scuba Nation PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre, the pioneers of diving in Cambodia, provide comprehensive diving and snorkelling services, day trips, liveaboards, nitrox and a full range of PADI courses from beginner to instructor. Flexibility is the key: you can do training sessions while sightseeing in Phnom Penh, then finish with a liveaboard on the only custom made diving boats in Cambodia. EcoSea Dive, offers SSI courses as well. The largest and newest dive centre, Island Divers offers the biggest boat newly refitted to cater to divers. Angkor Dive is based on Koh Rong Samloem and offer overnight trips to the island to not only dive, but also to experience the traditional way of life in a Khmer fishing village. The main scuba diving area is at Koh Rong Samloem Island 14 miles offshore, as well as at Koh Tang Island 35 miles from Sihanoukville. Overnight trips are necessary in order to reach Koh Tang. There is also some shallow diving at Koh Tas some 10 km from Sihanoukville, but it's mostly reserved for when the weather is too rough to get all the way to Koh Rung Sanloem. The best diving Cambodia has to offer are the overnight trips to the Koh Tang group, where large pelagics are seen regularly and visibility is double what you will find at the closer sites. 2 dive day trips USD59-85, overnight trips USD185-325 all inclusive.
- Golden Spa & Massage (Opposite Monkey Republic), ☎ +855 11 921110. Massages as well as nail care, body scrubs.
- Snorkelling. Possible around most of the islands, with the best snorkelling being at the further our islands for visibility, corals and fish. Many restaurants at Serendipity Beach advertise a snorkelling trip for USD15, but most are incapable of properly explaining what their offer includes. Most will boil down to the same trip organised by one of the travel agents which includes (simple) breakfast at the beach, a visit to two snorkelling spots and a 3 hour lunchbreak at Koh Russei (Bamboo Island). If you are serious about your snorkeling, you should consider going with one of the three scuba dive shops, to ensure you get proper gear.
- The Cambodian Children's Painting Project. (CCPP). This is located on Serendipity Beach Rd. CCPP is a NGO which works with impoverished Cambodian children. Together with volunteers the children create art which is then sold to help support the children's families and the project itself. As part of the project children are provided with access to education, painting materials, sport activities, two meals a day, medical assistance and dental assistance. Social workers are employed to work with the children's families. You can help by becoming a volunteer, donating painting materials, buying a painting, donating money or by holding an exhibition of the children's art.
- Unspoiled Island Day Trip. Finding a clean and unspoiled beach (apart from private Sokha Beach) is challenging in Sihanoukville but can be found a couple of hours away on the island Koh Rong Saloem. Daily ferries can take you there in the morning or a one-day trips including snorkelling, fishing, lunch and light breakfast. This particular company takes its passengers to a deserted 5 km strip of deserted beach. It's run by a very fun and entertaining German named Robert. There is also accommodation on the island at Lazy Beach. EcoSea Diving offers overnight trips to Koh Rung Sanloem as well, where accommodation is in small basic cottages. Unfortunately there are a lot of sand flies on the island. Prepare to be bitten. USD15.
Along the beaches, especially at Ochheuteal Beach, there are many food stalls and some restaurants serving grilled, meat, chicken, and seafood with chips/fries and a beer for USD3-4. There are a good many restaurants in town as well. Sihanoukville has a surprisingly diverse set of cuisines.
- Angelo's Restaurant (Near Golden Sands Hotel). Excellent BBQ (try the ribs!) and Greek cuisine.
- The Beach Chalet (Otres Beach). Cambodian and Western food, fresh and cheap. Prices are fixed all the year. Staff friendly, always helping you in all what you need. Try the barracuda or red snapper BBQ.
- Cinderellas Coffee Shop (Serendipity Beach Rd, opposite Monkey Republic), ☎ +855 12 613380. Very pleasant coffee shop/cafe just off Ochheuteal Beach with comfortable indoor and terrace patio seating. Reasonably priced menu featuring Western, Korean, and Asian dishes. In addition to coffee there is beer, wine, and cocktails.
- Grand Restaurant Kampuchea (Next to Angelo's and across the road from the Beach Club on Tola St). The chicken amok curry (served in a coconut) is a particular highlight (USD3). Traditional Khmer food.
- Happa (Serendipity Beach Rd). apanese teppanyaki (hot plate) restaurant.
- Ku Kai (Serendipity Beach Rd). Japanese restaurant.
- Look Bar and Restaurant (On Victory Hill in Bar St). Free pool, multiple TVs, Wi-Fi and a wide selection of drinks and food. Weekly blues/rock/rock'n'roll live music and BBQ with Latino music.
- l'Luna d'Autunno (On the right hand side of Ekareach St, a short way before the bend down to the Golden Lions). Italian. The staff are well-trained and friendly, and prices are not overly expensive. Pasta or pizza at around USD8-9.
- Maharajah (Royal Indian Cuisine Halal) (Victory Hill), ☎ +855 15 966221. Siem Reap's popular Indian, now opened a sister restaurant in Sihanoukville. USD3-10.
- The Mexican (Serendipity Beach Rd), ☎ +855 12 315338. Mexican, Western, and Khmer food.
- Mick and Craig's Restaurant and Guesthouse (Near the Golden Lions). A Sihanoukville institution which has been providing comfort food in Sihanoukville since 1997. Their Mexican menu and Sunday roast are particular favourites. Also have rooms with fan and bath set in a tropical garden. Clean and comfortable. Rooms, USD8-12.
- Noh Kor Phnom (Occheuteal Beach (inland, on first road to beach when coming in from town)). Friendly no-frills seafood restaurant with an extensive menu of over two hundred options.
- La Paillote (Victory Beach), ☎ +855 12 632347. French-Khmer cuisine in one of the finest restaurants in the country. USD5-11.
- Pim's Restaurant (Ochheuteal Beach). Western a la carte menu, BBQ and wok menu. Traditional Cambodian evenings. Nine hole mini-golf, boules, darts, pool, and table tennis.
- La Reserve Sihanoukville (Victory Hill). Gourmet French cuisine with master chef, Patrick Escribe, Table de France.
- Same Same But Different. Reasonable food, good prices, good staff. Excellent Thai green curry.
- Sunshine Cafe (Otres Beach), ☎ +855 12 828432. Great cafe and beach bar on the more relaxing Otres Beach. Run by a Polish lady and her family who cook excellent food. It has a nice community atmosphere. Her Khmer partner runs boat trips, USD15, to more interesting places than the other boat tours. He also does night fishing boat trips when there are sufficient numbers. They also have a small number of simple beachfront rooms for USD5.
Golden Lion Plaza at Occheteal Beach, 10 friendly bars in one street, all for picking up prostitutes. Avoid this area unless you are looking for that.
The trend on Serendipity Beach is to advertise a permanent happy hour, which usually implies cocktails for USD2-2.50 and draft Anchor beer for as little as USD0.50-0.75. Beer prices generally rise to USD1 at night with cocktails remaining USD2-2.50.
- Dolphin Shack (On Serendipity Beach). USD0.50 happy hour draft, USD2 vodka mixers, outside dance floor. The most crowded bar on the beach for both tourists and locals, especially popular late night.
- Emerald Bar (Near the bus station downtown). The best Irish pub in Sihanoukville, established in 2004. This restaurant and bar serves Irish whiskey, Guinness (of course!), and has a great menu of Irish foods.
- JJ's Playground (On Serendipity Beach). The main competitor to Dolphin Shack and Nap House, a late night bar open on Serendipity Beach, attracting a large Western crowd and has inexpensive drinks throughout the day and night. Unlike Dolphin Shack, JJ's does not allow in the local "bar girls".
- Maybe Later (On the way to Serendipity Beach). Late night bar and Mexican restaurant offering tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and more. Good cocktails and quality drinks.
- Nap House (On Serendipity Beach. From Golden Lion Roundabout, go Beach Rd south and continue on steep road down to beach. Last plot on the right, beach front). Open late. Open air disco. Loads of people.
- Sky Bar & Restaurant (just off Serendipity Beach). USD0.50 happy hour draft. 09:00-19:00. USD2.50 cocktails, Western and Khmer food, run by 4 super friendly sisters. A great place to hang out and make new friends.
- Utopia Guesthouse (On the hilltop on the main street above Serendipity Beach). Open late. Beers as low as USD0.25 during the day and USD1 at night. A combined budget guesthouse and large bar. More relaxed atmosphere than the hectic beach bars, begins to get crowded after 23:00. Utopia is the main late night drinking spot in the serendipity area that is not on the beach.
Bars in town:
- Captain Morgan (Golden Lions Plaza). Open late. Nice looking bar with friendly staff. Food and snacks.
- Cheers Cambodia. The first 100% gay boutique hotel, restaurant and bar in Sihanoukville. Has seating for over 60 at the moment & standing room for over 200, surrounded by palm trees & gardens the bar is located behind the hotel so it is very private. The bar is tastefully lit by LEDs.
- Star Bar (downtown behind Shell gas station). Extremely cold Anchor draft beer (happy hour USD0.50, rest of the day USD0.75). Friendly waitresses. Good pool table. Decent kitchen with Western-oriented menu. Popular Wednesday evening barbecue USD2.
There are several small shops in the town, plus a standard Cambodian market ('Psaa Leu'). Although tourism is growing, don't expect large-scale tourist markets.
Several clothing and souvenir shops are opening downtown and around the Victory Hill and Ochheuteal area as well.
ATM machines can be found throughout the city. Downtown, there are ATMs from ANZ Bank, Canadia Bank, and Acleda Bank. There are also ATMs around the "Golden Lions", on Beach St, at CCS Hotel and one at the Golden Sands Hotel, Occheuteal Beach.
- Rajana (Above the Starfish Cafe). Handicrafts.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Sihanoukville on Wikivoyage.