Sihanoukville is being transformed. Once a laid-back, paradise-on-a-budget, beachy port town in Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand, 5 hours by bus from Phnom Penh. Today, Sihanoukville is a large-scale construction site with 120 high rise apartments and resorts and casinos under construction with 50 additional casinos opening over the next two years. A central piece in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Sihanoukville is to become the new Macau.
Sihanoukville central is three kms from the coast. It is home to the Phsar Leu market, where you can find local clothing and food, handicrafts and souvenirs. The town also hosts mini-marts, food markets, repair shops and local retail.
Behind the town is Wat Leu or ‘Upper Wat’, one of five key Buddhist temples in the area set among open forestry. Transport is best by motorcycle, easily hired for US$6 per day. Remarque (tuk tuk) hire is reasonable – allow $15 per day.
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The main focus for visitors is Serendipity, where the road down to the wharf features a strip of eateries serving Chinese, Khmer and western food. You’ll also find hotels, retail and travel outlets and a few bars. The Big Easy hosts live music two nights per week and its $6.75 roast on Sunday is good value. From the Serendipity wharf, you can take a ferry or private charter boat to offshore islands which offer secluded beaches, forest treks, scuba diving and swimming. Deep-sea fishing, sailing, and island-hopping are also available.
From Serendipity, venture along to Independence, and the Sokha Resort Beach. The area features a monkey forest, the port itself and Victory Hill. Here you will find reasonable restaurants, cafes and bars, and plenty of cheap and cheerful accommodation as well as waterfront hotels like the New Beach. From here you can visit one of Asia’s best classic car showrooms replete with an aircraft on its roof.
Serendipity, Ochheuteal and Otres stretch into each other. Ochheuteal, close to Serendipity, features grass hut restaurants on the beach for wet-fresh seafood and delicacies like Amok and fish curry and washed down with a cold Anchor beer (about US$1 and sometimes US$0.50c during ‘happy hour’. Accommodation is varied: Try White Sand Palace and Water Theme Park and Sihanoukville Plaza.
Central Ochheuteal, heading towards Otres Beach, offers a 200-meter stretch of beach. Hotel rooms along the outer end of Ochheuteal cost as little as US$15 per night for a beachfront bungalow.
Otres is often divided into Otres1 and Otres2 to delineate between its beachside offerings. Otres 1 offers outstanding, quiet, comfortable accommodation like the Harmony Home Resort and Sunset Lounge. Otres 2 has a mix of accommodation including Annanas, which offers on-the-beach bungalows, the Ren Resort and the White Boutique hotel (and US$150 per night luxury villas with private pools).
Nestled 15-minutes from the beach and based around a river estuary and small lake, Otres River Village is laidback and relaxed: bungalow-style accommodation and friendly bars as well as a Saturday arts market. The vibe is quiet. Costs range from US$7 – US$35 per night depending on a/c and WiFi but can be negotiated. Stand-outs include the Heart of Venice, Sok Sabay, and Stray Cats.