Southeast Asia is one of the most beautiful regions in the world in terms of beaches. From the islands of Thailand to the coast of Indonesia, you're never more than a few days' journey from soft white sands and stunningly blue seas. Unfortunately, Cambodia is the weak link in the region. Sihanoukville, in Cambodia, is the country's most popular seaside resort, but a bit grim. In this post, I outline five things you need to know before booking a trip to the Sihanoukville beaches.
1. Sihanoukville's beaches aren't that pretty
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Balsam Mountain Off Road Jeep Ride...
Sihanoukville has two main beaches close to the city: Ochheuteal Beach and Otres Beach.
Ochheuteal is the most popular beach in Sihanoukville. Sure, it's a nice long strip of sand. But there are also numerous bars and restaurants with their corresponding sun loungers. Advertisers run around all day urging you to buy something. They are not exactly a relaxing vacation by the sea. The backpacker area in the far north, known as "Serendipity Beach," is particularly bad.
Also, the water is littered with trash, jet skis, and giant kiddie floats. You can't even swim because the risk of being hit by a recklessly driven jet ski is so high.
It is true that Otres beach is more beautiful. He is relatively quiet and reserved. But it is also 5 km from the city and there is no public transport to get there. If you are a budget traveler looking to enjoy the beaches of Sihanoukville, the $2 each way mototaxi ride may not be worth it.
2. They constantly harass you
If the crowds on Sihanoukville's beaches don't put you off, it may be the stress factor that does.
CambodiaIn general, it is a country with little stress, especially when it comes to motorcycle taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. Most of the time, they wait for you to approach them and ask for a ride. They hardly try to overwhelm you. But not in Sihanoukville. Even if you walk from your guest house to the restaurant across the street, you will be approached by several motorcyclists asking you to hire them as a driver and charging you $0.50 for the privilege. If you say “no” or ignore them, they honk at you, call you, and find ways to annoy you.
And then there's the leg-threading phenomenon on the beaches of Sihanoukville. Not sure what threading your legs is? I'll tell you! It's when hawkers on the beaches of Sihanoukville, Cambodia use a needle and thread to pull your hair out, essentially a substitute for wax. It is extremely painful. But instead of asking before they start using this treatment on your legs, they start working on you as they introduce themselves, without asking permission. ("I just showed you how it works," they say as you howl in pain.)
3. The hostel scene in Sihanoukville is the worst in Cambodia.
Aside from the litter, crowds, and hustle and bustle of Sihanoukville's beaches, the city itself will make your stay miserable.
When it comes to choosing a hostel in Sihanoukville, you have a choice: an extremely expensive guesthouse or a dormitory so terrible you can't even imagine it in your worst budget travel nightmares.
A hostel in Sihanoukville is less of a place to sleep and more of a bar with an attached bedroom. The clientele is made up of 18-year-old partygoers. Loud music is played until 6:30 am. People drink so much that they pass out by the pool, in the bathroom, or in bed.
The worst hostel on the Sihanoukville beaches, to be avoided at all costs.Utopia. Known throughout Southeast Asia for its wild parties and its "bedroom" consisting of a wooden plank with 15 mattresses pressed next to each other, the nights here get so out of control that severalThe tourists have drownedin the pool after being too drunk. Don't stay with utopia.
Only slightly better is the hostel opposite.Affen Republic. At least there are actual beds and the music turns off at 4am. m., but it's as disgusting as you'd expect from a $3 a night beach party hostel.
4. The islands off the coast are much prettier.
The only positive about Sihanoukville is that it is the gateway to a couple of beautiful offshore islands; the best known is Koh Rong. Here you will find the best beaches in Cambodia.
Koh Rong may not be the highlightparadise for backpackers to discoverIt used to be like this, but it's still pretty low-key compared to Sihanoukville's beaches.
The best way to explore this island is by taking a night diving trip. This is because most dive shops have access to private beaches. You really can be one of five people staying on your personal stretch of beach, and only the locals will keep you company. I recommend EcoSea Divers who charge around $25 per night all inclusive. The guest houses here are much nicer than the hotels in Sihanoukville.
It is a two hour boat ride to the island. In the open sea there are many possibilities to see dolphins. Diving is not as good asthailandoMalaysia, but since the reefs are only 10-12 meters deep, you will have plenty of time on the bottom.
5. Don't worry: not all of Cambodia is like Sihanoukville
Just a few hours from Sihanoukville is one of the most beautiful (and least visited) places in Cambodia. The city of Kampot on the Mekong is truly beautiful, quiet and low-key. It is surrounded by mountains. You can trade the beaches of Sihanoukville for the best landscapes in Cambodia.
The people are friendlier, both locals and expats. There is no discomfort. Finding cheap food is easy. There seems to be an unlimited supply of good places to stay - give it a tryCaptain Chin's Guest Housefor a $5 room. And the fantastic Epic Arts Café offers fantastic backpacker meals served by deaf waiters.
It all goes to show that near every hideous backpacker black hole, there is a great little town off the beaten track.
Do you still want to go to Sihanoukville? Here's how to get there.
If you're reading this and thinking, "Wow, I really need to go to Sihanoukville," then... more power to you. Find a walled beach resort and avoid everyone else there. The good news is that you can easily reach this city in one day from almost anywhere in Cambodia.
Buses run back and forth throughout the morning.Phnom Penh. Capital Tour has the cheapest tickets ($5 for a five-hour ride). It is easier to book through your guest house and pay only the commission than to try to locate the ticket offices of the bus companies.
You can also come from Battambang and (for theTemples of Angkor) From Siem Reap to Sihanoukville by bus, although it is a longer journey: it takes 12 hours. You can also do both excursions at night.
Also, Kampot and Kep are two hours from Sihanoukville by minivan. They pay between 5 and 8 dollars. Book in advance.
Internationally you can contact us directlythailandYVietnamfrom Sihanoukville. Ha Tien, Vietnam is a three-hour minibus ride on a partially paved road. Crossing the border is easy, but you will need a Vietnamese visa in advance. Ha Tien is a great place to start.the mekong delta, or you can take a bus thereHo Chi Minh City. Bangkok is a brutal 12-14 hour bus ride.
If you want to get to Koh Rong or other islands and don't want to take a diving trip, you can take a boat from the Serendipity beach area. Half a dozen companies offer a variety of options, all for around $20 round trip. The trip lasts between 1 and 2 hours depending on where you get off.
Where to eat in Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville is my least favorite place in Cambodia because it is very difficult to find good and cheap food in this city. You can find some of the best international rates in the country, but you'll pay more for it.
The night market in front of Psar Leu is the best place to grab a cheap street food. Alternatively, there is a night market centered around the Golden Lions roundabout, closer to Serendipity Beach Road. But it's more geared towards tourists and the cheapest meals start at around $1.50.
If you are looking for homemade food, Marco Polo offers the best pizza near the city center. Starfish Bakery and Cafe has a good breakfast selection and the best coffee is at Espresso Kampuchea.
Otres Beach offers more romantic beachfront restaurants, but I cannot praise any of the restaurants highly enough. If you are staying in the Serendipity Beach area, you will need to take a taxi.
In conclusion, I know that this post was really negative. But Cambodia's beaches just weren't for me. I believe in writing honestly about the places I visit, even if I don't have a lot of good things to say about them. If you decide to visit the beaches in Sihanouville, I hope you have a great time (and let me know if you do)!
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