A place that is rapidly becoming one of the hottest places to vacation is Cambodia. This may be quite odd for many to hear because most think of a third world, backward nation when they think of Cambodia. That may be the stereotype, but it clearly is not the reality.
The nation of Cambodia is home to one of the most spectacular tropical destinations on the planet. The province of Sihanoukville is quickly becoming a hotbed for tourists from all over the world. This is primarily true because it not only provides amazing scenic views, spectacular beaches, and unreal waters surrounding the area, but most of this tropical resort has been left untouched by human innovation for centuries. This has left it is a beautiful area to visit and spend a fantastic week or two basking in the sun.
Sihanoukville is surrounded on three sides by the Bay of Thailand. The province itself is on the southwest side of Cambodia and its provincial capital, also called Sihanoukville, is the deep water city with one of the largest ports in the region. It is quickly growing as a premier tourist destination, primarily because of the fact that it has some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet Earth.
The total area of this province is about 200 square miles and is the home to almost 200,000 people. The province is divided into four districts, which include an airport, a large urban downtown area, and a bustling transportation system. People of the region work in manufacturing, agriculture, textile and fishing as the primary sources of economic growth along with tourism.
Most of Sihanoukville is a peninsula with the upper northernmost portion of the province forming the foothills of the Elephant Mountains. There are several small groups of islands that dot the coastline, primarily found in the South and in the West. Many of these islands as well as the beaches, along the mainland have moderately developed beach areas, which provide spectacular tourist attractions primarily because they are unscathed for the most part.
The peninsula itself is separated from the main portion of Cambodia by the Elephant Mountains. One of the biggest tourist attractions within the province is the Ream National Park, which is home to two of the most beautiful islands in all of Southeast Asia, Koh Thmei and Koh She.
There are two primary urban centers within the province. The city of Sihanoukville is the largest of these, with Veal Rinh being the second largest urban center within the province. There are several large highways that help tourists and visitors to make connections all throughout the province, especially to airports and ports. There is also a thriving boat and tourism industry that can assist you in getting to any destination you desire.
Sihanoukville was originally referred to as Kompong Som. For thousands of years, this was a beautiful beach area that was used primarily for nothing more than fishing and as a gathering place for villagers within the area. As beautiful as it was here, this area had gone unnoticed by most of the world for millennium.
A little over 50 years ago, a construction project was started by a French-Cambodian group that carved out of the jungle area along this beach a deep-sea port that allowed French vessels to die in the nation. The site quickly became a hotspot because of its booming port and beautiful sandy beaches and drew the elite of Cambodia to this region to enjoy the majestic beaches.
Two businesses quickly materialized within the area, the Angkor Beer brewery and the Independence Hotel. This hotel even hosted the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1967.
In 1970 Cambodia descended into a civil war, in the area fell on hard times. The Independence Hotel was used for artillery practice by the reigning Khmer Rouge government. The port itself survived for some time and tells an American vessel was accidentally destroyed during one of these target practice sessions. The United States Air Force bombed the port relentlessly, virtually sinking it completely.
Rising from the Ashes
For 40 years, this area was basically left for dead. The dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge was not
interested in redeveloping this area, and it was basically left to its pre-1960 roots. Fishing and small gatherings were villagers became the primary purpose for this area and its islands.
In 1993, the Khmer Rouge had been overthrown and the United Nations was able to have the first election within the country. This election not only brought a new sense of hope for the nation but, also brought about a new call to use the beautiful areas of Cambodia to attract tourists to it. The Independence Hotel was rebuilt, and many of the former residents of Cambodia returned to this land to join the new renovation of their nation. As the 1990s were coming to a close, the New York Times dubbed Sihanoukville as “Asia’s next trend setting beach.”
With the province primarily consisting of a large peninsula, it is easy to see that using the beach areas of this land would be a draw for people looking for a spectacular vacation place. What really separated Sihanoukville from most of the tourist places that people would go to were the very things that people were critical of this nation for centuries.
For the longest time, Westerners viewed Cambodia in this region as a “backward” area that really didn’t fit the Western-style of doing things. People did not come to places like Sihanoukville because of the oppressive government that had been in power, the perceived rampant poverty, and the feeling that this nation wasn’t as sophisticated or modern as many other places.
People chose more traditional places to go to spend their vacations, like Rome, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, New Delhi, and London. They viewed these places as something a lot more it can to provide the proper vacation excursion that they were looking for.
While these places did offer a more “modern” feel to them, especially considering that they had such great history to them, there were also major issues that people discovered took away from the enjoyment of their vacation. Two of the most egregious issues that people had were related to crime and pollution. Cities like Paris, Beijing, London, and Rome, have had hundreds of millions of people living in visiting these areas for over 5,000 years. This is meant that there is a massive amount of pollution and litter that encompasses these areas. Large numbers of cars because of the large populations have also meant a heavily smog filled cloud encapsulating the cities, especially in Beijing.
Of course, where you have large numbers of people, you are frequently going to find criminals who were looking to take advantage of those large numbers of people. This is meant that thefts, assaults, rapes, and murders are a more frequent occurrence than anyone would like to admit. While the vacation destinations are beautiful, they also bring their own perils with them.
It is for these two primary reasons that Sihanoukville is becoming such a trendy alternative to the more traditional vacation spots that many of us think of. Maybe this region has been “backward” for thousands of years, but that meant that there has not been large numbers of people that have littered or cluttered these beautiful beaches and incredible shorelines. There is also not a large criminal population looking to prey on those who were simply trying to find a great place to visit.
What’s in Sihanoukville?
While there are not the same problems that you would find in these urban tourist centers, no tourist destination is going to be popular in less it offers something that people really desire. Sihanoukville is becoming such a trendy place because it does offer something quite unique in experience than what you would find in virtually any other place in the world.
If you are a tropical paradise kind of person, looking for beautiful beaches to be able to enjoy, then you will find no better place than Sihanoukville. Because this province lies on a peninsula most of the shoreline is covered with amazing beach areas. It is absolutely spectacular.
There are 12 that have become spectacular places for visitors to lay out in the sun or jump into the water at. These include:
Ochheuteal Beach – This beach is a little less than 3 miles of some of the widest sandy beaches you will ever see. Lining the shore is a spectacular array of Casuarina and Tamarisk trees that provide some great shade if you needed. There are 30 beach huts which serve drinks and meals. Some of these are great nighttime party locations for you, your family, or your friends to enjoy. There are rental chairs to use on the beach, and some of the best hotels flanked the beach area. The hotels are not intrusive upon the beach itself, ensuring that visitors do not feel intruded upon by larger structures.
Serendipity Beach – This is on the western and of Sihanoukville and is less than half a mile from Ochheuteal Beach. This has become a very popular destination for Western tourists, primarily because of the guesthouses that are located right on the beach. The location was given its name by an American who found this to be the most beautiful and unspoiled place on the earth.
Otres Beach – on the southern end of Occheuteal Beach you will find this roughly 3.5 miles long piece of beach that is referred to commonly as “The Queen Hill.” It too was lined with beautiful trees, but is far less developed than its sister beach to its north. Instead of having high-rise hotels, you find bungalows and dormitories here that are run primarily by Westerners. This is one of the most popular areas in the world for Westerners to go to during the holiday season, as they look to avoid the cold weather of their native countries.
While these three beaches are quite spectacular visitors should be aware that there are many great destinations within Sihanoukville, where you can go to enjoy a beautiful day out in the sun. Virtually all of them come with hotel or resort accommodations on or near the beach area and all are priced extremely reasonable in comparison to virtually anywhere else you would go on the planet. It is not uncommon to find five-star service in any resort hotel in this province that cost less than $20 a night. You will surely not find this kind of deal for what you are receiving anywhere else on earth.
There are 22 different Islands to Sihanoukville. Many of them have recently become available for tourists to visit or stay on during their time in Cambodia. These islands are quite spectacular, because of the lack of human intervention on the islands themselves. You will not find tall skyscrapers or even multistory hotels on any of them. Most of the accommodations that are provided are either in the form of dormitories, bungalows, or guesthouses. This gives the islands a beautiful appearance, because the views are undisturbed by large man-made structures. In fact, many of the bungalows blend in perfectly with the natural landscape or are built in such a way as to remind you of some kind of Robinson Crusoe style home on the beach.
Each of these islands provides majestic beaches for you to be able to enjoy a nice day out in the sun, was swimming in the waters around them. You will find plush forest areas on the interior of each island, where you can find amazing wildlife to experience in person. There are trails all over these islands that allow you to walk or rent a bike to get around and see. You can fish, snorkel, deep-sea dive, surf, or swim in the waters if you so desire. It is truly an unbelievable experience.
While they are a spectacular place to be during the daytime, it is at nighttime when they really shine (no pun intended) the most. Because there are a very limited number of man-made buildings, and because electricity is shut off at 11 o’clock each night, the view of the stars and the ocean is something that can only be witnessed to believe. You will not have large lights from buildings or streets obstructing your view here. You will get to enjoy the universe as it was intended to be enjoyed.
While all of the islands have their own special niche about them, there are four that are clearly a place you have to visit if you come there. Koh Thmei, Koh Seh, Koh Rong, and Koh Rong Sanloem are four of the most beautiful islands the planet has to offer. They have beautiful beaches, with inlets and bays that allow for easy and safe swimming, gorgeous forest areas that have beautiful animals and plants, and spectacular accommodations that allow for a very simple life while you are there. Each of these islands has bungalows and/or dormitories to them, allowing you to experience these beautiful islands to the greatest extent.
Activities and Features to Enjoy
It does matter whether you love to be on the water or not, there are things for you to be able to do, and have a lot of fun doing. If you love to swim, there are great beach areas where you can enjoy the waters to their fullest. This includes the ability to go deep-sea diving or snorkeling, with or without a guide. You can rent a boat for the day and travel between islands or simply go out into the Gulf to enjoy a day of fishing. You can join a tour that will take you around to the various islands, take a transport to another island to spend the day, or join a tour group that is going out to do some deep-sea fishing.
If you want to enjoy keeping your feet on the soil, there are tours that will take you into the jungle areas and show you a guided tour of the beautiful animals, insects, and other wildlife that are to be found in this tropical paradise. You will be able to see animals that you will not find anywhere else in the world. In fact, this region is home to the largest number of endangered and threatened animals on the planet.
If you are looking for good food to eat, there are dozens of restaurants and food shacks that line the beaches and roads. These include fine dining as well as to fast food style establishments. The seafood is caught daily and served at these restaurants, as is the fresh produce. You were able to find virtually all styles of Western dishes to eat as well as common Khmer style meals. You will find that your tummy is not longing for anything you will enjoy.
For those who want to get out and party, there are great clubs and bars that surround the beach areas. They are not only a great place to dance the night away, but they are also a very safe place to be able to do so.
The two large urban centers also provide great dining and nightlife for you. You can take transports and shuttles to get from any of your hotels or resorts to the cities. You will also find great shopping if you are looking for items from the country itself.