Just about every travel blog and local Cambodian that we spoke to warned us, “Don’t visit Sihanoukville!”.
The most common complaints ranged from “It’s dirty” to “It’s dangerous” to “Too many bogan tourists” to “Too many touts” to “Too many sex tourists”.
You know what, they’re all right, but at the same time we had a surprisingly good time in Sihanoukville and don’t regret for a second having stayed three nights there.
Each day our movements followed a familiar, and totally relaxing pattern.
1. ‘Relax’ massage parlour – some of the best massages we had in Cambodia, and such great value at $7 for a head/neck/back massage if you get in before 4pm!
2. Otres beach – take the taxi from town ($4 one way), because you really don’t want to be walking by yourself between Serendipity and Otres beaches..it looks like a mugging waiting to happen! On our two full days in ‘Snooky’ we spent the better part of both firmly ensconced in a cane armchair, cocktail within arm’s reach and the sound of the ocean in our ears. There are a couple of dozen beachfront cafes lining the waters edge, with all offering great food and beverage options. The touts, while still present, are far less prevalent and pushy compared to those that seem to patrol Serendipity beach with military fervour! I actually had one of the touts on Serendipity tell me that my toe nails were looking way too long and that a pedicure was the only solution!
3. Serendipity beach – of an evening it was interesting to mingle with the masses, moving from bar to bar (making sure we dodged the hostess bars!) trying to find the right musical and social ‘fit’. At one stage we thought we’d found our perfect watering hole, thumping D&B/electro cranking from their sound system and fire dancers out the front, only to find them shift into some lame R&B for the rest of the night…still, their drinks were cheap!
4. Food – we found some really good cafes and restaurants in Sihanoukville, with Sandan being the pick of the bunch. The variety in the menu and the quality of the cooking was second to none. It was probably one of our top 3 meals in Cambodia to be honest. The eagerness of the staff was so funny to watch, with three or four clambering over each other in order to be the ones that could help us out! Very endearing and it showed how committed they were to providing the best customer service possible. By visiting Sandan you’re also supporting a great cause. I’ll let the words from their facebook page explain:
“Sandan is a training restaurant run by former street youths and their teachers from the local organisation M’Lop Tapang.
Our goal is to give these hospitality students the practical experience and confidence necessary to gain safe employment in Sihanoukville’s growing tourist industry.
M’Lop Tapang has been working with the street children of Sihanoukville since 2003. We currently work with over 3000 children and youths, and over 1000 families at nine specialist centres in the Sihanoukville area. We provide safe shelter, medical care, family reintegration, sports and arts, education and training, counselling, family supportand protection from all types of abuse.
All profits from Sandan restaurant are reinvested into M’Lop Tapang’s programs. For more information on M’Lop Tapang – or to browse some of the products for sale made by youths in training and the mothers of children in our programs – visit the gift and information shop located inside the restaurant.”
On one of our days we also found ourselves inside one of the numerous ‘movie theatres’ scattered around Snooky. A small room, big screen TV, couch for two and a PC hard drive full of pirated movies, you’re set for the next two hours! Iron Man 3 thank you very much!
Regarding safety, we didn’t have any issues whatsoever, but I can see how alcohol, mixed with a naive or aggressive tourist, together with the obvious poverty of the region could result in trouble. Stick to populated areas, don’t leave your valuables lying around and be sensible and you won’t have any issues at all.
All in all it was a very relaxing time 🙂
This video is before the storm…
And here’s some video of the storm when it hit! 5 minutes later though and it was all sunshine again.