A popular summertime spot for Khmers, Sihanoukville is really a port town, but the beaches are good, there are some good accommodations choices, and it’s very affordable. Trips to outlying islands for scuba diving and snorkeling are attracting more and more Western tourists.
By car The U. S. -built Route 4 between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is a long, straight, smooth ribbon of highway; if this sounds ideal, it just means that people go like the dickens on this road, and accidents are many, as are fatalities at roadside, in villages where the relative danger of this high-speed road is not yet understood. Be extremely careful should you choose a self-drive option along this stretch.
By bus Frequent, convenient buses connect Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The 3 hour in an air-conditioned bus with Mekong Express (023/427-518). Capital Tours (023/ 217-627) and Sorya Transport (023/210-859), among others, offer daily connections to and from Phnom Penh, usually leaving in the morning.
Sihanoukville is set on a wide peninsular area jutting south and east into the Gulf of Thailand. The peninsula is shielded by islands Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sam Leuem, Koh T Kiev, and Ko Ses are among the many. Starting on the north end of the peninsula, find the busy port area, just south of which, tracing the coast, you’ll find Victory Beach, Independence Beach, Sokha Beach, and Ochheuteal Beach to the far south. Ekareach Street turns inland at the terminus of Route 4, just past the busy port, and cuts a path across the peninsula to the downtown market area before ending at the Golden Lion Monument near Ochheuteal Beach. Signs point the way from Ekareach to the beaches along its length.
Motodups, the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis, are everywhere in Sihanoukville and your best bet for ferrying to and from the beaches. Bicycle and motorbike rentals are also available. Distances and the many hills along Ekareach Street make hopping a moto or renting one worthwhile, but once at the beach, you can easily walk around town.
Fast facts: Canadia Bank (034/933-697) and Mekong Bank (034/933 867) both have convenient branches, with cash exchanges, in the downtown area along Ekareach Street. The telephone code for Sihanoukville is 34, and IDD phone services, as well as cheap Internet phone connection at the Internet cafes, abound. Ocean Mart is in a convenient location close to the major beaches and next to the main traffic circle (beside Golden Lions Traffic Circle), and you’ll find terminals aplenty at local restaurants and bars. Emergency services in Sihanoukville are nonexistent, and any major medical issue means evacuation to Phnom Penh or on to Bangkok. The International Peace
Clinic ( 012/794-269), at the center of town on Ekareach Street, offers basic first aid, 403 and the Sokha Beach Resort (Oceanside at Sokha Beach; 032/935-999) has a doctor on call at their own private clinic.
Where to Dine
Dining in Sihanoukville means mostly good seafood for little cash, and there are lots of oceanside budget stops. Expats are putting up shingles around town advertising tastes of home and cocktails. Sokha Beach Resort (see above) has a fine seafood restaurant.
Bamboo Light Cafe sri lankan Like their popular restaurant in Kampot, the folks at Bamboo Light serve great Sri Lankan fare, including hot curries (or tempered to your taste) with chapatti or nan bread, as well as Sri Lankan Kottu roti, a dish of roti pancake mashed up with potato, curry, and vegetable. Everything is delicious, and they can even put together a good packed lunch for any day trips.
No 78 Ekareach St., in the downtown area. 012/925-707. [email protected] Daily 7am-10pm.
Mick and Craig’s Western These guys are the real originals in Sihanoukville, and backpackers and expats alike flock here. Some of the best food in town is here, served in a casual open-air setup with good tunes, a busy bar, and a billiards area. You can sign up for trips with their in-house eco-tour company, pick up a book in their casual book corner, or even stay in their new guesthouse (the whole place has just moved to a new location near Serendipity Beach, just behind the Lion traffic circle, and they’re calling it a “sanctuary” now). They offer lots of favorites from home: pizza, sandwiches made with bread baked on-site, snacks like nachos and potato skins, steaks, bangers and mash (sausage with mashed taters), grilled fish, and good veggie offerings (including a yummy veggie burger), as well as lots of good Khmer dishes. Dessert is apple crumble or ice cream. Extensive breakfasts are the best cure for that Sihanoukville hangover: muesli and fruit or the full-on hangover fry-up.
Just adjacent to the Golden Lion Traffic circle at the head of the road leading to Serendipity Beach. 012/727-740. Daily 7am-11 pm.
Snakehouse Here’s a fun night out. Part restaurant, part menagerie of jungle with snakes, turtles, and crocs. The animals are well taken care of in stylish displays, and the restaurant has a cool, laid-back feel. The food is good (the animals are for viewing, not eating). Snakehouse serves up a good scleclion of local dishes and standard international fare, anything from spaghetti to steak and sandwiches. The place is up on a hill above town and makes for a fun evening.
Soviet St., on the hilltop near Sihanoukville’s busy backpacker ghetto. 012/673-805. Daily 8am-11pm.
Starfish Cafe Set up as an NGO to train and employ people with physical disabilities, many of whom are victims of antipersonnel mines, the Starfish Cafe gives hope to a group of people who are systematically shunned by Khmer society, funding local literacy programs and serving as a drop-in point for clients of the Starfish Project (see their website for more information). The place offers a time-tested formula of good sandwiches, baked goods, and light local fare. The friendly staff can offer good information about local tours and travel. There’s an upstairs reading area and a shaded courtyard. They sell popular T-shirts, as well as products from the Snar Dai Project, which sells goods made by mothers of street kids.
Just behind the Samudera Market at the town center. 012/952-011. www.starfishcambodia.org. Daily 7am-6pm.
Apart from sticking your toes in the sand and sipping cocktails, tours to outlying islands are the main attraction in Sihanoukville. Contact the friendly folks at EcoAdventures (Samudera Market, Town Center, Sihanoukville; 012/654-104; www. ecosea. com). They arrange great day tours with stops in remote coves where clients can snorkel or take a scuba course. The diving is mostly shallow and the visibility varies, but EcoAdventures is a very professional outfit, and a day on their boat whether diving, snorkeling, or taking in the scenery over their tasty lunch buffet (or diving off the top deck) is alone worth the trip down to Snooky.
For tours to outlying hills, contact the friendly folks at Eco-Trek Tours Cambodia, next to Mick and Craig’s Sanctuary, Serendipity Street ( 012/987-7073 or 016/876- 200; [email protected] com). For car and taxi service on to any other parts of the area, contact any hotel front desk.