Sihanoukville & Cambodian Islands
Independent and comprehensive travel guide to Sihanoukville and the Islands of Cambodia
Sihanoukville In The 'Land Of Wonder'
The top ten reasons people give for visiting Sihanoukville
To Chill Out
It's Cool & Hot
The Cost Of Living
To Start A Lifestyle Business
It Isn't Thailand
On A Visa Run
1. The Islands Of Cambodia
Koh Ta Kiev
Koh Rong Samloem
Cambodia is blessed with numerous tropical islands that at present are pretty much unspoilt. Forget Thailand, that happened twenty or more years ago and now they are over-populated, over-priced and over-exploited. Cambodia is the happening island destination right now where you can still get a thatched beach bungalow within spitting distance of the ocean for ten dollars a night or string up a hammock for a dollar or two although the bulk of the beach bungalows being constructed now are more permanent structures with solid walls, en suite bathrooms and prices that reflect the fact. The real draw of the islands is being able to comfortably spend time on a pure white sand tropical beach and not have all-night rave music and flashing lights polluting the environment and scaring off all the wildlife. There are also some upmarket hotels situated on private islands offering luxury getaways and plans to build luxury hotels on Koh Rong in the near future. Sihanoukville is the point of departure for most of the islands and most people spend a night or two here before heading out to their dream island getaway. And yes, you can still find an entire beach to yourself complete with squeaky white sand and turquoise-coloured water.
2. The Beaches Of Sihanoukville
If you want to swim and feel burning hot white sand between your toes but enjoy having the amenities that a city of 250,000 has to offer then Sihanoukville has lots of beaches of its own. Being located on a peninsula means Sihanoukville is almost surrounded by them and each has its own different charm and personality. From sunrise beaches to sunset beaches, loud tourist beaches to quiet local beaches, party-all-night beaches to sipping-cocktails-at-sunset beaches there is bound to be stretch of sand to suit you and most hotels are situated just minutes from a beach while all beaches are reachable by motorbike within ten minutes from downtown 'Snooky' .
3. Party Party Party !!!
Apparently some people rent a room in a hotel but don't sleep during the night time. Many of the bars around town operate 24 hours a day during the high season and quite a few stay open 24/7 all-year round. Alcohol is cheap and somewhere there is always a party going on. Most of this happens around Serendipity and Ochheuteal but you can always find a bar or two open on Victory Hill at four in the morning and there are sometimes all-night parties going down on Otres Beach too. On the island of Koh Rong around the main pier there are numerous late-night bars but if you are looking for tranquility, peace and quiet then Koh Rong Samloem island has beautiful beaches unpolluted by noise or light.
4. Heh Dude, Chill Out Man
Not the party type? Well you can chill as well. Reggae still blares out from some beach bars and the laid-back atmosphere can be found by either heading out towards one of the islands or the quieter beaches so whether swinging in a hammock gazing out to sea or kicking back down on Otres beach a stress-free time can be had by one and all.
5. Sihanoukville Is Hot...
Go home and tell everybody you have just got back from Thailand and they will probably not be all that interested as the package-tourism market has made visiting there as simple as catching a bus to the airport but go home and tell them you just got back from Cambodia and you will have them hooked. Drop into the conversation 'deserted tropical island in the Gulf of Siam' and they will be eating out of your hand. Cambodia is cool, hot, happening right now and still edgy. In ten years time you will be able to say that you were there before it changed and became commercialised in the same way Thailand has.
6. Meeting And Getting To Know People
With over half a million tourists arriving in the region each year there are lots of people looking to make new friends and about half the people you will meet in Sihanoukville will be of the opposite gender. The difference from back home is that they are here on holiday which means they are likely to be looking to have a good time. Also there are many locals looking for romance with an exotic foreigner. Sihanoukville is gay-friendly too and all party together in harmony. Plus most, if not all, hotels are girl friendly unlike over the border in Vietnam.
7. The Cost Of Living
Cambodia can be a cheap place to live but this depends on your lifestyle and habits. Most Cambodians live on less than one hundred US Dollars a month but you won't and as soon as you start consuming imported goods costs escalate quickly. Fortunately for most alcohol and cigarettes are as cheap as you will find anywhere in the world and a plate of food can cost as little as a dollar. Most items in the markets are imported from China, Thailand and Vietnam and are cheap compared to the West but relatively expensive for most Cambodians. Items that are imported from the West are luxury goods with luxury price tags with the notable exception of goods that are highly taxed in the West but have little or no tax here hence the cheap imported alcohol and cigarettes. Accommodation comes in all price ranges from a couple of dollars a night for somewhere to crash up to hundreds of dollars a night for a luxury suite in a five star hotel.
8. Start A Lifestyle Business
So if you like the hot climate and being at the beach what could be better than staying and starting up a business? If you spend most of your time in a bar why not get paid for it and open your own bar or maybe a restaurant because then you have an excuse to close before midnight and you can go and frequent someone else's bar. Numerous businesses open and close (sometimes within weeks) every year often changing hands for as little as five thousand dollars. That said opening a business in Sihanoukville is a relatively simple affair compared to the West and many foreigners do make a living here. You are unlikely to become a millionaire but if you put in the hard work and the hours mixed in with a little bit of business sense you can achieve a relatively high standard of living.
9. It Isn't Thailand
Okay, so Thailand was the place to go last century but now it's become too mainstream, too popular and too Westernised. Sure there are still large areas of Thailand that are free from commercialisation and package tourism but the best of the coast and the islands have been homogenised to cater for the lowest-common-denominator tourist. If you want to be surrounded by MacDonalds franchises, have jet skis mow you down when you swim and listen to wrinkly oldies complaining that is just too hot then Thailand is for you. If you don't then get to Sihanoukville quick because the pollution of mass tourism is spreading this way fast. Get here quick before Koh Rong becomes the new Koh Samui and becomes inundated with new hotel complexes.
10. On A Visa Run
So your Thai visa is running out and you need to leave the country to get a new one. Why not have a few days at the beach in Cambodia? What could possibly go wrong? For those people that currently call Thailand home a trip to Cambodia can open their eyes to how much Thailand has changed over the years. The false smiles are replaced by genuine warmth, the hectic atmosphere is replaced with a quiet laziness and the clogged streets filled with belching diesel trucks are replaced with wide thoroughfares pockmarked with cavernous potholes. Sihanoukville might operate on the same time as Thailand but it doesn't operate at the same speed.