I picked Sihanoukville for my beach week in Cambodia. Even though I had quite a pleasant time there, I would generally recommend that you avoid beach time in Cambodia. Unfortunately, most of the beaches are dirty throughout the country, main issue being trash on the beach. The water temperature is nice, but the water isn’t the clearest so not a good destination for diving or snorkeling. Cambodia does have nice areas that happen to have a beach and great river swimming (subsequent posts), but as far as beaches themselves go pretty much all of the surrounding countries have nicer beaches. The garbage issue is really out of control, as a point of reference beaches in India (Goa specifically) were much cleaner than Cambodian beaches. That being said if you stay at a beachside resort (or even beachside hostel), the staff succeed in keeping the beachside area immaculate.
Sihanoukville is rather large. The popular areas for vacationers are the Serendipity, Ochheuteal, and Otres beaches. Otres is itself divided into three areas, Otres 1, Otres 2 and Otres Village. I stayed in Otres Village. Here are the relative advantages, disadvantages of the areas, and always keep in mind that they are relatively distant from one another so unless you have a scooter you’ll be spending some cash to move from one to the other. Moto taxi is the cheapest way to get around by far.
Serendipity is closest to the main action in the city of Sihanoukville. The city itself isn’t altogether interesting but it offers all the amenities of a small city (200K inhabitants as of 2008). If you need a replacement phone or computer, you’ll be able to find one easy in Sihanoukville, as I did for the latter. Buses generally arrive in Sihanoukville proper so Serendipity is convenient in that regard and also if you like a large variety of restaurants and bars to chose from. Ferries also arrive at Serendipity which makes it more convenient but also less pleasant in terms of swimming and relaxing. I was able to easily rent a scooter so I did spend the better part of a day down there, but I really didn’t like it, at least during the day. There are plenty of beachfront bars and restaurants along the boardwalk but vendors constantly harass you and it just felt hotter and less chill than the other beaches. If you’re a young un’ and want to party the night away, Serendipity may be appealing to you but it did nothing for me.
Ochheutal Beach is the next major beach south, about a 20 minute scooter ride away. This beach was just too quiet for my tastes, there’s nothing more than a beach stretch with some hotels and bars and it is closest to where the sewage treatment plant dumps out into the sea. Still better than Serendipity for my money, but Otres is better.
Otres beach is divided into two sides which are a 5 minute scooter ride away, so within walking distance of one another. Otres 1 has way more restaurants and bars than 2, but still retains a nice chill vibe. You can just sit back and enjoy cheap food and drinks in the company of nice people. Otres 2 is nice too, but the crowd is older so the restaurants though slightly better are significantly more expensive. Otres 2 was too quiet for my tastes but it is further away from the waste water plant than Otres 1.
Then there is Otres Village where I stayed. The village is smack in the middle of Otres 1 and Otres 2, but a 8-10 minute walk from the beach. The beach area right there is totally undeveloped so if you want to hang out on a beach undisturbed that’s your best bet. However, you’ll have to deal with the beach garbage issue. Otres village is a solid 25 minute scooter ride away from Sihanoukville and is REALLY quiet. At night there are really two bars, and maybe four restaurants around. However, the people in the village are super nice and you’ll run into more locals and foreigners who actually live there. Plus, the two cool events of Sihanoukville, the Market (a good bar that only opens on Saturday night with a ton of DJs) and Kerfuffle (jungle party with a ferris wheel and more DJs) are closest to the village. If you’re inclined to visit Sihanoukville, I’d go with Otres 1 or Otres Village. Oh and don’t go during rainy season. I had monsoon-level rain pretty much every day I was there. I generally got 4-8 hours of nice weather during the day so not terrible but not much of a beach stay.
Pictures of the quaint Moonflower Bungalows where I was staying. I’d highly recommend it, really nice owner, super clean and cheap. Plus he makes a killer gin and tonic:
As I mentioned earlier, the beach is a short walk from Otres Village. Here are pictures of the road down to the beach and the nice isolated beach between Otres 1 and 2:
I spent a good chunk of my time during the day at a hostel called Sea Garden in Otres 1. The food there was crazy cheap, they had a long and generous happy hour, and the beach in front was groomed immaculately:
My favourite place in Sihanoukville was a bar by the name of The Village Idiot, owned by the same proprietor of the Sea Garden. He’s the main bartender every night, sells $1 drafts of beer and is one of the friendliest owners I’ve ever met. By the end of my stay I was a regular and was always made to feel welcome. It also opens late and closes super late so it’s the best place to hang out at with nice people late into the night:
A shot in Otres Village at night:
On my second last night in town I went to the last Kerfufle party of the season. It’s a jungle party in the middle of nowhere, a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from Otres Village. There is literally nothing else around which makes it an excellent place for a brightly lit ferris wheel and some random DJs. At one point about 2 hours into my time there I got hit with a torrential downpour. Picture me leaning into a bar, given that it was the only covered area around, holding my phone and camera into cover to avoid them getting soaked. I had to take a tuk tuk back to my hotel right afterwards as I was soaked and couldn’t put my gear back into my pockets. Notwithstanding getting monsooned on, I had a blast.
I’ll leave you with pictures of my time Kerfuffling (videos to follow once I’m out of Vimeo-banning Indonesia):