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Sihanoukville - The Pristine Beach of Cambodia

Sihanoukville's white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or island trip or some scuba diving... generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out.

Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambodian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most Cambodian provincial cities. Nowadays, Sihanoukville is as much a beach town as it is a port town, catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. Still, the pace of life in Sihanoukville is very relaxed. Cows occasionally wander the main road, outside town foreign faces draw smiles and curious stares, and most of the beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries, and a growing number of restaurants, bungalows and hotels.

Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommodations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach, several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few 'upscale' three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses, especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill). Considering the moderate number of visitors to Sihanoukville, the town offers a surprising number and variety of restaurants and bars. Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish, has always been one of the town's biggest draws, but there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines - Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian, pizza places and even a couple of western-style bakeries. And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.
 

Now that most of the major roads are in good condition, regularly scheduled air-con buses crisscross southern Cambodia, making travel easy from Phnom Penh and connecting Sihanoukville with the other coastal cities of Koh Kong, Kampot, Kep, each offering its own unique character. And with the recent opening of the Prek Chak crossing with Vietnam and the completion of the final bridges on the road to Koh Kong earlier this year, the coastal traveler's trail from the Koh Kong crossing with Thailand, though the beach towns of Cambodia and on to southern Vietnam and Phu Quoc Island, is now open

What to see

Cambrew Brewery brews Angkor and Bayon beers, and Pepsi products. It was constructed in 1966 and operated by the government from 1967-75 brewing beers by the same name. The brewery was refurbished and production was reinstituted in 1991. 3 km north on National Route #4.

Fishing Port (Kampong Pier Nup Lok) sits about 2 km north of the main port on Hun Sen Beach Dr. Its wooden quay and surrounding village are a whirl of color and activity. A photogenic place. Fishing boats stream out of this port every night just before sunset - a beautiful sight, especially from Victory beach. 

Golden Lions Monument (Vimean Tao Meas) is a prominent landmark located in the middle of the traffic circle between Sokha and Ochheuteal beaches. The monument was constructed in 1996. The traffic circle is surrounded by Cambodian restaurants and karaoke places and the gardens around the monument have become a popular evening hangout for the locals, particularly local teens. 

Iber Bilkhalifah Mosque is utilized by the local Cham community. It’s almost hidden at the top of the first hill west of town center near the Red Snapper. Closed and locked most of the time. 

Independence Hotel (The Independence Boutique Resort and Spa,) located on the point between Victory and Independence beaches, was Sihanouk Ville’s premiere accommodation in the 1960’s. It was built in 1963 or 1964 during the heyday of Sihanouk Ville’s early development, and was abandoned when the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975. The hotel opened briefly again during UNTAC’s stay in the early 1990’s. The Independence Hotel has recently been completely renovated and reopened as The Independence Boutique Resort and Spa.

Independence Square consists of an open meeting hall on Ekareach Street (Independence Street), and across the street a small park containing the Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) and a small shrine. It was constructed in 1985 and honors the independence and war dead of Cambodia. Ceremonies January 7th. 

Port of Sihanoukville Constructed from 1955-60. The port waters are 11-13m deep except for an 8-9m point in the channel near Koh Pos. The older quay can be seen from Victory Beach jutting 290m into the ocean. The northern section consists of a 350m quay and 3117m of breakwater. Ships approach from the west or sw between Koh Pos and the mainland. 

Sihanoukville Mountain This 132m peak offers a spectacular view of the city, the islands and the beaches from Otres to the port. Take Rte 4 about 2.5km north of town. Make a right turn at the brewery and follow the road up the hill, about 200m past the pagoda. Walk out on the rocks. Excellent sunset spot.

St. Michael’s Church Constructed in 1962, this church served local Catholics until 1975. From 1975-79 the church was used as a prison, and after 1979 as storage until it reopened in 1993. It is active and serving 50 families, many of whom are Vietnamese. Note the ‘ship’s sail’ brickwork at the front and the boats on the sides. Designed by renowned Cambodian architect, Vann Molyvann, who also designed the Independence Monument and Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, and the 1960s State Residence in Sihanoukville. Just off the corner of Boray Kamakor and Kampuchea-Soviet Mittapheap Streets at the base of Sihanoukville Mountain.

Stung Hau Town District seat/small fishing town about 23km north on Hun Sen Beach Drive. Boat building, lots of fresh fish, no tourist facilities. Worth a half-day trip for look at a bit of small town Cambodia. Pleasant road trip along the ocean to get there. 

Victory Monument on the road just off Victory Beach was built in 1985 to symbolize Cambodia’s friendship with Vietnam and the Vietnamese-assisted victory over the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Also known as a Vietnam/Cambodia Friendship Monument. One of these monuments can be found in almost every major town in Cambodia.

Wat Chotynieng (aka Wat Leu, ‘upper wat’) overlooks town from the top of Sihanoukville Mountain. Paintings in the vihear depict the life of Buddha. At the rear are portraits of the founder, Prince Junot, and Lok Om (left), the leader of the Buddhist community in this area until his death in 1999. In front of the chapel is a statue of Lok Om, erected in 1996. 

Wat Utynieng (aka Wat Krom meaning ‘lower wat’) sits on a small hill on Santipheap St. overlooking the ocean. Very uniquely, this wat contains a building dedicated solely to Ya-Mao, a local deity.