I managed to take no pictures of our time spent in Sihanoukville. Can you believe that? So…I only have words for now.
modestly named after King Sihanouk, is an American built port city on coastal Cambodia. It is notably the nation’s newest city. There’s a lot of sandy beaches, garbage, begging children, casinos and monkeys.
Getting from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is extremely straight forward. It is roughly a 5 hour bus ride, which is a nice relief from those 10-20 hour trips you have been enduring lately if you’ve made it this far. We chose to go with Capitol Tours this time and the bus was in pretty good condition. It should put you back $5-6 USD and the benefit is that the Capitol bus station in PP is centrally located. The midway stop is at a large, well kept company owned restaurant with surprisingly decent squat toilets.
The bus will let you off down town Sihanoukville but you will likely want to take a tuk-tuk to the Serendipity Beach area (the most polluted yet popular beach by far). The social hostels are located up the top of the hill (ask for Monkey Republic or Utopia Bar, any tuk-tuk will know it). This area is also a great place to shop small boutiques, grab a handmade sandwich or potato salad, eat some Indian food or rent out a private movie room (BYOB!) Accommodation on upper Serendipity Road serves as a good base due to its access Serendipity/Occidental Beach (it’s the same beach). The most populated end of the strip is in walking (or stumbling) distance and if you commission a tuk-tuk home it should cost no more than $1-2. There are no guest houses directly on Occidental. They are located on the road that runs along the beach which is 200 metres or so inland. Said guest houses are not very social compared to the ones in the vicinity of Monkey Republic. A walking path extends the length of the beach, lined with bars and restaurants. The further east you travel down the beach, the quieter it is. The far end is typically enjoyed by holidaying locals.
Serendipity is a social hotbed. Large bamboo chairs, sofas and tables dot the sandy beach. After the sun goes down, the real seediness and hedonism stirs: cheap drink specials, nearly naked prostitutes, beer pong, sweaty dance parties, drugs, fireworks and child beggars. Pick your poison.
We arrived in town and settled on making our way as quickly as possible to Koh Rong. We booked our tickets for the following day and made our way to Serendipity for dinner. Settling on a restaurant we indulged in some seaside BBQs and sunk into some $0.50 USD draft beers. Ten minutes later the children descended. At least the kids here have diversified from the typical book-and-bracelet offering. Here they peddle bottle rockets (30 rockets per tube) or will thread all of your body hair. I have never had a child make me feel so hairy as when she was trying to sell me on having my brows, arms and legs threaded. Actually, she was not a child at all. She said she was 16 but who really knows. However, she was extremely notable because she spoke impeccable English, rapped Nicki Minaj and proclaimed Justin Bieber as her boyfriend. I ended up buying a headband from her because I had to applaud her competitive advantage. As memorable as she was for her sales excellence, we had an equally memorable encounter with a boy beggar. Greg’s pet peeve is being peddled while eating. He told a boy to come back after we had finished dinner. He left, but returned within minutes. Having a commerce degree and all, he thought that this young pupil may appreciate a word of Western business wisdom. Not the case. Hugely not the case. This boy pulled a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on us like nobody’s business. Before I knew it he was spitting venom at us, cursing us out, calling me a C-U-Next-Tuesday and verbatim, “I hope you get pregnant and then the baby dies!” That little shit cursed my unborn child! Boom, cue group anger. When we went to settle our bill the kid followed us, where he tried to instigate a fight with our party. Our party consisted of three grown men. I don’t think that any of them had ever felt the urge to hit a kid upside the head until then. In solidarity we all agreed to stop talking to him such that he would lose interest. This child was so awful. Group consensus was that in just a few short years he will no doubt be a criminal, thug or gangster.
Begging at Serendipity Beach
It’s probably the worst in Cambodia. It is bad in Siem Reap because it’s sad. In Sihanoukville it’s relentless. Everyone from kids selling wares, breastfeeding women eating restaurant leftovers, manicurists, threaders to under age prostitutes comb the beach. Many kids are actually pulled from school and receive English lessons from tutors because the tourism industry is more lucrative. Beware that any time spent on the beach, be it during the day or after dark, will be marked by solicitors.
This is the accommodation we used for one night. It just happened to the be first place our tuk-tuk dropped us off at (no doubt he was commissioned by them). It was okay. We managed to pay $10/room with A/C which is pretty good. It is also very close to the beach access to Occidental. On the down side, it’s a dark, kind of sketchy little skip to the beach. Moreover, Angela and I returned early while the boys stayed out. We heard a noise outside and Angela investigated. She discovered some person trying to look into her vacant room. Weirrrrd. I wouldn’t stay there again.
Staying Safe in Sihanoukville
I read that in recent years a female tourist was raped while walking down Serendipity Beach and many websites urge against wandering alone after nightfall. Be aware that muggings and incidences of drugging drinks (both typical SEA dangers) are prevalent here. Lastly, I’ve read that swimmers should take extra caution due to the boat and jet-ski traffic in the shallows. Apparently some have been injured by drivers who like to drive close to shore.
Getting to Koh Rong
We purchased round trip tickets from the guest house. This is your typical transportation scheme. We were told by the salesperson that this would include the tuk-tuk to the wharf and round trip ferry. What actually happened is that we were transported by tuk-tuk to a cafe (just up from the huge round-about with the gold panthers) and made to wait half an hour. The tuk-tuk indicated that we should pay for the fare but we were adamant that it had been included in our packaged fare and refused. (We tipped him though.) From there a van took us to the wharf and we boarded a ‘ferry.’ The ‘ferry’ leaves twice daily, early in the morning and then around noon. Inquire with a guest house for more details.