Sihanoukville (Khmer: ក្រុងព្រះសីហនុ – Krong Preah Sihanouk), also known as Kampong Som, is a province in southern Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. This port city is a growing Cambodian urban center, located 185 kilometres (115 mi) southwest of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The province is named after King Father Norodom Sihanouk and grew up around the construction of Sihanoukville Port. Construction on the port began in June 1955 and it was the only deep water port in Cambodia. The port was built in part due to the waning power of the French leading to the Vietnamese tightening their control over the Mekong Delta and hence restricting river access to Cambodia. Sihanoukville’s beaches have made it a popular tourist destination.
The province is served by Sihanoukville International Airport, 18 kilometres (11 mi) from downtown, although it has a limited commercial operation. The planned flights between Sihanoukville and Siem Reap may encourage visitors to Angkor temples in Siem Reap to extend their stay, though the crash of a charter flight in Phnom Damrey on 25 June 2007 from Siem Riep, has caused concerns.
Sihanoukville attracts tourists with its relaxed beach atmosphere when compared to Thailand’s more developed ones. However, the city has attracted not only tourists, but several NGOs and foreign and national investors in the last years in order to develop not only the growing tourist industry, but its capacity as an international sea port and other sectors like textile and real estate. In Sihanoukville is also located the main factory of Angkor Beer, the Cambodian national beer.
Sihanoukville was the place of the last official battle of the United States army in the Vietnam War, although the incident took place outside Vietnam. It is known as the Mayagüez incident on May 12–15, 1975 between the US forces and the Khmer Rouge. Currently, visitors dive in Koh Tang, one of the Sihanoukville islands where the major battle to free the SS Mayagüez took place. Divers can see two shipwrecks 40 metres (130 ft) down.
On 22 December 2008, King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree that changed the municipalities of Kep, Pailin and Sihanoukville into provinces, as well as adjusting several provincial borders.
The annual average temperature in Sihanoukville is around 28 °C/82 °F. The maximum is 38 °C/100 °F in April and May. January in Sihanoukville sees a low of about 19 °C/66 °F. Temperatures in mountainous areas can plummet to 14-15 °C. It can even soar to the high 50 °F or higher during the winter months, and drop to freezing or lower in the nights. The Annamite Mountains in southern Laos get the highest average precipitation of more than 3000 mm (10 feet) per year. The average precipitation is highest in southern Laos, where the Annamite Mountains receive over 3000 mm (10 feet) annually. The annual rainfall in Sihanoukville is 1500-2000 mm (5 to almost 7 feet), and just 1000-1500 mm (3-5 feet) annually in the northern provinces.
Sihanoukville province is a small southern province of Cambodia. The capital sits on a peninsula with beaches and tropical islands around. Sihanoukville (also known as Kampong Som or Kampong Saom) was founded in 1964 to be the only deep-water port in whole Cambodia. It is gradually being redeveloped as a tourist attraction, but despite the promise of massive Malaysian investment – a casino is planned for Naga Island – tourist numbers are still fairly low. Also its nice with sand beaches and several paradise islands have made it popular as a tourist destination.
In honour to the king, who fought for the independency of Cambodia the provincial capital was called Sihanoukville. Located in the southwest corner of Cambodia, 232km from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville can be reached via National Highway N° 4. White-sand beaches that include O’chheuteal, Sokha, Pram Pi Chan, and Deum Chrey beautify this coastal city. These beaches are known for their quiet, cosy atmosphere and the large stretches of white sand and clear waters and these make them popular spots for families on vacation. These seaside paradises with the refreshing coolness of the fresh water streams can be enjoyed all year round.
Business opportunities in Sihanoukville are varied from financial activities to tourist and travel-related industries in conjunction with the government’s objective of making Sihanoukville a major tourist destination besides its status as an International Offshore Financial Centre. The government welcomes both foreign as well as local investors to participate on a joint-venture basis.
This famous see side resort is formed by wide and huge streets and quite new big concrete buildings, which lost any impression of the former architectonical colonial style. As the town is not a small place due to it’s wide spread urban areas, the best way to get around is to hire a motorbike. Beside the nice beaches and some very nice vantage points there isn’t that much to see in the town itself. To catch a nice view on the city you best climb the small hill to Wat Leu. Wat Krom is another place of interest as this is a recently build pagoda, because the older one was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and it houses a sanctuary called Yeah Mao, the guardian of the cost. Nearby to the town there are nice places for a detour such as the Ream National Park and the beautiful Kbal Chhay Waterfall.
Getting There & Away
As Sihanoukville improves a lot in parts of trade, tourist business and other sectors, the road to Phnom Penh had to be rebuild properly. Now you can run the perfectly paved National Highway No 4 linking the capital with this seaside resort (230km).
The province could also be entered directly through Koh Kong Province from nearby Thailand, as more and more tourists do. It’s doable either by the bumpy Major Road 48 passing the edge of the Cardamom Mountains or by speedboat from Koh Kong town, next to the Thai border.
To & From Phnom Penh:
Bus relatively comfortable; a/c buses depart Phnom Penh several times per day (starting from 7am to 1pm). The price is around 12,000R -16,000R for the 4 hours ride. The buses start mostly at the southwest corner of the Central Market (Phsar Thmey). In Sihanoukville, all buses arrive and depart from the central bus station on Street 108.
Minivans and guesthouse buses like from the re-known Capitol Guesthouse in Phnom Penh is running daily minivans to Sihanoukville. Departs Phnom Penh at 7:1am. 14,000 riel one-way. Buying a round trip ticket will grant you a little discount. In Sihanoukville contact Capitol Tours on Ekareach in the middle of downtown. SHV to PP departs at 12:30pm.
Most share taxis depart Phnom Penh before 10:00am, though you can still find one into the mid afternoon. The price varies between $3-5/person. Shared taxis offer a cramped and harrowing 2 1⁄2-3 1⁄2 – hour ride with 8 or more people stuffed in a compact car. Private taxis run about $20-$25. In Phnom Penh taxis wait at the southwest corner of the Central Market (Phsar Thmey). In Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh bound taxies wait on Street 108.
There are daily boats departing from Sihanoukville (500Baht, 4 hours) around noon for Krong Koh Kong. Most foreigners are unfortunately asked to pay 600Baht or $15. It’s worth the tour as you pass by some virgin beaches and nice costal formations.
It is a 230 km, 4-5 hour trip on NH No 4. 200cc minimum. Rent motorcycles at Lucky Lucky Motorcycle on Monivong, near Street 184 in Phnom Penh or at Angkor Motorcycles on street 51 near the famous Walkabout Bar. Fast, easy, but still relatively dangerous road. Speeding taxis and reckless Lorries are the norm. Slow down through the villages, watch for slow animals and oblivious children. By all means wear a helmet and bear in mind that medical help and rescue is virtually non-existent in the countryside.
There has been a slight rumour in recent years, that the 13km airport near Ream has been renovated, but there are still no scheduled flights to Siem Reap for the temples-beach combo tour.
Where to Eat & Drink
There is no shortage of restaurants in Sihanoukville; almost anything you want, you may get it. There are plenty of moderately priced Cambodian and international restaurants. Almost every restaurant offers Cambodian food. For the budget minded, check out the inexpensive Chinese places and the local food stalls and noodle cookshops next to the centre.
It would be a shame to leave town without savouring the delights of a meal of seafood, which unsurprisingly, is Sihanoukville’s speciality, priced by the kilogram and cheaper than anywhere else in the country. If you prefer informality, you can buy your own fish and seafood in the market, and any other accompaniments you fancy, and get them cooked up at one of the beach stalls. There are thousands of shacks offering tasty and reasonable barbecue in the evening right next to the beach.
That’s one of the interesting places to eat. It’s a restaurant and Bar with Russian and International cuisine. An absolutely unique venue: a restaurant/herpetarium carved into the middle of a lush garden maze with dozens of terrariums containing rare and poisonous snakes, exotic lizards, and artificial tide pools. Reasonably priced international and Russian fare. Located between north and south Victory Beaches.
Villa Garden Restaurant & Bar:
This nice international restaurant and bar is located on the Ochheuteal Beach Rd. between Ochheuteal and ‘Serendipity’ beaches. Brand new upstyle al fresco restaurant/bar at the DevaRaja boutique guesthouse, offering a unique and eclectic selection of western and Asian favourites and unique chefs choices and creations, many with an emphasis on seafood – shrimp scampi, crab quesadillas, Thai basil crab cakes and of course the daily fish special. Full bar with draft beer, cocktails and a new slate pool table.
Located at the Weather Station Hill this restaurant offers delicious Vegetarian, Mexican and Organic food. All vegetarian dishes employing organic ingredients as much as possible. Lots of special Mexican dishes, wraps, veg chilli, veg quesadillas, breakfast burritos and more. Organic veggies, organic brown rice, coffees, teas, and sugar, sourced locally. Memorable homemade desserts. Quality ingredients and hygienic preparation guaranteed. Sometimes Live acoustic music.
Where to Stay
There is only one deluxe hotel in Sihanoukville – Sokha Beach Resort (5 stars), the town has plenty of places to stay in other lower categories. Accommodation here can get incredibly busy during public holidays and festivals, when it’s as well to book if you want to stay at a particular hotel, though you are unlikely to be completely stuck for a place to sleep otherwise. Note that during peak season (Nov-March) and major holidays (particularly Khmer New Year), the hotels hike their prices 25%-30% above the normal price. It’s worth trying to negotiate a more favourable rate if you plan to stay for a week or more, or if you arrive during the week (even during the peak seaon).
Ramada Hotel & Resort:
Unique hill top hotel overlooking the ocean near the Port. Newly refurbished a/c rooms with all modern amenities. International restaurant. Swimming pool. Tennis courts. Range: $75 – $120
Superior mid-range accommodation, clean, air conditioned rooms with modern furniture, in-room safe, cable TV, wireless internet access in all rooms, swimming pool with Jacuzzi. Quality restaurant bar serving premium western and Asian dishes as well as a full range of fine wines, beers and spirits. Professional slate topped pool table and darts, friendly service. Range: $30 – $70
Unique, ornate bungalow/rooms set in a quiet, lush garden setting. Tastefully decorated, single and double rooms with all amenities and balcony. Swimming pool. Exercise equipment/gym. Next to the amazing Snake House Restaurant. Near Victory Beach. Range: $20 – $25
Charming hillside bungalows surrounded by 5000 square metres of fruit trees, flowers and large boulders. All with veranda, bathroom, fan and mosquito net, some with sea view and hotwater. Very nice restaurant offering excellent Asian specialties. Unique open-air cinema. Base of Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill). Range: $6 – $15
What to Do?
Independence Beach gets its name from the deserted hulk of the 7 -storey Independence Hotel at the north end. Locals call this beach ‘otel bram-pil chann (hotel 7-stories). It is labeled ’7-Chann Beach’ on the in-town street sign. Independence is more than a kilometer long, but the sandy area is much narrower making the beach best when the tide is low. The beach is wider and more tourists toward the northwest end near a small fresh water lake (which is the source of the town’s fresh water and is rumored to contain crocodiles). At the other end is the beach’s only hotel, Sea Breeze. Grass umbrellas and drink vendors only hotel, Sea Breeze. Grass umbrellas and drink vendors now line the beach from end to end but it is still much less frequented than other beaches. The road up to the old Independence Hotel is often frequented by a small troop of Rhesus monkeys but is currently closed while the hotel is undergoing renovation.
Deum Chhrey Beach
Deum Chhrey Beach is located in fornt of the City Hall. Few tourists swim here because there is a big restaurant nearby. It is popular with tourists who like walk along the beach, however, because there is a picturesque park filled with statues, making site popular with photographers.
Kbal Chhay Waterfall
Kbal Chhay waterfall is located in Khan Prey Nup, about 16 kilometers north of the downtown Sihanoukville. To reach the site from Sihanoukville, take National Road 4 toward Phnom Penh. About 7 kilometers out side of town, there is a sign announcing the site. Turn left and go 9 kilometers along a trail. The water at Kbal Chhay comes from many sources along the mountain range, although only three of these sources are visible. The waterfall, which is 14 meters high, is at the point where those three sources joint.
Kbal Chhay was discovered in 1960. Three years later, it was developed into a reservoir to supply clean water to the city of Sihanoukville. The reservoir construction, however, was interrupted due to civil war, and the site became a hide-out for the Khmer Rouge. In 1997, Kbal Chhay was marked for development, and a year later Kok An Company was awarded a contract to construct a road and develop the site for tourism.
Koh Pors is an island about 1 kilometer from Lomhe Kay beach, off the coast of Sihanoukville. The beach is flat and very quiet. It is attrachs few visitors, because it is undeveloped. Those tourists who do visit the island travel in groups and bring their own food.
Ochheuteal Beach, known as UNTAC Beach in the early 1990s and it is now the most popular in Sihanoukville, offering the full spectrum of beach venues from upscale hotels and dining to laid-back budget beach bars and bungalows.
Ochheuteal is long, sandy and narrow, with ‘Serendipity Beach’ at the northern end, a golf-course development at the southern end, and a cluster of mid-range hotels and restaurants near the MP base in the middle. Grass umbrellas, rentable beach chairs and little drink huts line the beach from one end to the other.
It offers several nice hotels including the Seaside and Crystal, the mid-range Holiday, as well as some of Sihanoukville’s better seafood restaurants, (Sea Dragon, Susaday, Sunshine and Les Feuilles), within walking distance of the hotels. Further south along the beach in front of the golf course develop-ment, a number of budget traveler/backpacker oriented bar/restaurant/beach hangouts have sprung up offering chairs, umbrellas, drinks and a chill-out atmosphere. At Ochheuteal’s extreme northern end, Serendipity Beach’ is the only beach in Sihanouk-ville to offer bungalows and guesthouse rooms right on the sand. Over the past two years Serendipity’s popularity has grown exponentially, as have the number of bungalows, hotels, and restaurants. The beach now offers several mid-range and budget places including Coasters’ well-known bungalows, Uncle Bob’s 24-hour restaurant and budget rooms, and The Beach’s mid-range rooms. There are also places popping up on the hill just above the Serendipity such as Diamond Guesthouse and closer to the traffic circle, Sanctuary Bar and Guesthouse. To get to Serendipity Beach follow Ekareach Street straight through the Golden Lion Traffic Circle and UP and over the hill.
Phnom Leu is a nature and cultural site. There is a pagoda on the mountaintop, which offer visitors a panoramic view of the beaches and Sihanoukville international port. Most visitors are local people who visit the site during national festivals.
Though not untouristed, the Ream Beaches see far fewer visitors than Sihanouk ville beaches. Located in the Ream National Park. Take Route 4 to the Airport road 18km north of town. Turn right, go 9km to the ocean. The beach to the right is long and narrow and frequented more by fishermen than tourists. Behind the beach is a mangrove swamp, which attracts a wide variety of tropical birds. The beaches to the left nearer the Naval Base now have a few vendors selling drinks and renting tubes. There is a small $5 per night guesthouse run by the National Park. Check at the park HQ opposite the entrance to the airport.
Ream National Park
Ream National Park, It is always called Preah Sihanouk National Park, the park has become known as “Ream” because it stays in the Ream commune. It was built in 1993, inaugurated in March 1995, and encompasses 21,000 ‘ hectares with sandy beaches, mangrove forests, the Prek Tuk Sap estuary, off-shore coral reefs and two islands (Koh Thmei and Koh Ses). Visitors may see macaques, sun bear, dolphins, over 155 species of birds, and other animals. Park facilities are not fully developed so it is best to arrange a guided tour such as a jungle walk or a boat trip at the Park Office (located 18 km north of Sihanoukville, 500m off Route 4 on Airport Road, opposite the entrance to the airport). The office is open 7 days per week 7 AM to 5PM and there are usually several guides of varying linguistic skill levels on hand. Park Office phone: 012-875096. Several guesthouses in Sihanoukville can arrange transportation and tours of the park.
Sokha or Serendipity Beach
Sokha Beach adjoins O’Cheuteal Beach. It is also long though the water is deeper than here. The beach was once more crowded than O’Cheuteal Beach, because Cambodians prefer it to the other beaches. However, Oknha Sok Kung’s Sokha Hotel Company recently took over operations at the beach. The company is building up the area in hope of attracting more tourists to Sihanoukville.
Vistory Beach or Lomhe Kay
The beach is located in front of Koh Pors (Snake Island). It offers a number of services, including comfortable restrooms, fresh water and good transportation service to Koh Pors. Thus, many local and international visitors go to this beach. There are many well organized kiosks along the beach, the waves are not big, and invironment is clean.
Wat Krom is located in Road Sanntipheap, Sangkat 3, Khan Miatpheap, about 3 kilometers (5mn) from Provincial Town.
Wat Leu is located in Road No.24, Sangkat 1, Khan Miatpheap, about 6 kilometes (10mn) from Provincial Town.