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BBQ Restaurant''', Near Golden Sands Hotel, Excellent BBQ (try the ribs!!!) and Greek cuisine. |+|
* '''Angelo's Restaurant''', Near Golden Sands Hotel, Excellent BBQ (try the ribs!!!) and Greek cuisine.
|−|* '''Angelo's ASEAN Restaurant''', Next to Angelo's, BBQ, Pizza's and Asian cuisine. | |
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* '''Happa''', Serendipity Beach Rd. Japanese ''teppanyaki'' (hot plate) restaurant.
* '''Happa''', Serendipity Beach Rd. Japanese ''teppanyaki'' (hot plate) restaurant.
Revision as of 18:26, 1 April 2008
Sihanoukville (Krong Preah Seihanu), formerly Kompong Som and familiarly just Snookyville or even Snooky is a seaside town featuring Cambodia's best-known beaches.
Sokha Beach, the best in Sihanoukville
In a land with thousands of years of history, Sihanoukville is a colorful but tragic upstart. A mere fifty years ago, a French-Cambodian construction carved a camp out of the jungle and started building the first deep-sea port of a newly independent Cambodia. Named Sihanoukville in 1964 after the ruling prince of the kingdom, the booming port and its golden beaches soon drew Cambodia's jetsetting elite, spawning the first Angkor Beer brewery and the modernist seven-story Independence Hotel which, claim locals, even played host to Jacqueline Kennedy on her whirlwind tour of Cambodia in 1967.
Alas, the party came to an abrupt end in 1970 when Sihanouk was deposed in a coup and Cambodia descended into civil war. The town – renamed Kompong Som – soon fell on hard times: the victorious Khmer Rouge used the Independence Hotel for target practice and, when they made the mistake of hijacking an American container ship, the port was bombed by the U.S. Air Force. Even after Pol Pot's regime was driven from power, the bumpy highway to the capital was long notorious for banditry and the beaches stayed empty.
Peace returned in 1997 and in the ensuing ten years Sihanoukville has been busy picking up the pieces. First visited only by a few intrepid backpackers, guidebooks still talk of walls pockmarked by bullets, but any signs of war are hard to spot in today's Sihanoukville, whose new symbol seems to be the construction site. More and more Khmers and expats have settled down to run hotels, bars and restaurants, and the buzz of what the New York Times dubbed "Asia's next trendsetting beach" is starting to spread far and wide. After 30 years of housing only ghosts, the Independence Hotel is wrapped in scaffolding and scheduled to be rise from the ashes soon.
The small Sihanoukville Airport (IATA: KOS | ICAO: VDSV) is located 17km to the east of town, on the edge of Ream National Park. However, the airport's only scheduled service, between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville on PMT Air, has been suspended after a fatal crash in June 2007. The runway is being extended and international flights may be offered by the end of 2007.
From Phnom Penh: National route 4 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is one of Cambodia's best roads. There are regular bus services with Sorya and GST from Phnom Penh (Central Market) which takes about 4 hours at a cost of 16000 Riel, or US$4.50 through a guesthouse. The first bus leaves at 7:15 AM, the last one at 2:30 PM. All buses arrive and depart from the bus station downntown.It's worth reserving the day before or at least a few hours in advance to be sure of a seat. Mekong Express also runs two buses a day for US$6, as does Capitol Guesthouse.
From Koh Kong / Hat Lek (border crossing with Thailand): for the most part this road is unsealed and the condition depends on the weather and frequency/scale of maintenance. "Local" and "Tourist" minibuses service this route; they are always jam-packed, and the trip can be uncomfortable. "Local" service price depends on how much space you want (a whole seat, half a seat, or a space on the roof); foreigners can expect to pay around US$6-8. Rith Mony bus co. and Virak Buntham Express operate a daily minibus service. The journey involves four ferry crossings; the scenery is mixed, but does offer some moderately spectacular views at the Koh Kong end.
A chartered taxi from Phnom Penh's Central Market can do the trip in less than three hours and will cost anywhere from US$25-40, depending on the gas price of the day and how beat up the vehicle is. You can reduce the price by sharing seats, but be warned that Khmers will squeeze in as many six people into the car, so most people will need to buy two seats for comfort.
From Koh Kong / Hat Lek (border crossing with Thailand): weather permitting, a daily fast ferry departs from Koh Kong for Sihanoukville at 08:00 and from Sihanoukville for Koh Kong at 9.30. The journey usually takes about 4-4.5 hours and stops once to pick up/drop off supplies at an outlying island; tickets for foreigners cost US$20 (or 700 baht). Minibuses and moto-taxis shuttle passengers from the ferry to the border crossing; a moto-taxi should cost 50 baht. On the Thai side, minibuses run to Trat(110 baht) where it is possible to connect with the Thai public bus system, direct to Laem Ngop (for ferries to Ko Chang), and direct to Bangkok, Pattaya etc.
There are no longer any passenger services on the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville railway line. It may be possible to hitch a ride with the freight train security guards - enquire locally for further information.
Distances between the beaches are a little too long to walk comfortably, but getting around is easy, as the roads are wide and bike taxis (motodop) are everywhere. The standard price is US$1 per trip, although expect to haggle at night or if the distance is long. They'll gladly pile on two people and their luggage too. For larger groups, car taxis can be called up by phone (flat US$5 to most places around town) and there are a few tuk-tuks lurking about too.
The reason to visit Sihanoukville is the beaches. Not as crowded as some of the Thai resorts, but they can be cramped on weekends and holidays. For diving go to one of the nearby islands. The town itself doesn't offer much to see. From north to south, the beaches are:
- Victory Beach - south of the commercial port with plenty of budget accommodation nearby on Weather Station Hill.
- Independence Beach - also known as '7-chann beach' after the defunct, seven-storey Independence Hotel.
- Sokha Beach - all but 100 meters of it reserved for guests of the Sokha Beach Resort.
- Ochheuteal Beach - the most popular beach, with many restaurants, bars and food vendors. Pronounced, roughly, "oh-chur-teal". The northern part is called Serendipity Beach, and offers guesthouses right on the beach.
- Otres Beach - south of Serendipity, this is the least developed and crowded beach.
Other places of interest include:
- Kampong Pier Nup Lok - the old fishing port 2 km north of the commercial port offers some nice views.
- Koh Russei (Bamboo Island) - can be reached by private boat for US$5, at the Sunset Cafe on Occidental Beach, ask the owner the night before you want to go, or from the beach near Ream National Park (about 20km east of Sihanoukville). On the island there are 2 sets of huts on either side of the island, both with bar/restaurant and offering 10 basic huts each for US$8-10 per night (early 2007 prices). Bookings though Bar Ru or Coasters Guest houses in Sihanoukville. Despite too much plastic waste around for the pure unspoilt tropical island experience, it is still wonderful place to relax.
- Scuba diving - there are many islands off the Cambodia coast that have lots of coral and fish. All the dive boats in Cambodia leave from the Sihanoukville port area. There are 2 PADI Dive Centers, 1 SSI Dive Center and instructors from NAUI and CMAS working at smaller dive shops in town. The main scuba diving area is the Koh Rung Group located 14 miles offshore. There is also some shallow diving at Koh Tas 6 miles of shore. The best diving is the overnight trips to the Koh Tang Group, 35 miles from Siahnoukville, where large pelagic are seen regularly, visibility is double what you will find at the close in sites. 2 dive day trips US$59-70, overnight trips US$185-195 all inclusive
- Snorkeling - is possible around most of the islands, with the best snorkeling being at the further our islands for visibility, corals and fish. US$10-25
There are several small shops in the town, plus a standard Cambodian market ('Psaa Leu'). Handicrafts organization Rajana has a branch above the Starfish Cafe.
Several other clothing and souvenir shops are starting to open, both downtown and around the Victory Hill and Ocheteaul area as well.
ATM machines can now be found throughout Snooky. Downtown, ANZ Bank has two and Canadia Bank has one and Acleda Bank has one. There's also one at CCS Hotel and one at the Golden Sands Hotel, Occheuteal Beach.
Along the beaches there are many food stalls and some restaurants, especially at Ochheuteal beach. There are a good many restaurants in town as well. Sihanoukville boasts a surprisingly diverse set of cuisines.
- Angelo's Restaurant, Near Golden Sands Hotel, Excellent BBQ (try the ribs!!!) and Greek cuisine.
- Happa, Serendipity Beach Rd. Japanese teppanyaki (hot plate) restaurant.
- Ku Kai, Serendipity Beach Rd. Japanese restaurant with sashimi (raw fish) and awesome ribs.
- La Paillote, tel. +855-12-632347, Victory Beach. French-Khmer cuisine in one of the finest restaurants in the country. Entrees US$5-11.
- Monkey Republic. Near the Golden Lions. Favourite dishes are Kekabs, Baracuda (fish) and Chips, Chicken Amok and Some fine gourmet rolls. Prices are reasonable and the portions are big.
- Noh Kor Phnom, Occheuteal Beach (inland, on first road to beach when coming in from town). Friendly no-frills seafood restaurant with a menu of over two hundred options. Try the steamed sunfish with soybeans and ginger (US$4.25).
- Same Same But Different. On the beach, reasonable food, good price, good staff. Excellent Thai Green Curry. Beware the Happy Pizza, it's very happy...
- Captain Morgan, Golden Lions Plaza. Nice looking bar with friendly staff. Excellent food and snacks. Open until very late...
- Monkey Republic, Near Serendipity Beach. 75c Draft, Big parties every Thursday. Good pool table. Good tunes selected by UK Dj's.
- Star Bar, Located downtown behind Shell gas station. Extremely cold Anchor draft beer (happy hour 50c, rest of the day 75c). Friendly waitresses. Good pool table. Decent kitchen with western oriented menu. Popular Wednesday evening barbecue US$2.
Accommodation ranges from basic guest houses on the beach to four-star resorts. There's no shortage of guesthouses and pre-booking is only necessary at peak times such as at New Year.
Common on some beaches are "free accommodation" options, where budget traveller can get a very basic room for free and pay only for their meals.
- Ana's Khmer Kitchen, Downtown. Great value traditional Khmer food on an open terrace at the established, popular ANA Internet Cafe, Guest House (from $5) and Travel Agency 
- Chiva's Shack, Ochheuteal Beach. US$2-6. Oceanside budget accommodation right on the sand. Basic rooms with fan, mosquito net, with or without attached toilet. Popular bar/restaurant. The best beach parties in town.  Tel: 012-360911.
- Monkey Republic Bungalows, Serendipity Beach. US$6 Bungalows with Fan and Bathroom set in a tropical garden. Clean and comfortable. Restaurant with great value meals.
- Rega Guesthouse, Serendipity Beach. US$8-16 Rooms (Fan or AC), Very clean, 50 meters from the beach, excellent omelettes among other food items. 
- Sakal Bungalows, Victory Hill. Offering some cheapish pleasant huts above the bar with sea views (over a huge concrete building next door) and more expensive air-con rooms. The menu is brief but the food is excellent. The bar has a 61 inch TV for sports and films, and stays open as long as it needs to. US$5 upwards.
- Same Same But Different, next to Malibu Hotel. Guesthouse, with basic rooms for US$10-15.
- Small Hotel. Downtown, behind Caltex. Clean and comfortable A/C rooms US$6-15. Superb kitchen with swedish, international and Khmer food.
- Coasters , Serendipity Beach. One of the older restaurant/hotels on the beach, with older wooden huts (fan only) and newer brick buildings (air-con). Location on the beach is superb, close to nightlife yet quiet, but rooms are extremely basic, plumbing is dodgy (to say the least), restaurant gets mixed reviews and service continues to draw complaints. Reservations also have a habit of being meaningless, as the owners have a habit of giving the rooms away to whoever is there first. Rates from US$8 (fan) to US$60 (beachside air-con), which fairly expensive for what you get, especially compared to other accommodation around town.
- Malibu Beach Hotel, Serendipity Beach. Another one of the older stalwarts, now encroached on both sides by noisy nightclubs. From town centre, go straight through the roundabout with the lions, continue to the top of the hill and then follow the rocky track downhill, rather than remaining on the road. At the bottom of that, turn right, the Malibu Beach Hotel is the first on the left. Rooms with air-con US$30 including breakfast, plus some cheaper options. There have been a couple reports of theft, from the rooms and from the safe.
- Malibu Beach Bungalows, Sokha Beach. A branch of Malibu Beach Hotel, and better in all respects except one: the location has a good beach, but is inconvenient for anything else.
- Seaside Hotel, Ochheuteal Beach. 100 meters from beach. Rooms with air-con and hot water shower US$30-60, with breakfast.
- Tranquility Guesthouse , Serendipity Beach. Rooms with fan or air-con and cold/hot water shower, private bathroom, cable TV US$10-35. Tel. +855 (0) 16 463 492
There's only one game in town right now, but the competition should heat up in 2007 when the Independence Hotel and the as yet unnamed Malaysian-run golf resort open.
- Sokha Beach Resort, Sokha Beach, Tel:+855-34 935-999. Fax:+855-34 935-888, . The only international-class beach resort in the country, and good for temporarily forgetting that you are, in fact, in Cambodia. Very bland and a bit rough around the edges, but the beach is gorgeous and hassle-free, and the resort is family-friendly with kiddie pools and playgrounds. All restaurants at the resort, though, are badly overpriced. Rooms from US$100/night up.
Medical services in Sihanoukville are very limited and basic. The best Medical service is offered by the CT Clinic. This is the only one trusted by Expats who live in Sihanoukville. The public hospital should be avoided at all costs, as it is terrible. In case of major trouble evacuation is necessary.
Tours and Travel
- ANA Travel, Downtown, next to Orange Supermarket & on Serendipity Beach Road - next to Top Cat Cinema. Established 2003, western managed. Flight specialists. Ticketing worldwide and regional specials. Full visa service. Driving licences. Bus & boat tickets. Tours, taxis, hotels etc. Up to date, honest travel advice & info.
Tel/Fax: +855 (0) 34 933 929; Mobile: +855 (0) 12 915 301; +855 (0) 12 372 018
- Seadragon Travel Agency, Next to Golden Sands Hotel. Local tours, bus/boat/ferry tickets. Worldwide flight tickets, hotel and guesthouse reservations, business and tourist visa extensions. Translation Services Tel. +855 (0) 34 934 391. Mobile. +855 (0) 12 226 357
Sihanoukville area code is 034.
There are many Internet cafes in Sihanoukville, some guesthouses and many hotels offer the facility. The best is Ana Internet in the town centre between ANZ bank and The Orange Mini Mart. They can also book flights and renew visas there.
The new main Post Office is now near the Victory Park on the left hand side of the road as you go to Vicory hill.
The Vietnamese consulate on Ekareach Street issues 30 day tourist visas on a same-day basis. As of March 2007, the cost was US$27 for Cambodians, US$35 for foreigners. The opening times are 10am-12pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Saturday.
- Ream National Park - 18 km to the north, tours through the more than 20,000 hectares of coastal mangrove forest and interesting fauna can be arranged everywhere in Sihanoukville