My tour of Cambodia is done, at least for now.
Please SEARCH FOR ‘Cambodia‘ to find all of my Postings, Travel Budgets and Retirement Reviews.
Meanwhile, here is some general information about Cambodia and / or the places of interest that I did not get to…
Cambodia has a dual currency with the US dollar being used for most expenses and Cambodian Riel used for smaller items and anything less than a dollar (there are no coins). The exchange rate used practically everywhere is 4000 riel to US$1. You’ll often pay in a mix of currencies or get quoted in riel and pay in dollars or vice versa.
US$15 / month should be enough for on your phone service with plenty of Mobile Data. n Phnom Penh, the average price of monthly Internet service is almost US$70 / month… so just use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot.
Fondly referred to as ‘Snooky’, the main reason to stop here is the beaches, beautifully sandy and not as crowded as Thailand’s. With six sandy beaches to chill out in, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Less popular than Victory or Serendipity Beach, Otres Beach is usually quieter and a good spot to try your hand at windsurfing or kayaking.
Ream National Park, and the islands of Koh Rong, Koh Rong Saloem, Koh Thmei, Koh Ta Kiev and Koh Russei are more rewarding than Sihanoukville proper.
The more in demand Sihanoukville hotels, bungalows and guesthouses no longer have to grovel for customers by offering lower rates. I took a walk down the northwest side of the Serendipity Beach pier – there are about 8 different establishments all in a row that have restaurants and/or bars at ground level and bungalows scattered across the steep hill behind the “beach” (which is really a rocky cove). The two most upmarket ones, Cloud 9 and Above Us Only Sky Bar & Bungalows, don’t seem to have had a low season this year and will be raising their rates according to demand over the high season. One proprietor told me a bungalow that now costs $35 may be as much as “$85 or $90″ over Christmas and New Year. I was given a similar story on Otres Beach.
The town doesn’t have anything much of interest to offer aside from way too manybarang-run bars. If you decide to head out to the beaches, you’ll need to take a motodop — unfortunately Sihanoukville has among the shiftiest motodops in all of Cambodia.
Do not under any circumstances believe a motodop when they tell you the place you want to go is closed / burnt down / blown up or been kidnapped by aliens — go and see it for yourself.
Always agree on a price beforehand, and never, ever get in a physical fight with one.
There are a growing number of bars and guesthouses designed with older single men in mind. Not your scene? Don’t fret, as there’s also a good range of other eating and drinking options.
Koh Pos Beach
This little beach is home to the rather oddly named Treasure Island Seafood Restaurant, and although not on an island, you can see islands and it’s certainly a treasure of a spot, with seafood that many an expat will tell you is the best in Sihanoukville.
The sandy, well-shaded beach here is small and secluded, with a few salas that belong to the solitary restaurant overlooking the water.
Stuff yourself on seafood then go for a swim afterwards.
Just watch out for the monkeys as they won’t miss an opportunity to fiddle through your possessions while you’re 20 metres offshore.
While it appears that much of the beach is closed to the public, you can actually walk along it, with things getting quieter the further south you head.
The beach is a pleasing, white-sandy strip, so when construction isn’t happening, this remains a good spot for relaxing, feasting and swimming.
Whether or not you decide to stay here, it is worth making the effort to visit as the beach has a bit of local colour to it and (not surprisingly given the current situation) it is almost never crowded.
Ochheuteal Beach / Serendipity
The longest and most popular beach in Sihanoukville.
Much of Occheuteal is dedicated to food stalls and small bamboo bars, but the southern stretch is largely deserted. While Serendipity has the bulk of the beach hotels and guesthouses, the restaurants and bars stretch for much more of the full length of the beach, with the far end playing host to the on-again off-again joints that offer free accommodation in the low season (you’re expected to either eat and drink at the place frequently or help them distribute flyers in return).
Popular with barang and Khmers alike, the weekends are particularly busy with snacking Phnom Penh escapees mingling with backpackers and daytrippers from other beaches.
Ochheuteal also has more than its fair share of con-men, dodgy moto drivers and other lowlife, so exercise care at night.
Staggering down the beach in the early hours of the morning stoned or drunk is not recommended. Rapes, stabbings and muggings have all been reported here, both at the rocky end near Serendipity, but also along the other end of the beach.
… At $12 for a single, $14 for a double or $25 for an air-conditioned room, Sunset Lounge have to be one of the best deals available anywhere in Sihanoukville, especially at the beach, where similar brick bungalows cost from $35 upwards.
The location is ideal for anyone who wants easy access to the busy end of Ochheuteal and Otres, but wants to spend most of their day hanging out at a quiet and stunningly beautiful beach.
Is the better, if lesser known, of Sihanoukville’s beaches with its whitish sand and calm tides.
Fewer beggars and children are around selling bracelets and the beach has a far more relaxed vibe than neighbouring Ochheuteal beach.
Most of the accommodation is now found on the road directly behind the beach, where some cool new options have appeared.
The relatively developed end of the beach — which people arrive at — comes to a sudden end when you reach a big billboard displaying the development scheme. Then there’s a kilometre or two of empty beach, but push on and more hangouts are located past there.
During low season Otres Beach is even quieter than the rest of Sihanoukville and many places do close up shop. With so few people, so much sand and the sprawling sea, this could be the deserted island you’ve been searching for … and you don’t even have to leave the mainland — fancy that.
The most eye-pleasing and relaxing beach in Sihanoukville.
The beach is backed by the huge Sokha Beach Resort. The resort has 80% of the beach reserved for guests, which leaves only the 20% near Malibu Bungalows open to the public.
Beyond the giant dragon’s tale that marks the end of Sokha terrain (the goofy head can be seen inside the resort grounds), the public area is pleasant enough, but it can see a bit of litter.
Home to loads of budget, barang-oriented spots to stay and eat.
Most of the budget guesthouses and eateries are a 10-minute walk up the hill from the water. The area itself is a bit of a hole, with some really crappy places to stay squished between drab and largely depressing bars filled with freelance sex workers.
Sandflies: Bring along some good strong repellant with DEET and apply it first thing in the morning as well as after the sun goes down.
…For most of our stay we lathered ourselves in DEET, mosquito repellant, coconut oil and anything else we could get our hands on, and tried to stay in the sea instead of bathing in the sand.
There are technically two Ko Rong Islands in Cambodia. One is a dive location for boats leaving Sihanoukville (Koh Rong Samloem) and one is lost out in the sea, left virtually untouched by tourism.
Only accessible by a small local ferry, not many travellers make the short (2 hour?) ride out from Sihanoukville to this picturesque spot. With 23 pristine beaches to choose from, you’ll be tempted to laze the days away in the sunshine. For the adventurous, there’s plenty of opportunites for hiking, diving and snorkelling. You’ll find cheap cocktails, tasty Khmer food and the best sunset sea view at Monkey Island.
Pros – super cheap backpacking (easily under US$15 per day in a dorm), an easy hop from the mainland, not over developed, backpacker friendly.
Cons – the good accommodation books out quickly in high season, not crazy amounts to do (but that’s ideal if you just want to chill on the beach and relax!). I also hear good things about Tree House Bungalows and Paradise Bungalows.
Koh Rong has 43 kilometres of beaches, but the majority of bars and accommodation is on the southeast, by Koh Touch village.
…A couple of the higher-brow guesthouses (Paradise Bungalows, Monkey Island; $35-$55/night) have solar electricity and even some cabins with running water. If you can live without your blow dryer for a while, get your hippie on at Vagabonds or Dream Catch Inn. If you fancy yourself a Lost Boy, Island Boys is your bag. These will all run you about $12-14 a night.
…Once you’re on the island there’s a variety of accommodation options with a sea view dorm with fan for around $3. A short walk along the beach and you can up your standard of accommodation and also style – with my personal preference being Monkey Island where you can get a private beach side bungalow for $20 per night, which can comfortably sleep 3 people.
…A rough and ready road connects some parts of the island, and a WiFi and mobile phone signal now services most of the accommodation (particularly on Koh Touch Beach).
…More action happening here. Not like in Koh Rong Samloem, here you will find many bars and guesthouses. Prices range from $6 for a dorm bed, $10-$20 for a room or $40-$100 for a bungalow.
Koh Rong Samloen
Koh Rong Samloem is beginning to attract more visitors, and it may be best to arrange accommodation before you go. There are enough options to keep everyone happy — the only problem is deciding which part of the island to stay on.
It’s possible to get a longtail to take you from the western side to M’Pai Bei for a negotiated fee (somewhere around $20 is reasonable), and jungle paths connect Robinson Bungalows and Lazy Beach to Saracen Bay, so if you can’t decide, try more than one.
Koh Rusay (Koh Russei) / Bamboo Island
Just one hour boat ride away from Sihanoukville, you’ll find no TV nor internet here. Also known as Bamboo Island. For those with more time on their hands the islands that are a bit further away from Sihanoukville may be more rewarding, but for those who are looking for a laid back beachside vibe without going too far afield, Koh Russei is a good choice.
Koh Ta Kiev
Let us ask you a few things: do you like treehouses? how about taking it super slow? locally-grown, gourmet feasts? what about the smell of fresh-baked bread swirling into your nostrils while you relax in a hammock? No? Well you should probably stay away from Koh Ta Kiev. This is one of Cambodia’s tiny islands in the gulf of Thailand, accommodation here is either beach camping or treehouses and the main activities include fishing, hiking and loving the s**t out of life.
KOH KONG TOWN / CITY:
Koh Kong is a sleepy riverside town and there’s not much in the way of tourist attractions within the town itself. However, it’s a handy base for boat trips, waterfall excursions, and beach trips. However, the cost of getting to the beaches can get prohibitive if you’re travelling alone.
For a town of its size, it has a disproportionate number of western-managed bars which are primarily aimed at Thailand- based expats on visa runs. One Koh Kong city regular describes the local expat scene as “rather Monty-Pythonesque”, but regardless of your opinion, there’s certainly not a shortage of places for a refreshing drink and expats to talk to.
Along with the bars there’s an ample supply of guesthouses in Koh Kong, both in the centre of town and down towards the river.
Koh Kong Island is only open for day tours. There is no accommodation available on the island.
Further south of Koh Kong town / city (on the mainland with a population of about 30,000) there is a small group of 12 islands called the Koh Sdach archipelago. This area has white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas, and paradisical islands. It’s a must for any traveller visiting coastal Cambodia. Currently accommodation is only available on two of the islands, Koh Sdach and Koh Toteung, and room rates are from USD10–120.