updated February 2006
Readers who have an interest in visiting Sihanoukville and desire useful practical information are urged to read The Talesofasia Guide to Sihanoukville and the South Coast, though it too needs some updating (last entry was July 23, 2004) and when I can find a new writer to do so, I will. Also see the Canby website. What appears here is nothing but a brief impression written by someone, me, who hasn't spent much time in the place while The Talesofasia Guide to Sihanoukville and the South Coast is written by a resident.
Cambodia's premier (err, only) beach resort, some people love it, some people think they love it only to move here and lose the plot, and other people can take it or leave it. I'm closer to the final group and as such I haven't been here since July 2001.
While still a sleepy backwater, the place is changing rapidly and for the most current Sihanoukville information beyond what appears in The Talesofasia Guide to Sihanoukville and the South Coast, I'm going to send you to the Canby website and also recommend that you pick up a copy of the free Sihanoukville Visitor's Guide either here or in Phnom Penh.
Sihanoukville, aka Kompong Som, is bordered by Koh Kong, Kampot, and the ocean. Access is by road - Highway 4 to Phnom Penh is one of Cambodia's best highways, and by boat to Koh Kong. Some day they'll have a commercial airport which they claim will be international.
First and foremost I have to speak out on one Sihanoukville problem that needs all the publicity necessary to make it stop. There continue to be regular reports of tourists being threatened and even assaulted when they did not agree with the motodops' ideas as to what guesthouse they should stay. Though none of the assaults have resulted in serious injury, the mere fact that a motodop would resort to violence over such an issue is quite serious; more so as these are not isolated incidents but appear to be a growing trend. If this happens to you waste no time making a major stink at the local police station, contact the Ministry of Tourism, your embassy (well, maybe not your embassy) and every regional English language publication you can think of - this website, the Bayon Pearnik, the Phnom Penh Daily, the Cambodia Daily, Farang magazine, Lonely Planet, etc. This outrage must stop.
That said, welcome to Snookyville. Four main beaches here, Occheuteal (upscale), Sokha (Khmers), Independence (ghostly old hotel), and Victory (backpackers). When I have chosen to lie on the beach it's usually been on Occheuteal, perhaps becuase it's farthest from Victory Beach. In any event, no beach is gorgeous, but none would qualify as ugly though on a bad day, Victory can come close.
Budget accommodation is centered on Victory Hill, mid-range can be found downtown (not within walking distance of any beach), and the higher end joints are on Occheuteal.
There are a number of islands offshore and it's quite possible to get a boat out to one. Ask at your guesthouse.
Diving has been part of the Sihanoukville scene for some time and dodgy operators come and go. Fortunately, the scene has improved with the arrival of Scuba Nation, Cambodia's first PADI centre, see http://cambodiadivers.com for more information. Claude of Chez Claude has been around on the scene for awhile as well and is reputable.
Outside of town, Kbal Chhay waterfall is a multi-stage affair and worth a visit. Further afield is Ream National Park, which I have not visited and thus, cannot offer any special insights.
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