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 No 4. White-sand beaches that include Ohchheuteal, 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 sea 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 its 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.
Sihanoukville province is a very small province with 868 square kilometres surface. It's located in the very South of the country and is bordering to the North with Koh Kong, to the East with Kampot and to the West and South with the beautiful Gulf of Thailand.
Most parts of the province belong to the peninsula showing a hilly face with some scattered forested areas. Most parts of the province consist of the typical plain wet area for Cambodia, covering rice fields and other agricultural plantations. The northeast of the province end on the hill foods of the Bokor National Park, a relatively big mountain range, which in the end symbolize the southern end of the mighty Cardamom Mountains. The average altitude of the province is supposedly not higher than 40m above sea level.
The country has a tropical climate - warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travelers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms.
Climate: Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
General information about the provincial climate:- Cool season: November- March (20-28c)
- Hot season: March- May (26c -35c)
- Rainy season: May - October (24-34c, with humidity up to 90%.) The best beach weather begins with the end of the rains in November. The dry, warm, breezy weather that follows lasts through January. Night temperatures can get down to a chilly 20? but the days hover around 28?-30?. Many think December and January are best with their balmy temperatures and blue skies.
At the end of January, Sihanoukville begins to warm and continues to get hotter through July (maximum 35?). After February, cool 'mango showers' occasionally blow in from the north. December through June is said by some local outfitters to be the best scuba weather with clearer (though cooler) waters than the rest of the year.
The current population in this province is about 235,190 people or 1.6% of the country's total population (14,363,519 person in Cambodia, 2007, provincial government data), with 117,250 male and 117,940 female. The population density is therefore 271 people per square kilometer.
Because of the importance of exports to Cambodia's economy, Sihanoukville and its port are earmarked for further significant development by the local government and through international monetary support.
Sihanoukille is for sure largely tourism-based but additional financial and industrial initiatives are also underway. One major government objective is to make Sihanoukville a premier tourist destination as well as an International Offshore Financial Centre. Foreign and local investors are invited to participate in a range of joint business and financial ventures. The agricultural sector of Sihanoukville plays definitely not a big role in the provincial economy, as the rocky peninsula, the place for cropping and such things.
How to Get There
As Sihanoukville improves a lot in parts of trade, tourist business and other sectors, the road to Phnom Penh had to be rebuilding 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.
Bus/Minivan: 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 from 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 min. Rent motorcycles at 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
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 cook shops next to the centre.
It would be a shame to leave town without savoring the delights of a meal of seafood, which unsurprisingly, is Sihanoukville's specialty, 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 up style al fresco restaurant/bar at the DevaRaja boutique guesthouse, offering a unique and eclectic selection of western and Asian favorites 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 favorable rate if you plan to stay for a week or more, or if you arrive during the week (even during the peak season).
Ramada Hotel & Resort: (tel: 034/393916)
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
Reef Resort: (tel: 012/315338)
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
Snake House: (tel: 012/673805)
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
Bungalow Village: (tel: 012/490293)
Charming hillside bungalows surrounded by 5000 square meters of fruit trees, flowers and large boulders. All with veranda, bathroom, fan and mosquito net, some with sea view and hot water. Very nice restaurant offering excellent Asian specialties. Unique open-air cinema. Base of Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill). Range: $6 - $15.
Sihanoukville does not offer souvenir shopping comparable to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, but Sihanoukville’s shopping opportunities are growing.
Several convenience stores/small supermarkets are now scattered across the town, offering a good selections of all of the usual traveler’s needs. And now there are even a few cool souvenirs to be had in Sihanoukville. There are some good T-shirts available at bars and guesthouses and some cool clothing and accessories for sale at places like Boom Room. Of particular interest, the very popular NGO-based Cambodian arts and crafts association, Rajana, has just opened its first outlet in Sihanoukville, located above the Starfish Cafe.
Samudera Market (http://www.samuderamarket.com) offers a wide range of souvenirs, food provisions, dairy products, wine, liquor and other tourist related services for both local and expatriate community in town. Similarly, the Rajana shop has a good selection of Cambodian arts and crafts, jewellery, textiles, coffees, spices and more. (012-789350, www.rajanacrafts.org.) Another local NGO, M Lop Tapang, offers products made and marketed by disadvantaged women under the Mother Under the Tree, Snardai project. Available at Holy Cow, Starfish Caf, and Geckozy.
A souvenir unique to Sihanoukville: scale model wooden Cambodian fishing boats handcrafted by a local French shipwright. The models are detailed wooden miniatures of fishing boats used along Cambodia's coast, and are accurate copies inside and out. Each is individually numbered.