In Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the main draw for tourism today, and rightly so, called the Crown Jewel of South East Asia the temple complexes’ 40 Sq Kilometers’ of temples is famous the world over, but now, more people are visiting the rest of Cambodia and the word of mouth is that the rest of the Cambodia is worth a visit as well. The Beach resort of Sihanoukville is fast becoming a holiday destination in its own right, with lots of islands and parks and things to do from hiking and exploring, scuba diving & snorkeling and boat rides, water falls, jungle treks and chilling in a hammock in a quiet beach park reading a good book. Culturally there are the markets, the local wats and the schools, where many come to donate time and money towards educating the kids.
Sihanoukville has a 5 star resort on its own kilometer long private beach. The pool could be classified as a small lake and is almost visible from space, complete with a bridge to its own little island. The hotel is only 2 years old and has a staff to guest ratio of 4/1. The prices for comparable hotels in South East Asia would be substantially higher.
If you are a budget traveler then Sihanoukville is your place as well, there are many rooms available with air con, hot water, refrigerator and Cable TV for $10 – $20 a night and if you want a place to stay for 6 months or more, you can get a business visa at the border on demand and stay as long as you like, works out to around $1 a day for the visa extensions, making the town attractive to pensioners and semi retired people.
Backpackers also like Sihanoukville with a few places offering 50 cent tall cold beers and cheap food starting at $.50. Some are also finding work as bar tenders and working the restaurants. Backpacker hostels start as low as free, Yup free, all you have do is buy one of your meals at the lodging and the price for the food is still cheap $1.50 to 2.50 a plate.
One local expert expat’s guess’s that there are more western owned business per population in Sihanoukville than any other place in Asia! Many are coming and starting guesthouses & hotels, small bed and breakfast places, restaurants and bars and small resorts with a few starting to pop up on the islands off the coast. Want to rent your own fantasy island for a week check out Magic Island?
Logistically everything that you will need is here including reliable electricity, internet, and western restaurants as well as a lot of Asian European specialty foods prepared with the western travelers tastes in mind including Khmer seafood, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Indian, Sri Lankan and more coming soon. English languages schools are many in Sihanoukville, so you can almost always find someone to speak English when you need it.
Money use to be a problem as you had to go inside the banks to get cash and with 26 holidays on the Cambodian calendar, you could get stuck with out cash for a few days, now there are ATM locations in Siem Reap- Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Battembong and Sihanoukville. You can change just about every currency including Yen, Euros, Baht, Kip, Dong, and Sing Dollars. US Dollars and Cambodian Riel are the two most common currencies in use.
Sihanoukville is getting easier to get to with cheap international flights into Bangkok and really cheap regional flights into Phnom Penh. Flights into Sihanoukville are very close to being a reality as well. Regularly scheduled busses from Phnom Penh will get you to Sihanoukville in 4 hours on a excellent American built road. You can also arrange taxis and vans for moving groups of people, and an established over water route form Bangkok to Trat to the Had Lek – Klang Yai border to Sihanoukville. You might even arrive here via a cruise ships, as more are placing Sihanoukville on their itineraries.
The Islands of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand are mostly uninhabited; you will find isolated Spartan fishing villages with populations normally fewer than 100 people. One Island, Koh Tang, has only 7 residents and would take the better part of a day to hike around, so if you are looking for that deserted island to strand yourself on, to work on your coconut carving and ship in a bottle skills there are many here to chose from, bring your own hammock and Gal Friday or they can be acquired here in Sihanoukville.
The Cambodia of the past always seemed to bring up horrific images of the past misfortunes that the Khmers suffered at the end of the Vietnam War. Even today, the genocide in Cambodia is still in the news as the country has its tribunal to hopefully put the events behind them,
One of the few backhanded benefits of the recent past history was that Cambodia missed out on all of the heavy industrialization, that the other countries in the region experienced, notably Thailand and Vietnam; which means that they missed out on the pollution that goes with it. A UN survey of the waters in Asia, that included Cambodia, found only 3 areas of concern for ocean water quality near shore, where as Vietnam and Thailand, had allot problem locations, mostly from the industrial pollutions and shrimp farms. This may change, unfortunately, as oil has been found in Cambodia and the drilling of exploration holes has begun. So now is a really good time to come.
As Cambodia moves forward towards the future, it is obvious to most that the future in Cambodia is tourism. And for Cambodia’s beach resort of Sihanoukville, to misquote the tune “the futures so bright, in Sihanoukville, that your gonna need shades”