31 Dec: For latest news about the Sihanoukville Sea Festival, check out today’s blog – Sihanoukville Sea Festival: First Photos
Well, this isn’t going to do my fledgling Sihanoukville Accommodations earnings any good, but it’s good news for Sihanoukville. According to the Phnom Penh Post, Sihanoukville hotels and guesthouses are fully booked already in anticipation of the inaugural Sea Festival.
The Sea Festival is apparently the brainchild of the Ministry of Tourism, which decided that a celebration was in order now that Sihanoukville has been added to the ranks of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club. I have seen references to such a club before, but thought it was just a slogan or something until I looked it up just now. It’s actually called the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World and, according to Wikipedia, it was founded in Berlin in 1997. Some of the criteria for entrance into this club include the following:
The bay must:
- Have interesting flora and fauna
- Have environmental safeguards in place
- Represent and reflect the local population
- Be appreciated at a local and national level
- Have some economic potential
- Have at least two cultural and or natural assets recognised by UNESCO
Wikipedia was a little behind the times and did not include Sihanoukville or even Cambodia on its list, but it did include a link to the club’s official website, The Most Beautiful Bays in the World and sure enough, “Cambodia Bay” was amongst the listings. It includes all of Cambodia’s 440km coastline and stretches through 4 provinces, including Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep.
This, on top of Forbes listing of three Sihanoukville area beaches as amongst the world’s top 22 really puts us on the map. I’m really proud to have discovered this place early and to have settled here in time to get an inside look at its growth, but I’m personally and selfishly a little disconcerted, too. I can’t help but flash back to about 1969 when I lived on a then little known Hawaiian island called Maui. At that time, Maui’s population was around 20,000, most of them native Hawaiians. I got there just after the first big hotel was built outside Lahaina. Today, the population of Maui is around 200,000 and a Maui resident looking for a new home in Sihanoukville told me not to return. He said I would weep if I saw what had happened to those hidden beaches and coves we used to go to. I hope Sihanoukville’s boom leaves some beaches intact, because an empty beach is my personal idea of an earthly paradise.
Anyway, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, it looks like you’ll have to wait until after the first of the year. According to the PP Post article, Visitors fill hotels in Sihanoukville, “Tith Chantha, general director at the Ministry of Tourism, confirmed that all hotel and guesthouse rooms were booked for New Year’s.” Stay tuned and join my mailing list, though. Within the next six months I hope to have completed my list of Sihanoukville Accommodations and you can book early for next year’s Sea Festival in Sihanoukville.