- My Lonely Planet guidebook told me to bring cash with me to Sihanoukville because the few ATMs in town rarely if ever worked. They worked just fine and there were more than just a “few.”
- A Lonely Planet writer interviewed a couple of young barang who had only been in the city for a couple of months and used their “sage” advice as the basis for his coverage of Sihanoukville. Consequently, the next edition of Lonely Planet was filled with misinformation.
- A couple of friends who were coming over for a visit via Vietnam sent me an urgent message asking about the train to Sihanoukville. When I told them there was none, they replied, “There must be, because Lonely Planet says there is.”
It also irks me a little that backpackers tend to bury their noses in Lonely Planet, planning the next stage of their trip while completely ignoring the current stage of their journey. While that’s not Lonely Planet’s fault, I recommend closing your guidebook for the duration of your stay in any location and doing a little exploring on your own.
That said, if their latest press release is anything to go by, Lonely Planet seems to have finally caught up with Cambodia. I read the same article in two Australian newspapers, the Australian and the Herald Sun. The only difference between them was the photos, one of which I’ve reproduced here. Rather than rewrite the story, I just want to highlight a few excerpts that have (tentatively, at least) made me change my opinion about Lonely Planet:
This is from the paragraph about Phnom Penh:
All too often overlooked by hit-and-run tourists ticking off Angkor on a regional tour, the revitalised city is finally earning plaudits in its own right thanks to a gorgeous riverside location, a cultural renaissance, and a wining and dining scene to rival anywhere in the region.
This is what the article had to say about the Khmer people:
The Khmers have been to hell and back, struggling through years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Thanks to an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism, they have prevailed with their smiles intact. No visitor comes away without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this enigmatic kingdom.
And this is what it said about Sihanoukville:
While backpackers continue to flock to the party zone of Serendipity Beach, more subdued Otres Beach, south of town, has made a comeback. That and the emergence of the southern islands as cradles of castaway cool give non-backpackers a reason to visit.
A plethora of more luxurious new Sihanoukville hotels, great restaurants and other shops and amenities that have sprung up here in that past couple of years also “give non-backpackers a reason to visit.”
The article also points out that flights to Sihanoukville are now available to and from Siem Reap. My wife, Sopheak (Sophie for short), just came back from taking a group of tourists to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. The flight was great and only took an hour. Everyone had a wonderful time, too. Here’s a picture of the plane. I’m going to start advertising Sophie’s Guide Services here pretty soon, so look for the page next time you visit or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you with more info. Sophie’s been helping tourists and expats in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville for over a decade now and is very good at what she does.