Big Changes in Sihanoukville

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My last post was about the Chinese in Sihanoukville. Maybe I should have titled it, “The Chinese Invasion of Sihanoukville.” It’s a peaceful invasion, but I didn’t realise until today how big of an impact they’re having everywhere in Sihanoukville. I’ve heard rumours, but I don’t listen to rumours I hear on the Hill. I learned that lesson years ago. Today, however, I learned more from the woman who runs Escape Cafe on Serendipity Road. There are big changes in Sihanoukville. Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you are.

casino on Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Casino on Serendipity Road

I went for coffee late today and was her only customer, so she sat down with me. The conversation centred on the Chinese. She started by telling me she wanted to extend her lease for another five years, but the owner said to wait. She fears the Chinese will offer them more money. I pointed across the street, where the Reef Resort is now called Wandy’s Resort. She said she’s afraid they are going to rent to Chinese. She also said the Chinese don’t like to mingle with Europeans and tend to stick together.

“Right now it’s low season,” she said. “When high season comes, I wonder where Europeans will stay? The Chinese seem to be taking over everywhere.”

I mentioned I’d seen five casinos in the Serendipity Road area. She could think of eight. The casinos cater to Chinese tourists. I told her I rarely see people in many casinos. She told me they also have online gaming, so make money even if they have no customers. Then I told her how I’d gone to the supermarket down the street and discovered it had been torn down. A big building is going up in its place. She said it was a hotel designed for Chinese tourists.

new development in Sihanoukville Cambodia

A supermarket used to be here

That wasn’t the only change I’d seen on the street. A rather modest apartment block next to the casino is being upgraded. What they’ll be putting there remains to be seen, but it is another sign of the big changes happening in Sihanoukville.

serendipity road, sihanoukville cambodia

A modest apartment block going upmarket

Sadly, she is afraid she’ll have to close her business. She’s been there as long as I can remember and has always given very good service. I have no idea what she’ll do after she closes, but I hope she finds a way to earn a living. If she does close, it will be the fourth place I enjoy going to that is going to close. Irina closed in August. Raphael’s is moving to a location off the Hill next month and the manager of a Cambodian restaurant I like says she may have to close. Her rent is going up and her customers are leaving the Hill because their rents are going up. Some have even been kicked out to make way for the Chinese, who seem to be coming here in droves.

The owner of Escape also told me she was at Otres Beach recently and saw a “Chinatown” being developed. I haven’t seen it, but I’ll have a look as soon as I get a chance.

I never imagined seeing changes like this happening in Sihanoukville, but they have been happening fast. In just the past two years, I’ve seen the changes. I thought the city would change more slowly and organically, but the influx of Chinese with big money is speeding things up. The big changes in Sihanoukville are good for land owners, who are being paid well by the Chinese. I’m told Cambodians who work for them are getting paid better, too. It seems like the ones who are missing out are the expats, who can no longer afford to pay high rentals or are being kicked out of their apartments.

About Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider is a writer based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he has lived since 2006.

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