Shades of old Sihanoukville

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Everywhere you look in Sihanoukville, new developments are going up. It’s becoming a city of contrasts between extreme wealth and poverty. That may sound sad, but some of the poorer people here are happier than the wealthier ones. As long as they can feed their families and send their children to school, many of them seem content with life. I decided to look for shades of old Sihanoukville I knew and loved before the high rises started rising.

I’ll start with the Small Market. It hasn’t changed a bit since I moved here almost 11 years ago. Inside are the same narrow lanes packed with stalls selling vegetables, meat, fish, clothes and other items. Our family shops here every day and it is one icon of the old Sihanoukville I hope will remain.

small market in sihanoukville cambodia

I took that photo this morning and then went out looking for more this afternoon. I didn’t have to go far. After passing the International School that charges $1000 per student and two new apartment buildings, I took a picture of this charming house.

charming house in sihanoukville cambodia

Then I continued down a route I know well because it’s the route I take to Sokha Beach when I go swimming. I’m always intrigued by this little restaurant near the bridge.

small restaurant sihanoukville cambodia

Continuing on, I wanted to find a stilt house. I found one opposite the entrance to the Independence Hotel, one of the nicest hotels in town, but maybe not for long.

stilt house in sihanoukville cambodia

On my way home, I stopped and took a picture of this house. It’s not much, but at least the people who live there have a roof over their heads. If they tried this in Los Angeles, their house would be destroyed and they would be homeless.

small house sihanoukville cambodia

Yes, Sihanoukville is becoming a city of contrasts, but shades of old Sihanoukville remain. You have to look a little harder for them because of all the development that’s going on. Literally every one of these pictures was near a development. For instance, this little shop is just across the street from a mansion and another mansion is being built next to that.

small shop sihanoukville cambodia

How long we’ll stay in Sihanoukville is a mystery. We want to find someplace quieter. Since we built, the land behind us has been filled in with houses. The field I used to look at from my office is now blocked by a mansion. When I look straight out over my office deck, I see two high rises in the distance. Twice a day I have to wind my way around all the big cars that come to pick up children at the International School.

Still, it’s not quite as crazy as Phnom Penh, where I went last weekend. There were times when pedestrians were going faster than our taxi and the contrasts there were more extreme. We’re still looking for a quieter place. When we find it, it will be a welcome change, but I’ll miss the old Sihanoukville I loved when I moved here almost 11 years ago. It was a lovely collection of villages. Personally, I think the high rises are spoiling Sihanoukville, but there’s nothing I can do to stop “progress.”

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About Rob Schneider

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

One Response to Shades of old Sihanoukville

  1. Rob says:

    Was told the Small Market has been sold and another big development is going in there. Kind of sad to hear that. Where will the vendors go?

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