Why we’re moving to Kampot

dseaview sihanoukville

When I started the Sihanoukville Journal, it was because I saw a lot of good things in this town. I hadn’t read many positive reviews, but I think that was because people didn’t notice the village atmosphere of most of the town. All that’s changing, though, and we’re moving to Kampot. It’s not just us, either. I was talking to a friend the other day and he named six people he knew who were moving there. He has bought land in Kampot and another friend moved to a rural area near Kampot.

I went on a motorbike ride from our house to Serendipity Beach today. It was a short ride, but I saw an astounding number of high rises. The first one I ran across was D’Seaview. It’s a huge development designed for wealthy people. I can see it rising in the distance from my office and they work on it day and night. I know this because I see glowing lights and the crane turning at night.

dseaview sihanoukville

D’Seaview is opposite Pearl City, which was the first large development. I have no idea when it will be finished, but it’s huge. I continued down the road and turned left and ran across another large development. This is what it is going to look like when it’s finished.

opposite sokha resort sihanoukville cambodia

Then I turned left at the end of the road and continued up towards the Golden Lions. I didn’t get far before I saw another big development. This one hasn’t been started yet, but they seem to go up fast now that heavy equipment has arrived in Sihanoukville.

another sihanoukville cambodia development

I thought I was going to get some respite from the developments until I got to Ochheuteal Beach, but I was wrong. These two developments are very close to the Golden Lions and there are now about eight casinos in the Serendipity Beach area.

near golden lions sihanoukville cambodia

I knew where I was going next. i wanted to take a picture of the now naked Ochheuteal Beach. There used to be a series of restaurants here, but they have been torn down to make way for a huge resort (and probably casino) right on the beach. This is what it looks like now.

ochheuteal beach sihanoukville

The long green fence marks the span of this development. I’ve seen a drawing of it and it is huge.

This is what I photographed along a short distance. I posted some photographs of developments elsewhere in an earlier post, Development in Sihanoukville. Even those photos were the tip of the iceberg. Wherever you go in Sihanoukville, you see resorts (usually near the beach), casinos (even on side streets) and apartment buildings going up.

It’s not the Sihanoukville I used to know and I don’t like all the developments. Kampot is a quieter town and not slated to have 60 or 70 casinos built any time soon. I don’t like saying I don’t like Sihanoukville anymore, but it’s true. I defended the town for years, but over the last couple of years, too many huge developments have been springing up and the traffic is getting worse. And Otres Beach is not being spared, either. As I wrote in Sihanoukville is Growing Fast Everywhere You Look, a huge development is going in there and that’s just the beginning. An article in Move to Cambodia says: “the fear is of the development of big hotels and soulless casinos, and the community is rife with rumors of multi-million dollar deals.” It’s already happening in Sihanoukville and Otres is next on the list.

We’re hoping we’ll find the quiet haven we used to have in Sihanoukville in Kampot. I’ll have to find a beach to swim at, but since Kampot is near the coast, I don’t think it will be a problem. Some beaches there are undeveloped, so I’ll be able to enjoy quiet swims surrounded by nature. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Kampot will remain a clean, quiet city for a long time to come. We’ve heard rumors of a port expansion, but that will be for random tourists on cruise ships, so hopefully they will only come sporadically.

I renewed my website for another year, but you may be seeing posts from Kampot in a couple of months. Either that or we’ll build in Klang Leu and I’ll still be close to Sihanoukville. We bought a rural block of land in Klang Leu, but someone offered us more money for it and we’ve decided to look at houses in Kampot, where prices are lower than Sihanoukville Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: we want to get out of Sihanoukville because of all the developments and increasing traffic.

 

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.”

Development in Sihanoukville: a photo blog

development near Independence beach Sihanoukville Cambodia

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I’ve written about development in Sihanoukville in a few recent posts, including Big Changes in Sihanoukville and Sihanoukville is Growing Fast Everywhere You Look. I guess I’m a little obsessed about it because I see new developments everywhere I go. Some are apartment blocks, others are casinos and the larger ones are hotels and resorts. I could post 100 photos of developments and still just scratch the surface, so I’ll just share some I saw when I drove on the beach road yesterday.

Development in Sihanoukville

There are a few new developments near the Sokha Resort. This is one of them.

hotel near Sokha Resort Sihanoukville Cambodia

Near Sokha Resort

And here is another. There are others near this one, but I didn’t want to post too many or this would be a long post with too many photographs.

There’s even more developments being built near Independence Beach. I posted a photo of the biggest one a few posts ago, but there are also developments on the opposite side of the road from the beach. Here’s one of the biggest.

development near Independence beach Sihanoukville Cambodia

Note the cement truck (I counted five). Near Independence Beach

And here is another development in the same area.

two developments near Independence beach Sihanoukville Cambodia

After I took these photos, I was still a little early for dinner, so I took the long way to my favourite Cambodian restaurant on the Hill. I hadn’t been on this road for about six months, so imagine my surprise when I saw a brand new casino near the hotels along this stretch of road. I wondered where the “Rich Casino” was. I found out yesterday.

the Rich Casino near Victory Beach Sihanoukville Cambodia

But that wasn’t the only new development I saw there. I also saw this one. I have no idea what it is or how big it’s going to be, but here it is.

new development near Victory beach Sihanoukville Cambodia

I also saw land being cleared for more developments. One area looked quite large. Who knows what it will be. Possibly another casino or possibly a resort. Time will tell. Some say the Chinese are building all these developments, but wealthy Cambodians are also building. Apartment buildings are going up all over the place. Again, some say it is to house Chinese, who are coming here in droves and driving prices up.

I read recently that Chinese tourists are up by 45.7% in Cambodia in just nine months, but many are staying here long term and renting apartments. I’m told they like to stick together and often offer more money for an entire apartment complex. In some cases, owners have told barang (western expats) to leave so the Chinese could take over the complex.

Sihanoukville is changing and changing fast. I remember when I came here almost 11 years ago and rarely saw a car on the road. Now there seem to be almost as many cars as motorbikes and the beach road is filled with cement trucks and trucks bringing in supplies. It’s not the same town I came to and we’ll just have to see what happens next. One thing seems sure: development in Sihanoukville is not stopping any time soon.

Trash and treasure in Sihanoukville

sokha-beach-sihanoukville-cambodia

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I started this blog because I had a lot of positive things to say about Sihanoukville. I purposely did not write negative things, but that may have been a little misleading. Like anyplace else, there are positives and negatives about Sihanoukville. I went to my favourite beaches today and took photos of both the positives and negatives. This blog is about trash and treasure in Sihanoukville.

I’m not picking on Sihanoukville alone. When I went to a beach on Bali that didn’t have a trash pickup service, a stream was filled with plastic. You couldn’t even see the water there was so much of it. When the wind blew onshore in Kuta, trash washed up on the beach. They picked it up, but I think they just dumped it at sea again, so it washed in the next time the wind blew onshore.

sokha-beach-sihanoukville-cambodia

Sihanoukville is a place of contrasts. I tend to overlook the trash on the beach and focus on the islands and the trees on the headlands where I swim. It’s there, though, and can be hard to overlook. I went to Sokha Beach first. They groom the beach at the resort end and sometimes clean up the trash on the free end of the beach. It piles up quickly, though and they can’t really keep up with it. When you look out to sea, it’s beautiful, but if you focus on the ground, there is trash everywhere.

sokha-beach-trash

The same is true of Victory Beach. It’s worse there because there is no resort and no one picks up the trash on one side of the pier. There is a little cafe next to the pier on the other side and a more upmarket one next to that. They pick up the trash on that side of the beach, which is good. Like Sokha, when you take a long look out to sea, it’s beautiful. When you look more closely, you see a lot of trash.

victory-beach-sihanoukville-cambodia

Like I said, I can overlook the trash on the beaches, but I have a harder time overlooking the mega-developments that are happening along the coast. When the beach road was narrow, we used to “go looking” almost every evening. There were just a few motorbikes on the road and it was quite pleasant. Now there are trucks everywhere taking dirt and supplies to the big developments. I took this photograph of one of the developments. There used to be a big field there. Just next to it, cows still graze, but the development is an eyesore in my opinion.

victory-beach-trash-flowers

flowers and trash side-by-side at Victory Beach

 

I can overlook the trash, but the developments are getting to me. Sihanoukville used to have a village feel to it. It’s grown in 10 years and while we rarely saw cars even on Ekareach Street, there are almost as many cars as motorbikes on Ekareach Street now. Where there used to be little shops, many have been torn down and taller buildings are being built. There are so many casinos in town now, it’s ridiculous.

development-sihanoukville-cambodia

If it continues developing at this pace, the time may come when we have to move to someplace quieter. I’d like it to be near the coast because I love to swim, but we’ll see. Steung Hau still has cheap land and long, beautiful beaches. Granted, there aren’t any places that serve cappuccinos or western food there, but that’s a small price to pay for a quieter location. Kampot is another option. There are some beautiful beaches near Kampot and many of them are empty. It will be a longer ride to get to them, but that’s okay. It will be worth it to have an empty beach to swim at. Then again, we may adjust to the changes and stay in Sihanoukville. There is both trash and treasure in Sihanoukville. Time will tell if the trash overtakes the treasure.

cows-sihanoukville-cambodia

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.

Chinese in Sihanoukville

chinese-in-sihanoukville-hotel

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You can’t help but notice the numbers of Chinese in Sihanoukville. You see them everywhere. Despite the myth they travel in large packs, I’ve seen families, backpackers, couples and small groups of Chinese everywhere from the Hill to Otres Beach. There is a lot of controversy about them. Some say they are driving rental rates up and others say they are generally rude and arrogant.

chinese-in-sihanoukville-casino-resort

The largest Chinese development I know of

One thing I’ve noticed is that they do tend to stick together. I’m yet to have a conversation with one. I’ve also read stories about large groups of Chinese being deported for various reasons. Some are deported for starting internet scams. A group was deported for starting a fight near the Golden Lions and I’ve heard other stories as well.

I don’t want to defend or condemn Chinese tourists and expats in Sihanoukville. Like any other group of people, you run across good ones and bad ones. Almost every time I go swimming at Victory Beach, I see them heading out to the end of the pier to go on boat tours. When I have dinner on the Hill, I see small groups of Chinese walking by. One bar that is being refurbished has hung a sign that has no English. The sign is in Chinese, Khmer and another language.

chinese-in-sihanoukville-bar

I decided to find out what the internet had to say about the Chinese. I was surprised by the number of articles I found. I’ll just share three or I’ll be here all day.

What the Media Has to Say About Chinese in Sihanoukville and Cambodia

An article in The Diplomat was fairly interesting. In 1988, Prime Minister Hun Sen said China was at the “root of everything that is evil” in Cambodia. He has changed his tune since then. It probably has something to do with the amount of aid China sends to Cambodia and the number of developments they are putting up here. They are large scale developments, too. Many of them seem to have a casino attached.

Another article in The Economist has the title: Why Cambodia has cosied up to China. The subtitle is: “and why it worries its neighbours.” The final sentence is interesting:

Nobody yet knows what America’s policy on the South China Sea will be under Donald Trump, but increasingly it looks as if Cambodia has picked the winning side.

The third article was in the Washington Post. The title is Snubbed by Trump, Cambodia is embracing Chinese ways. The article notes that China has cancelled $90 million in debt. Meanwhile, the United States has demanded that Cambodia repay a debt from before the Khmer Rouge era. That created a lot of controversy here because Cambodia remembers the U.S. bombing campaign that helped give rise to the Khmer Rouge. As the article says:

Hun Sen has railed against Washington for demanding that Phnom Penh repay its war-era debt. “They brought bombs and dropped them on Cambodia and [now] demand that the Cambodian people should pay,” Hun Sen said in March.

Someone told me there are something like 74 casinos in Sihanoukville now. I don’t know if it’s true, but there are a lot of them. Sometimes I think Sihanoukville should be renamed Casinoville. I had to laugh when I saw one. The “Rich Casino” name was already taken, so this one calls itself the “Super Rich Casino.” They have English signs, but Chinese is often also there.

I’ve heard stories about expats who are looking for another place to live because of the Chinese “invasion.” They tell me stories of rental rises. One man I met had a nice one-bedroom apartment. He and everyone else got kicked out because the Chinese offered higher rents. The Cambodian woman who runs a restaurant I go to frequently told me last night customer numbers are down because “barang are leaving because of Chinese.” I hope she stays in business. Her food is very good and inexpensive. She has a family to support, too.

I’ve also seen some new hotels that don’t bother with signs in English. I guess they are Chinese run or designed for Chinese customers, who are said to be happy to pay more than barang for a hotel room.

chinese-in-sihanoukville-hotel

I like the cultural diversity of Sihanoukville. I like hearing different languages and seeing people from different cultures. In my experience, they’re all the same. Some are good, some bad and some in-between. I hope the rumors about a million Chinese moving to Cambodia are false. Rumors here often are.

I recently read an article in The Guardian, China moves to curb overseas development as firms’ debt level rise. Hopefully, that will help curb the insane number of casino/resorts that are slated to be developed. Some Chinese come to Cambodia and other countries to run internet scams. Quite a few of them have been arrested and deported, so hopefully that fad will pass, too. There was even one weird scam where they convinced people to take nude photos. Then they used the photos to extort the victims. They got arrested, too.

I don’t think it’s time to panic yet about the Chinese in Sihanoukville. Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sihanoukville is Growing Fast Everywhere You Look

big development at otres beach sihanoukville

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They cut down a tree in front of my office last week. I loved the tree and had been watching it grow for over 10 years. I was surprised by what I saw after they cut it down. I saw two high rises in the distance and three cranes. They look much closer than they look in this photo. It just reminded me that Sihanoukville is growing fast.

sihanoukville growing fast

I know where these developments are. I often pass them when I ride my motorbike along the beach road. I just didn’t realise how close they were to my home.

Sihanoukville is Growing Fast

It wasn’t raining today, so I went for a motorbike ride out to Otres village. Sorry, I forgot to take photos, but it has changed a lot in the six months since I was last there. For one thing, the dirt road has been paved with cement. For another thing, bungalows are springing up everywhere. It used to be quiet out there, but with all the new developments, it’s beginning to look like another city. I even saw one hotel being built in the village.

That didn’t surprise me as much as the giant development I saw going up on the second road back from the beach. I’d heard a rumour that Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba, had bought a huge chunk of Otres in that general area. I don’t know if the development is his, but whoever owns it, whatever is going there is going to be massive. I took one photo, but it’s just one small area of the total development. I almost played chicken with a huge bulldozer, but decided to pull over and let it pass. Too bad. I wanted to take a picture of it. This is the one photo I took.

big development at otres beach sihanoukville

Like I said, that’s just a tiny corner of the development.

On the way out to Otres, I passed through Ochheuteal beach. Hotels are going up there, too. Some are smallish by today’s standards, but they would have been big developments not too many years ago. I remember when I never saw cranes or heavy equipment here. Now I see them everywhere.

Rumour has it the Chinese are responsible for much of the development here. It’s quite possible because more Chinese tourists are coming to Sihanoukville. They don’t travel in packs, either. I’ve seen everything from Chinese backpackers to families and larger groups here. I see them everywhere, even on the Hill. For the most part, they are quiet and polite, but like every large group, there are some bad ones.

Sorry about the lack of photos. I wasn’t thinking of writing a blog, but it’s been awhile since my last update, so I thought I’d write a quick one. Next time I’ll make sure to take more photographs. For now you’re just going to have to trust me: Sihanoukville is growing fast.

Renting in Sihanoukville

renting in sihanoukville

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Update October 18, 2017: Rentals are going up in Sihanoukville. The Chinese are offering more money and some apartment buildings are kicking people out to cater to the Chinese. You can still find some bargains, but have to look harder.

Many people come to visit Sihanoukville and decide they want to stay longer. Some stay a month, some stay a few months and some stay for years. Whether it’s for a month or a year, renting in Sihanoukville is far cheaper than paying for a hotel or guesthouse. There are tricks to it, though.

renting in sihanoukville

New apartments are springing up everywhere in Sihanoukville

First of all, how much do you want to pay for a Sihanoukville rental? If you look around, you can find decent studio apartments for around $70 to $85 a month (US$). If you want a one-bedroom apartment, they start at around $150, but I’ve heard of people finding them for less. If you have a family, you might want a more secure location with parking. That can cost up to $450 a month if it includes a wall, gate, guard and CCTV cameras.

You can find rentals on the Sihanoukville Real Estate Facebook page, but don’t take them at face value. As anywhere, the landlord will publish the most flattering photos of their property. You want to see the property first and decide if it’s in a location you will be comfortable living in. Some properties might be in a noisy area or on a bad road that might be almost impassable during the rainy season. Others may be too isolated for your taste. Have a look at several before you decide on one.

Renting in Sihanoukville: Tips and Tricks

I don’t rent, but I recently got an assignment about renting in Sihanoukville. I interviewed several people and learned a lot. They gave me some tips and tricks to share with readers:

  • Don’t rent long term before you’ve stayed here and know you like it. Some guesthouses will rent by the month. A month will give you time to have a look around and find an area you want to live in.
  • Rentals are negotiable. If you love a place, you can get it cheaper than the asking price. One man I interviewed saw an apartment he liked for $150 a month and talked them down to $120 a month.
  • Most landlords prefer longer leases and will accept less money for a year’s lease than a three month lease. A mansion I know of rented for $3000 a month for three months. Someone offered $1700 a month for a year’s lease and the landlord accepted it.
  • Take a good look at the access road. If you come during the dry season, remember you’ll also have to negotiate the road in the rainy season. If the road is badly rutted or there’s a depression in it, it might be barely passable in the rainy season or flooded in heavy rains.
  • Ask about electricity and water. You may have to pay for electricity and/or water.

It’s worth repeating that rents are negotiable. So many apartment blocks are springing up here, some landlords are struggling to find tenants. They will accept a lower offer just to get tenants in their apartments. If you want a house, those rents can be negotiable, too, but it depends on the area. Some homes are in popular areas and the landlords know they can get what they ask for.

renting in sihanoukville

Even mansions are available in Sihanoukville

Cheaper homes tend to be Khmer style homes. They can be brick and often have walls, but they may not have fresh coats of paint and you may have to pay electricity and water. Most of them won’t have air conditioning and you may have to buy a TV, a fridge and other things you need. Some are furnished, some are partially furnished and others may be unfurnished. In most cases, you will be responsible for paying for repairs.They can be cheap, though. I saw one for only $150 per month.

You can find rentals in Sihanoukville, but shop around first. There are plenty to choose from. You can even find bungalows and a few houses in Otres Village. Most of the better and cheaper rentals are a little outside the main centers. I interviewed one man who rented a small room on the Hill for $150. He eventually found a one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the Hill for the same price.

Sihanoukville beaches

From some articles I’ve read, I’ve gotten the impression that Ochheuteal Beach is the only beach in Sihanoukville. If not that, it’s touted as the most popular beach in town. I almost never go to Ochheuteal. I like to swim and I choose quieter beaches where I can enjoy a view of nature while I swim. Here’s a rundown on Sihanoukville beaches you might not have thought about.

I’ll start with this satellite view of Sihanoukville. It covers all the beaches in the area. Admittedly, it can take some time to reach some of them, but if you want to be surrounded by nature instead of restaurants, it can be worth taking the time to get to some of them.

Towards the bottom of the photo, you’ll see Ochheuteal and Otres. Look at the very bottom of the photo and you’ll see the outline of another beach. Well, it’s a narrow beach, but it’s there at the bottom right. It’s hidden because it’s not developed and there are trees on the beach. It’s a bit rocky on the ends of the beach, but you can still find hundreds of metres of beach to swim in.

I don’t go there often because it takes about an hour to get there. I usually don’t have time for day trips, so I go to beaches closer to my home. My two favourites are the free end of Sokha Beach and what I still call Victory Beach (because it’s below Victory Hill). My current favourite is Victory Beach because it’s often windy when I go swimming and Victory Beach is sheltered from the wind. When there are whitecaps at other beaches, the water is fairly calm there.

I also like to take the kids there because there is an inexpensive restaurant on the left side of the pier and the water is shallow for a good distance. I like to go swimming alone there, too, because once I get past the beach, there’s a rocky, undeveloped area and I can swim between the rocks and have a wonderful quiet little nook where I can imagine I’m on an unspoiled island. Here’s a photo of the beach as seen from the restaurant.

What you don’t see is what I see when I go swimming there. This satellite image shows the area past the beach. There’s a little unnamed beach on the other side of the headland that is usually empty. Then you come to Hawaii Beach, which is also relatively quiet.

This photo illustrates a point I want to make about Sihanoukville beaches. The beaches with the biggest names may not be the beaches you want to go to if you want to get away from the crowds or want to go to a beach that isn’t lined with restaurants. The Airport Disco used to dominate the right side of the pier at Victory Beach, but it wasn’t very successful and they tore it down. Now it’s a relatively quiet beach with a few palm trees to provide shade.

If you really want to get away from it all, you can go to the beach I mentioned above (the one at the bottom of the first satellite image). It will take a while to get there and you’ll need to take food and water with you, but you will be surrounded by nature. Arguably, it will feel more remote than some of the islands, which have been developed since fast boats became available.

Think outside the box when you’re in Sihanoukville. You can find Sihanoukville beaches that suit you better than others. You may have to search for your ideal beach, but it will be worth it.

 

Why I like living in Sihanoukville

Victory Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia

I started this blog because I hadn’t read many positive blogs or articles about living in Sihanoukville. Most of them focused on the worse parts of the city and others made stuff up. That includes some mainstream publications. I read one article in the Sydney Morning Herald that said half-built hotels were “derelict” and wouldn’t be finished. If the writer returned to Sihanoukville, she would see they have all been completed.

I wanted to avoid making my site personal, so I’ve written little about why I like it here. It’s a blog, so I should be able to write what I want to. I have no idea why I made up that rule, so here’s . . .

Why I like living in Sihanoukville

I could focus on the negatives, but I chose to focus on the positive things about living here. Negatives include trash on the beaches. I don’t like it, but I can ignore it and focus on the warm water and beautiful views. Here’s a photo of one of my favourite swimming beaches. I still call it Victory Beach because it’s near Victory Hill, but I’m not sure it’s called that any more.

living in Sihanoukville: beautiful beachesI used to go to the other side of the pier, but now I go to this side. For one thing, they keep the beach clean on this side. Since they tore down the Airport on the other side of the pier, no one picks up the trash on the beach. This little restaurant serves coconut milk straight out of the coconut and other snacks. They also look after my stuff for me. I gave them my phone and wallet yesterday and the waitress didn’t steal any money. During the week, the only sound is the lapping of wavelets against the shore. On weekends, children play on the pier and you can hear them laughing as they jump off the pier and play on their rope swing.

When it’s not windy, I go swimming at Sokha Beach. When it’s windy, Victory Beach is sheltered from most of the wind. Yesterday, for example, there were whitecaps at Independence Beach and even more whitecaps at Sokha Beach. There were none at Victory Beach.

I love to swim. The water is always warm here and I can always find a place to swim. That’s one reason why I like living here. Another reason is that I am able to support a family on my freelance writing income here and indulge in daily cappuccinos and dinners out. If I lived in Australia, I’d only be able to support myself and would rarely if ever be able to indulge even in a cappuccino. Here I can have one or two cappuccinos every day and have my pick of restaurants. I can get a good meal and two small glasses of wine for $5.00 at one Cambodian restaurant. If I go upmarket, I can get a delicious Italian meal and a glass of wine for $7.50.

living in Sihanoukville: good restaurantsThese are my two current favourite restaurants. They’re both on the Hill, but they both serve delicious food. I usually go to Irina Franca because Raphael’s is more popular and I can’t sit outside. Irina is a wonderful Russian woman who serves home made Russian and Italian food. Both restaurants are reasonably priced. I’m not a big fan of the Hill, but the food is good and there is less traffic when I go in that direction.

Swimming and food are two reasons why I like living in Sihanoukville, but they’re not the only reasons. I was able to make freelance writing my career here because I could afford to. The first year was tough and I didn’t start making enough to indulge myself until about 2013. Now I’m making a reasonable living and freelance writing is the first job I’ve had I really enjoy. I’ve had others that were okay, but I love freelance writing. In Australia I could only do it sporadically. I made good money on articles for print publications, but never enough to make a career of it.

The reason I’ve written this article is because some people think I’d be better off in Australia. I disagree. I live comfortably here and have a Cambodian family. I get a lot of pleasure out of knowing I’m being of service to my family. In Australia I’d only be able to take care of myself. Living in Cambodia has made my life fuller than it would be in Australia. Australia was great, but times have changed. I like living in Sihanoukville for the reasons stated above and more. The city is growing fast and we’re talking about moving, but I don’t think I’ll leave Cambodia.It feels like home to me now.