When I came here in 2007, it was a big deal when a cruise ship came to town. Now we get 30 every year. A couple of weeks ago, Sophie got a nice job taking a family from one of them for a tour around Sihanoukville. They had a great time because she hand picked the sights. Others aren’t so lucky. They hop on a tour bus after trudging off the docks, take a spin around town and that’s about it.
If the Ministry of Tourism gets its way, all that is going to change. In an effort to make Sihanoukville a more attractive travel destination, they’re contemplating some major changes:
- Reducing or eliminating visa charges for tourists arriving by sea or the airport
- Building a shopping and dining area at the port
- Allowing foreigners to own holiday properties in selected areas
I was stunned when I read this in an article in the ASEAN news site, TTR, Cambodia considers sea shore incentives. I knew cruise ships were not a big deal any more. There were three in port when Sophie picked up her customers. I didn’t know we got 30 a year with up to 1,800 passengers in each, though.
I knew the port was becoming more active. Awhile back, we decided to take an afternoon motorbike ride on the road that skirts the port. We hadn’t gone that route in years. The road was so clogged with trucks carrying containers, it took us about half an hour to negotiate what used to be an almost empty three or four minute stretch of road. I hadn’t thought about it from the tourist angle, though.
It’s semi-official: Sihanoukville is a hot travel destination
Tourists are coming here from all directions. Some expats are grumbling because international flights aren’t finding their way here, but I think it’s a good thing. As fast as it’s growing, Sihanoukville is having trouble keeping up with the influx of tourists. Three times in the past two weeks, we’ve had to look for a restaurant that had a table or a beach cafe that had spare lounges. We found them on the second try, but it was just one more sign that our little town is becoming a hot travel destination.
Don’t take my word for it, though. A recent article in the Nesara News Network, The new hot travel destinations you’ve never heard of! listed Trip Advisor’s Destinations on the Rise awards. I thought I might see Sihanoukville somewhere towards the bottom of the list, but it was Number 2 after Da Nang.
What’s the attraction? Come and see for yourself. There are plenty of beaches and islands to explore, but don’t leave Ream National Park off you list, either. And try some out of the way places that Trip Advisor doesn’t know about. No sense just following the crowd when you’re in the Kingdom of Wonder.