What’s wrong with this picture? Well, nothing’s wrong with it other than the fact that since it was taken in February of 2007, Sihanoukville has changed dramatically.

This is a photo of Ekareach Street. If you come to Sihanoukville, you will get to know this street well. It is the main street in town and runs all the way from Victory Hill to the Golden Lions, where it splits off into three roads that run parallel to Ochheuteal Beach. Back when this picture was taken, there were no stop lights on Ekareach Street. Now there are six sets of lights and they have been there long enough that most of the locals know you are meant to stop at the red and go on the green. Most of them obey the traffic rules only when the traffic police are around, though.

The stop lights were a good idea, because another thing that has changed on Ekareach Street is the amount of traffic that travels up and down the street every day. A few years ago, it was mostly motorbikes and the peak traffic hour was 5.00 pm, when everyone got out of school and work. Now it seems like peak hour is all day every day – and much more of the traffic is cars. In 2007, seeing a car on the road was a big deal. Now it’s nothing.

map of sihanoukville cambodiaThe changes on Ekareach Street are symbolic of the changes going on throughout Sihanoukville. This city, once a sleepy little town whose official name was Kampong Som (roughly speaking, “village by the sea”), is now Cambodia’s fastest growing city and one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. Sihanoukville and its surrounding villages was declared a Province of Cambodia in 2009. An airport has been built and although it is yet to be used, it’s only a matter of time. Until 2009, Serendipity Road, the first stretch of road after the Golden Lions, was mostly a motley collection of backpackers accommodations and cheap restaurants. In 2010, after land ownership rights were sorted out, it was almost instantly transformed into the trendiest tourist area in town and the work has only begun.

And this brings us to the reason for the Sihanoukville Journal. This journal is written by an Australian/American expat who has lived here since 2006. In that time, I have observed all of the changes in this city first-hand. I have also grown and learned from my experiences here and finally feel like I am beginning to understand Cambodia and its culture. I want to share this fascinating country with you and introduce you to the city I now call home – Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

I hope you enjoy the Sihanoukville Journal.