Independence Beach Update

It was almost a month ago that I wrote about the big changes going on at Independence Beach. In the second paragraph, I speculated that they might be building a resort. Well, I was right and it looks like it’s going to be another mega-resort and I suppose condominiums. In preparation for the Water Festival, they’ve plastered signs across the site. Not a very good photo, but you can see from the picture that it’s another high-rise beach development.

Either I’m not very observant or they built this building in a hurry because I didn’t notice it last time I passed by. I assume it’s where people are meant to go to find out more about Blue Bay.

It took me about 20 minutes to get from Ekareach Street to the beach yesterday. They were already setting up stalls in anticipation of the Sea Festival, which starts on the 23rd. Trucks unloading products for the stalls were blocking traffic. I couldn’t take any pictures as I crawled through the traffic, but about 50 stalls were already filled with goods. I saw everything from clothes and shoes to gifts and one place was even selling mattresses. They were just getting started along the beach road. I was able to take this photo of one stall. They are all about the same size.

As I made my way towards the Hill, where I was going for my almost nightly meal at Irina Franca, I passed under this banner. It’s much smaller than the one on the other side of the beach, but I was tired of fighting traffic, so I didn’t go back to take a picture of the larger banner.

Also note the now completed sculpture on the left. There’s a wide footpath leading to the Independence Hotel pier. It looks like it’s going to be open to the public.

Next time I’ll give an update on Dao of Life. They’re moving down to the bottom of Serendipity Road. I think it’s a great location. Just have to take a few photos.

Secret beaches of Sihanoukville

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I read another “authoritative” article about the noisy, congested beaches of Sihanoukville the other day. As usual, it was by someone who came here for a few days and spent all their time on Ochheuteal beach. Since they spent all of a few days in the one spot, they decided they were an authority on the subject of Sihanoukville. They mentioned Otres as an alternative, but didn’t give any details and an uninformed reader would surmise that Ochheuteal and Otres were the only two mainland beach options in Sihanoukville. As you can see, there are others.

white rabbit beach panorama

This panorama shot is a little deceiving. Straighten out the beach and the lounges and you get a more accurate picture. As you can see, the beach isn’t such a big secret, either, but it might as well be if you’re the type who believes what they read in mainstream blogs and publications.

white rabbit menu

After I wrote The Mellow Side of Ochheuteal Beach, a local complained that she wished I hadn’t published it. I assured her that most backpackers didn’t visit my site, so the secret was safe. Just to be on the safe side, I’m not going to reveal where this beach is. The photo should make it obvious, but finding the entrance to the beach isn’t so obvious. I’ll give you a hint, though. I took the photo a few days ago when the wind was blowing hard on other beaches in Sihanoukville. This one was sheltered from the prevailing wind. I hung out at White Rabbit and enjoyed lunch and coffee between swims and reading. The weather took a turn for the worse in the afternoon, but the couple of hours I spent at the beach made my weekend complete. I’d just spent a marathon week of work and needed a break.

This beach was just one of three I could have chosen to spend my time at. I chose this one because I wanted a Western meal. Just down the road is an even more secret (to Westerners) beach, but the food is all Khmer and there’s not as much sand on the beach. Just up the road is another beach that has a stretch of empty sand next to a couple of Khmer-run restaurants.

These three secret beaches of Sihanoukville are within five minutes ride on a motorbike from each other. If I had more time and took my own supplies, I could go out of town and find completely empty beaches or beaches that are frequented by a handful of Cambodians on picnics only.

The point of this little exercise is to demonstrate how limited mainstream sites are in their coverage of any destination. Fair enough, your first stop should probably be a more frequented part of any city, but if hanging out with backpackers isn’t your thing, avoid the places backpackers tell you to go to. Instead, take the side roads and see what you find. If nothing else, you’ll have an interesting day and you just might find a little patch of paradise hidden away between the tourist traps.

Rediscovering Ochheuteal Beach

One of the drawbacks to living in Sihanoukville or any tourist town is that eventually you don’t feel like a tourist anymore. Those things that excited and intrigued you when you visited the first time start to seem mundane and boring. That’s part of the reason why I almost never go to Ochheuteal Beach.

Afternoon at Ochheuteal Beach, SihanoukvilleLast Sunday, we decided to have a family afternoon/evening out. While I thought of our usual haunts, with typical ingenuity, Sopheak suggested Ochheuteal Beach. Not only did she suggest Ochheuteal, she took us to the heart of the most touristy part of the beach. Reluctant at first, when our tuk tuk turned down the little dirt road that leads directly to the beach, a road I hadn’t been down in at least a couple of years, I suddenly felt like a tourist again and it felt good.

The feeling continued when we sat down in front of our chosen restaurant. The children immediately headed for the water to take advantage of the late afternoon sun, while I just relaxed and enjoyed looking at Ochheuteal in a completely new light. I mean that literally. I can’t think of another time when I’ve been at Ochheuteal in the late afternoon and early evening.

Evening at Ochheuteal Beach, SihanoukvilleI’ve always thought of Ochheuteal Beach as divided between the barang section on the Serendipity end and the Cambodian section further down the beach. We were sitting just about on the border between the two and it was nice to see a mingling of Cambodian, European and Asian tourists. It was also nice to see so many families at the beach at that time of the evening. The best part, though, was that everybody was enjoying it all as much as we were.

 

 

 

 

Old road to Ochheuteal Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia

 

The next morning, I rode my bike back to the little dirt road that leads to Ochheuteal Beach to try out an “all day breakfast” restaurant that had caught my eye the day before. I wanted to try the pumpkin spice pancakes I’d seen on its sign. Just about every little restaurant in town sells pancakes, but they almost all leave something to be desired. The pancakes at Sisters were perfect. In fact, they were possibly the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten.
Sisters at Ochheuteal Beach, SihanoukvilleI had a chat with the proprietor, who told me she and her two sisters each had a Sisters restaurant. The other two are in Phnom Penh and Kampot. All three sisters attended a cooking school in Phnom Penh run by a Cambodian woman who learned to cook Western style food in America. She must have learned at a very good school or restaurant, because I ate a lot of pancakes in the US when I was younger and they couldn’t hold a candle to these.

I went back to Sisters on Wednesday and would have gone this morning, too, if it hadn’t been raining. When you’re in Sihanoukville, be sure and give it a try. You’ll love it. To find Sisters and the little road pictured above, check out the doctored screenshot below and then go to my new Sihanoukville Map page for better directions. I’m inordinately proud of my ever growing map, so please also visit it on Google maps. In time, it may show up on search results. Thanks.

Map of small section of Ochheuteal Beach showing location of Sisters at Ochheuteal