Pchum Ben in Sihanoukville 2016

I’ve written about Pchum Ben before. The first time was in 2011 and the second in 2012. There are probably other posts about it, too, but those two will give you some background about this two week long celebration. We usually go to wats (temples) far from Sihanoukville over Pchum Ben, but this year we stayed close to home. Last week we went to Wat Otres.

Pchum Ben Wat Otres Sihanoukville 2016This week, we went to Wat Leu. It’s been so long since I’ve been up there, it seemed like an adventure. Wat Leu isn’t the best maintained wat I’ve been to, but it has wonderful views and is surrounded by trees. You don’t really feel like you’re in Sihanoukville when you’re up there.

Pchum Ben Wat Leu Sihanoukville 2016We had a great time, mostly hanging out in the shade after going to the temple. They sell cold drinks and treats outside the wat. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. That’s something I like about religious holidays in Cambodia. You’re expected to dress modestly in long dresses or long pants, but no one puts on spiritual airs. They do pay their respects to their ancestors in the temple, but after that they go back to normal.

Pchum Ben 2016 at Wat Leu, Sihanoukville CambodiaWe stayed for an hour or two and then went down to Independence Beach for lunch. After lunch the kids went for a swim and I stayed on shore making sure they didn’t drift away. Cambodians in general don’t understand ocean currents. Fortunately, the current was going sideways today, but I still had to herd the kids back when they drifted too far. There was a rip and a deep spot I didn’t want them to get near. Not sure if I mentioned it here, but one day I went to the beach and just after I dove in for a swim I had to rescue a kid who was being pulled out to sea. 10 people drowned over that week. Lucky I was there or he would have been the eleventh. Easy enough for me. I just told him to put his arms around my shoulders and I walked him to shore.

Independence Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia 2016That was our day. We were home by 2:30, so I went to my “magic Cambodian cafe” for a cappuccino and cookie after we got home.

While I’m here, I want to mention two wonderful restaurants on the Hill. It’s a shame they don’t get more customers, but nobody gets many customers on the Hill. Raphael’s and Irina Franca are right next to each other. Irina Franca is run by a very nice Russian woman who is a superb cook. Unfortunately, I’m about the only person who knows it. She still makes a special every night. Last time I went there it was spinach and ricotta gnocchi.  I don’t usually like gnocchi, but hers was excellent. Raphael’s has a new owner, an Italian man who makes great pizzas and pastas.

Restaurants on the Hill in Sihanoukville CambodiaI don’t suppose my little post is going to change things for either restaurant, but I wanted to give them a plug. They’re both very good and it’s a shame they don’t get more customers.

The Road from Otres to Sihanoukville Airport

I’ve been wanting to take the new road from Otres to the Sihanoukville Airport for a while now. Today was the perfect day for it: no rain, a little overcast and windy. I was hesitant after a friend hit a rock and had a bad accident, but another friend told me it was smooth now. She was right.

road from otres beach sihanoukville to ream I told myself I wasn’t going to get distracted by new developments. It wasn’t easy, because I saw many as I rode my motorbike to Wat Otres, where the new road begins. I couldn’t help but take a picture of this mural on a wall just outside of Otres, though. I have no idea who did it, but it’s brilliant.

mural near Otres beach, sihanoukville cambodiaThe first thing I came across on the new road from Otres to the Sihanoukville Airport was this.

on road from otres to ream, sihanoukville cambodiaI was impressed but was more impressed when I came across this vista.

road from otres to battrang, sihanoukville cambodiaI took this photograph at a crossroads. I rode to the bottom, but turned around. I thought the other road would lead to a beach. I ran into a Cambodian man I know on my way back up the hill and he wanted to show me the 3 hectares of land he had bought, so I followed him to the bottom. He told me the road comes out at Route 4 in Battrang and was going to be paved next year. I’m glad I went today. I’ve been kicking myself for not taking photos of places before they’re developed. I didn’t see much of interest on his land, but after I turned around, I had to take a photograph of these cows. I suspect one day there will be a resort where this little shack is today.

road from otres to sihanoukville airportWhen I got back to the top of the hill, I went down the road I suspected led to a beach. I was right. It was a beautiful, unspoiled beach with only a couple of families having picnic lunches on the beach.

empty beach outside of sihanoukville cambodiaOther than that, it was completely empty. I loved it and plan on returning soon to enjoy a few hours on an empty beach swimming and relaxing in the sun.

empty beach between sihanoukville and ream, cambodiaIt reminded me of Maui, circa 1969. We used to go to Makeena Beach and swim nude. It was completely empty. A guy told me there’s a golf course there now. It’s getting harder to find empty beaches. No, I won’t swim nude (that was when I was a young hippie), but I’ll enjoy the natural, empty beach for as long as I can.

The Mellow Side of Ochheuteal Beach

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The Phnom Penh Post finds it hard to say anything good about Cambodia, so I wasn’t surprised when I read the headline: Ochheuteal Beach is the worst tourist trap in all of Cambodia. To my surprise, I actually agreed with some of what the 2012 article said. “Ochheuteal is why the rest of Sihanoukville is unfairly tarnished as the creeping Pattaya of Cambodia,” the author wrote and I couldn’t agree with him more. I never go to that end of Ochheuteal Beach, but should go to the other end more often.

sunset-lounge-buddha-ochheuteal-beach

This Buddha greeted me when I rolled up to Sunset Lounge yesterday morning. He set the pace for the entire morning and by the time I finished lunch, I felt like I’d been on a spiritual vacation.

Sunset Lounge is located on the far end of Ochheuteal Beach, just below the headland. Cross over the headland past Queen Hill Resort and you’re at Otres Beach. I only had a few hours to spare, so I made the most of them. I chose a table in the shade on the grass just in front of the beach and went for a swim before ordering lunch. The friendly German couple who run the guesthouse/restaurant looked after my phone and keys while I swam. This is the view from my table.

sunset-lounge-beach-ochheuteal-beach

Notice the white sand beach. They don’t just keep the beach immaculately clean: they rake it, so I felt like I was looking at a Zen sand garden and almost felt guilty for walking across the sand.

It had been about a year since I last came here and Sunset Lounge has only improved. They closed it last rainy season to landscape the grounds and add two bungalows. When I asked them how business was, they told me they were full, but were going to close on May 13 to build more bungalows, so if you want to stay there (highly recommended!), you’ll have to wait till October.

After a delightful lunch, I went for another swim and headed home for a shower before my weekly writing group meeting. Speaking of writing, I’ve finished the first draft of my book and am now doing the hard part — editing. It’s gone through a couple of name changes. The first title was This Could be Heaven. Then I changed it to Serendipity Road. I like that title, but that’s just one reason why the group has been so valuable. Someone pointed out that it sounded like a romance novel and it dawned on me that you’d have to read the book to understand why I chose that title. The title’s on hold now, but something will come to me.

I left early and wasn’t able to enjoy the sunset at Sunset Lounge. I caught the sunset at the park near the port the other evening, though. Imagine this without the port blocking your view and you get an idea of how mellow watching the sunset from Sunset Lounge would be.

sunset-in-sihanoukville-cambodiaOne thing I can say for tourist traps is that they herd all the people I don’t want to be around into one small area. While the other end of Ochheuteal Beach is populated by “inert tourists, without exception clad in knockoff Ray-Bans and propping up their foreheads with their hands, lest they all pass out in unison and knock out their two front teeth on the table”, the mellow side of Ochheuteal Beach is sparsely populated by tourists thoroughly enjoying the best of what Cambodia’s beaches have to offer.

 

Email to an old Sihanoukville friend

When I came to Sihanoukville to stay in 2007, I felt out of my depth and did what most newcomers do — asked those who had been here longer than I for their advice. One of those people was a guy who had only been here a few months longer, but he helped me more than most, not because he had all the answers, but because he admitted he didn’t. What he had to offer was better than advice: he offered support.

He left Sihanoukville a couple of years later because he couldn’t make a decent living here. We kept in touch for awhile. Then he got married, had a child and we were out of touch for years. I heard from him recently and he wanted to know what life was like here now. I thought about writing him a lengthy email. Then I decided to write the email here so others could get an inkling of how much this town has changed.

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Hey –,

Great to hear from you! Everything’s good here. It’s too bad you started your business when you did because I think if you had given it a try now it would be much more successful. We don’t have a long, dead rainy season to ride out, for one thing. The numbers drop, but rainy seasons now are as busy as the high seasons used to be.

When you were here, activity was centred around the Hill, downtown and Serendipity beach. The Hill became a bit of a ghost town after they paved Serendipity Road and the road to Otres. I think they tore down the old bus station before you left. A lot of downtown guesthouses suffered because of that, but some hung in there and a few are doing well again. They keep their prices lower than places closer to the beach and some of them pull in customers because they offer good rooms and have good restaurants.

For awhile, the area around Serendipity Road was a zoo. It still gets busy, but people tell me most of the backpackers only stay in that part of town overnight before they move on to Koh Rong or one of the other islands. Those who stay longer term usually gravitate towards the mellower Otres beach, or so I’m told.

hill - paved

Yep. Believe it or not, this is the Hill

If I’d heard from you a few months ago, I would have said the Hill is the same as it was when you left. A few months can make a big difference here, though. The main road has been paved and even the bumpy road in the triangle has been cemented. Most of the old bars are still there, but some nice restaurants have been started, too. I wrote about the changes on the Hill in a recent blog, Victory Hill Gets a Facelift, so I won’t repeat myself here. Yep. Believe it or not, the picture above is at the corner near where your café used to be.

del marI think you had the first or second espresso maker in Sihanoukville. Well, they’re everywhere now. I wrote about that recently, too, in Coffee Houses in Sihanoukville. My favourite is Café del Mar. I wish I’d written that blog a few weeks later because there’s a new del Mar on CT Road, just a few doors down from the clinic outside one of the hotels there. Same great pastries but arguably even better coffee thanks to the state-of-the-art espresso maker they bought for it.

What else is new? Oh yeah. They’re widening the beach road between Sokha beach and Independence beach to make way for a monstrous development. There’s another one planned for Independence beach, too, but I’m not sure when they’ll get started on that.

I’m pretty sure one thing you’d notice if you visited would be how much more traffic there is now. It used to get a bit crazy at around 5 p.m. when all the kids were going home from work or school, but Ekareach Street is busy all the time now. Remember how we used to notice cars on the road? There are so many now it’s not a big deal. I went to Otres beach on Sunday and it seemed like there were as many cars as motorbikes, if not more. Otres has been divided in two. Between Otres 1 and Otres 2 is a long stretch of empty beach. On Sunday, cars lined that section of road from one end to the other.

I went to Otres to escape the Chinese New Year crowds, but the only way I could escape was by renting a Hobie cat. It was a perfect day for sailing. I headed straight out to sea and when I got to the wind-sheltered side of one of the islands, I just stopped for awhile to enjoy the silence. I couldn’t even hear a firecracker going off in the distance.

Remember that big vacant area behind my house? It’s full of houses now and there are two big new apartment complexes at the top of our road. Just down from there are two more and it looks like another one is going up closer to the main road.

I think you’d be blown away by how much Sihanoukville has grown since you were here. I am. I still remember wondering why Ekareach Street was so wide when I first came here. Now I’m wondering why it’s so narrow. To ease traffic and give new businesses a chance to take root, they’ve widened the road that parallels Ekareach Street a couple of blocks down from the Total gas station. It’ll be interesting to see what pops up along that road in the future.

Anyway, it was great to hear from you after so many years. Don’t worry about bringing your family here. A lot of families come to Sihanoukville now and some come to stay. Hope you and your family can make it here some time soon.

Cheers,

Rob

Where should I stay in Sihanoukville?

Pagoda Rocks, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

I’ve received three emails recently from people asking, “Where should I stay in Sihanoukville?” One was from someone I know well and I didn’t have a problem with recommendations. The other two came from a professional acquaintance and a friend of a friend. I was a bit stuck for answers because I don’t quite know what they would prefer. One was a woman in her late twenties, the other a man in his forties. Both of them are exploring SE Asia with a view to settling down here.

I was going to write them both long-winded emails, but decided to do it this way instead. Before I begin, though, a disclaimer: I don’t stay in guesthouses and don’t go out late at night. What follows is my opinion based on time spent having meals and hanging out in these areas.

Off the Beaten Track

I’m going to start with a couple of places that are a little off the beaten track because, in my opinion, they’re two of the best places to stay in Sihanoukville.

Pagoda Rocks, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Pagoda Rocks

If you’re looking for a retreat-like atmosphere and don’t mind having to take transportation to the beach, check out Pagoda Rocks. It’s opposite Wat Leu at the top of the Hill behind downtown. Its semi-isolation is part of its charm. The bungalows overlook the ocean on the port side of the city. Unlike bungalows in other parts of Sihanoukville, these are set amongst trees on the semi-rocky slopes of a steep hill. They have a great al fresco restaurant and a swimming pool, so there’s really no reason to leave the grounds, but if you do want to leave, the staff can provide you with any kind of transportation you like — from ride yourself bikes and motorbikes to tuk-tuks, mini buses and taxis.

Sunset Lounge, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Sunset Lounge

If the crowded end of Ochheuteal beach isn’t to your liking, but you don’t want to stay as far away as Otres, try Sunset Lounge. It’s at the very end of Ochheuteal, just before the bridge that takes you up to Queen Hill Resort. Sunset Lounge is run by a lovely German couple. They have bungalows, a very good restaurant and lots of shaded lounges, hammocks and tables on the beach opposite the restaurant. It’s possibly the best deal in Sihanoukville. While we’re in the area, Queen Hill Resort is also very nice and there are spectacular views from the bungalows.

Ochheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach

The Serendipity end of Ochheuteal Beach from the Golden Lions to the bottom of the Hill at Mithona Road and the pier at the bottom of Serendipity Road is where the largest concentration of Western tourist oriented restaurants, bars, clubs and other tourist amenities are located. You can find everything from cheap backpacker accommodation to rather luxurious hotels in this area. There are Italian, Indian, Mexican, Greek, Japanese,  and Western restaurants  within easy walking distance of each other ranging in quality from so-so to world-class.

What else? There are two bookshops, a couple of places where you can download music, ticket offices for boats to the islands, gift shops, clothing stores, Western-style grocery stores and just about anything else you can think of to make yourself feel at home. Since Koh Rong and other islands became hotspots, a lot of people stay in the area now because you can can pick up a boat to the islands from the pier.

Nataya Resort, Sihanoukville Cambodia

New hotel on Serendipity Road

There are so many places to stay in that area, it’s hard to recommend just one or two — especially since I don’t know the first thing about a lot of them. I will mention Coolabah Resort, though, because it was the first place I know of that catered to couples and families. Their success led to the establishment of other mid-market accommodation in the area and helped change the atmosphere of the whole area. And simply because if you haven’t been to Sihanoukville in a few years, you won’t believe it’s real, the hotel at left, Holiday Villa Nataya, has now surpassed Serendipity Beach Hotel as the biggest and most luxurious on Serendipity Road.

On the downside (in my opinion), it is the main tourist area and Ochheuteal is my least favourite beach. It’s easy to get to other beaches from the area, but even easier to stay put and end up thinking Ochheuteal is all Sihanoukville has to offer in the way of beaches. If you do stay there, don’t judge Sihanoukville or Cambodia by some of the people you’ll run across on the beach there and do venture down to the free end of Sokha beach for a swim or take a tuk-tuk to Independence beach if you want to spend the day at the beach.

Otres 1 and Otres 2

After the road to Otres beach was paved in 2012, development followed at a dizzying pace. Fortunately, most of the development was designed to preserve the atmosphere of the beach and Otres is still one of our most pristine beaches. The difference is that you can now take your pick of accommodation and places to plant yourself at the beach.

Otres 1 is the first beach you come to. The beach is filled in with a variety of beach bars, cafes and restaurants ranging from inexpensive Cambodian-run beach restaurants to more upmarket European-style bar/restaurants, many of which also have bungalows you can stay in if you’re lucky enough to find a vacant one. The bungalows on the beach are pretty basic, but comfortable enough and it’s hard to beat waking up in the morning and walking ten metres to the water for a dip before breakfast.

You’ll find more substantial accommodation on the other side of the road, where zoning laws allow brick structures. Some, like Mushroom Point, have wonderfully quirky designs and others have more standard layouts. Most have their own restaurants and prices range from backpacker to mid-range depending on the quality of the accommodation.

When you reach the end of Otres 1, you come to a long, empty road with some picnic spots dotting it. After that, you’re at Otres 2. After spending a couple of nights at Wish You Were Here in Otres 1, a new friend moved on to Castaways at Otres 2 because Otres 1 was a little too busy for her taste. She originally intended to stay in Sihanoukville just for a couple of days, but liked it so much at Otres 2, she extended her visit long enough to check out the Saturday Otres Market.

Although still a little isolated, Otres 2 is where you’ll find some of the best accommodation in Sihanoukville. Tamu Hotel costs over $100 a night, but has just about everything you could wish for. I go there sometimes to have lunch at their beach bar/restaurant and go for a swim. The clientele is predominantly a mix of couples and families. Before Tamu was completed, The Secret Garden boasted the only swimming pool on all of Otres. It still has a lot to boast about and is less expensive than its neighbour. Other places are being built at Otres 2 as well, but there’s nothing after the estuary begins and it still has a remote feel to it thanks to the small area it takes up and its stunning island views.

Downtown and the Hill

I’m lumping downtown Sihanoukville with the Hill because they are both basically part of urban Sihanoukville. Why would you want to stay in a heavily populated area away from the beach when you have your choice of places to stay at the beach?

A surprising number of people stay in the downtown area. Some stay at a downtown Sihanoukville guesthouse or hotel because they tend to be cheaper than those at the beach, but even more seem to be gravitating towards the many apartment complexes that are springing up all over town. Since you can rent a studio apartment for around $100 a month, they’re a great way to extend your holiday.

The Hill was once backpacker central in Sihanoukville, but it got a bad reputation from the bars and when Serendipity/Ochheuteal was developed, it became almost a ghost town. It’s a shame because the Hill is potentially a great area to stay in. There are some really nice places to stay there and cheap restaurants that serve decent food line the road at the edge of the hill. I noticed a new accommodation called Backpacker Heaven the other day. It’s just past the triangle of roads that sort of define the Hill. Whether or not it lives up to its name I can’t say, but it looks nice enough from the outside. Then there are the old stand-bys like Mealy Chenda and Da Da Guesthouse.

Victory Hill, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The view from Mealy Chenda on the Hill

The Hill has been a tourist area since the 1990s when only intrepid travellers ventured to Sihanoukville. One of Sophie’s first jobs was as a waitress at Victory Beach. Back then, she sometimes made as much as $50 a day in tips and loved the Western tourists who came to Sihanoukville. They all seemed to come for the same reason: to stay at a genuinely Cambodian beach town off the beaten track. Her most famous customer was John Chena, the professional wrestler, who was a complete gentleman and great tipper. After I met Sophie, I moved from the beach to Da Da Guesthouse and we ended up staying there for a month while I was looking for land. It was just starting to go downhill then and within a couple of years, several of the better restaurants on the Hill sold out and moved elsewhere because they didn’t like how the area was changing. Hopefully, it’s turned another corner and will live up to its potential in the coming years.

That just about covers the main areas of town. One word of warning before I go. If you like to party until late, stay close to the area where you party. The dark roads can get dangerous late at night after the traffic dies down.

Discover the Quiet Side of Ochheuteal Beach

view of ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville cambodia, from Sunset Lounge

To each their own, but when I go to the beach in Sihanoukville, I almost never go to the popular end of Ochheuteal beach. I do go to Ochheuteal, but I go to the quiet end of the beach.

food stalls at Ochheuteal beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We often go to this spot at the south end of Ochheuteal. The stall sells cold drinks and snacks. While Sophie sits in a hammock chatting with whomever happens to be around, I go for a swim. Sometimes we take the kids with us. The water here stays shallow, so it’s a good place for them to splash around.

We go here often, but for some reason hadn’t gone the 100 metres or so to the bridge that leads to the Queen Hill Resort, a lovely collection of bungalows at the top of the headland that divides Ochheuteal from Otres beach, since last December. What a difference a year can make! The first thing I noticed as we rode towards the bridge was this big house. They started building it years ago, but for a long time, it looked like the project had been abandoned. No, it’s not a hotel. It’s apparently a private home and they don’t intend on painting it. They want it to look old.

house on ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville, cambodiaI was so busy looking at the house, I failed to notice the speed bumps that have been installed on the road on either side of it. Fortunately, we got over them unscathed and continued on over the bridge and up to Queen Hill Resort, where we wandered around for awhile, just taking in the views. Sorry, I forgot to take any pictures, but I did take one from the bridge:

bridge at end of ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville, cambodiaOn the way back to the food stalls, I noticed something else was new on this end of Ochheuteal beach and promised myself I’d come back again and try Sunset Lounge for breakfast.

sunset lounge

Notice the two palms growing through the roof

What a find! According to the super-friendly proprietors, Kati and Andreas, they’ve had the lease for the property for a few years, but only settled down in Sihanoukville last year. Sunset lounge is the latest addition to their bungalows. I ordered an omelette and a cappuccino. Both were delicious.

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I didn’t get a peek inside the bungalows, but judging from everything else, I’m sure they are lovely and clean. At $12 for a single, $14 for a double or $25 for an air-conditioned room, they have to be one of the best deals available anywhere in Sihanoukville, especially at the beach, where similar brick bungalows cost from $35 upwards. The location is ideal for anyone who wants easy access to the busy end of Ochheuteal and Otres, but wants to spend most of their day hanging out at a quiet and stunningly beautiful beach.

view of ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville cambodia, from Sunset Lounge

or you can sit under the shade cloth closer to the beach

You can easily walk, take a tuk tuk or ride a motorbike or bicycle to either Ochheuteal or Otres from Sunset Lounge and bungalows. The easiest way to get there from the Golden Lions is to take the 3rd road back from the beach straight through. Don’t turn right at the intersection where it appears to almost end. Keep going. After a little while, the now fully paved road makes a sharp right and takes you to the beach stalls. Then take a left and you can’t miss it. For more information or to book a room, contact Kati and Andreas directly via their website, SunsetLounge.

 

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

Beaches of Sihanoukville: Independence Beach

The Small Beach Bar

In my last post, I wrote about My New Office at the Small Beach Bar. It was another glorious day today after some on-again-off-again rain throughout the week, so I turned off my computers and took my camera with us to the Small Beach Bar this morning. I overdosed on the sun, but never mind, we had a great day.

The Small Beach Bar is located on Independence Beach, which may or may not be named after the Independence Hotel, Sihanoukville’s “other” 5 Star hotel, along with the Sokha Resort. Fortunately for us plebeians, only a small portion of the beach is reserved for hotel patrons.

Independence Beach looking east from the pier

As you can see, there’s not much beach at Independence Beach, but the photos were taken at high tide. At low tide, you can walk the length of it on flat, hard packed sand. Even at high tide, there’s enough sand for beach lounges. The sea wall is in the process of being repaired, but in the meantime, there are some dodgy but negotiable stairs down to the beach.

What I love most about Independence Beach is the ambiance. Those who go there do so to get away from the crowds of Ochheuteal. It’s usually a mixture of families, couples and individuals who want to enjoy a day at the beach and a good meal. It is run by the owner of the Small Hotel, one of the best guesthouses in the city and one that is renowned for its great food at reasonable prices. Although the Small Beach Bar does include a bar, it’s not the kind of bar where barang park themselves at 10 in the morning and only head for the water to take a leak. Today, there must have been 5 happy families there plus a smattering of couples.

Independence Hotel beach

Independence Beach is not my favourite Sihanoukville beach, but it’s my favourite Sihanoukville Beach with amenities. We used to go to the Airport at Victory Beach because they have wireless, but now that I’ve got my wireless USB connection, we can go anywhere. The Small Beach Bar is ideal because you don’t need to give your possessions or money a second thought: the staff looks after everything for you and the beach doesn’t attract thieves anyway.

I’ve added these and a few more photos to my Sihanoukville Photo Journal. Click the link to view them. Enjoy the photographs and when your come to Sihanoukville, enjoy Independence Beach!