After our first night in Sihanoukville, I needed something good to prove to me that it was the perfect place I had read about. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced. After a walk up the beach we settled on a bungalow at sea view bungalows. There are loads lining the sea front which are basically about 2 metres from a restaurant/bar and the beach. They all seemed pretty clean but I was sold by the cute puppy that ran up to me as we approached this place.
We practically ran out of the last place and into our new home which they had cleaned for us in time to move in at 9am, another reason we liked the look of the place. So for the next 4 days we stayed here. It can only be described as paradise.
We spent our days on the beach (or under the cover of the restaurant after I managed to burn quite badly on our first day even though I could have sworn I was in the shade!) with people coming up and selling us massages, pedicures etc all day.
I mean of course we had to deal with the occasional sunglasses or bracelets being shoved in our face but compared to other places in Cambodia they seemed to know when to leave you alone. We started a tab at the restaurant and were able to order food, drink, cocktails or whatever we wanted, it didn’t even feel like we were spending any money (our bill at the end of 3 nights and 4 days there came to $72 each – and that was being excessive). Add that to the fact that the food was absolutely delicious, the weather was perfect (not too hot for me and with a breeze and plenty of shade), the sea was clear and the sand was white (oh and I had my own cute puppy to play with!), and it was pretty much perfect. Our own personal paradise.
There are a few beaches in Sihanoukville, the most popular being Serendipity beach. This is where most backpackers stay and where everyone goes to party. We had been told by several people that we should avoid it at all costs and stay on otres beach instead. And god were we glad we made that decision. Although we could have got things a lot cheaper at serendipity, it looked like this.
It was full of pissed up backpackers, music blasting out and rubbish lining the shore. It reminded me of somewhere like Magaluf and was so not the kind of place we were looking for. In comparison Otres beach is quiet and relaxing with a mix of people staying there. Enough backpackers to make friends but not so many that the beach was overcrowded and you were expected to binge drink every night to fit in. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere more relaxing in my life and I absolutely loved it.
Saying that, we did want to experience the chaos of serendipity beach for one night and since the rugby was on Saturday night we decided that would be the best time. We got a tuk tuk from our beach and were pretty happy when we found a bar playing the game instantly. A few beers later (we have discovered one that’s as strong as Chang from Thailand which we re pretty happy about) and we were ready for some England/Wales rugby action. We went to a bar called Utopia first which boasted ‘free body shots’. We had one or two there but I think we decided it really wasnt our thing, especially after some very strange Russian guy came over and pretty much forced his phone number on us, claiming he could ‘show us somewhere really beautiful’ – no thanks. We made a few Welsh friends and headed over to ‘the big easy’ bar.
It was there that we found a big screen playing the match and about 40 people watching. I was so happy, since there was a man united game on at the same time I wasn’t sure we would find anywhere playing it – this was more than I could have hoped for (bar actually being in Cardiff for it). There were about 5 welsh people including us so we were totally outnumbered (I think that’s why I felt the need to shout so loud my throat hurt for days afterwards), but by half time things were looking good. I did however almost get in a fight with an English girl after saying half the people in the pub probably didnt care about the game anyway. I was met with rants about how she went all the way to New Zealand to see them play bla bla bla. Of course I apologised but she wasnt accepting it.
A drunken chat later and things were fine but I have to admit I did feel a little bit more smug after watching us obliterate her team! I can honestly say, especially considering I didn’t think we would win at all, it was one of the best games I’ve ever watched. After watching us beat England and win the six nations I was definitely in the mood to carry on the night! I did feel a bit gutted not to be in my home town to watch it but I was pretty sure I’d be over that in the morning when I woke up to paradise.
We went to a few bars on the beach front but to be honest for me they weren’t much of a match for the nights out I’ve had in Thailand. After an hour (it was around 3am by that point) I was ready to leave, still buzzing from the rugby win. But that wasnt before we got talking to a bunch of kids trying to sell us all sorts of crap. You would give them a dollar, they would laugh and play with you and then 5 minutes later be looking all sad and beg you for more – they were well trained! We ended up giving them about $10 each before calling it a night.
We woke up with a standard awful hangover but where better to ride it out than otres beach? We didn’t move from that spot, why would we even need to? I could have stayed there for weeks in that one place.
We did however, move for one day of our stay there and that was to go on a ‘party boat’ to an island. We d heard that both koh Rong and koh Rong Samloen were beautiful but that the latter was less populated. So although it was further we chose that one to visit for the day. After around 2 hours on the boat (which wasnt in any way a party boat but suited us fine) we reached somewhere, if you can believe it, even more beautiful than Otres beach. I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mainly because there was hardly anyone there, it was basically just the boat load of people and a few working at the one or two bars on the island. We had two hours here to just try and soak up the beauty of the place. It was amazing.
I wouldn’t have minded staying a night there but I almost didn’t want to spend one moment less at our perfect beach resort. On the 2 hour boat ride back I had one of those travelling moments that I love. Occasionally I’ll take time to reflect on what I’ve seen, realise how lucky I am and just generally think about my life as it is. These moments mean a lot to me. That’s when I wrote the blog on my dad.
We left on Tuesday night after 4 full days and we were gutted. We could have easily stayed longer but knew we had a lot of ground to cover in a few weeks so we had to move on. I would love to go back to Otres beach and Koh Rong Samloen one day but I fear it wouldn’t be the same. I imagine these places are similar to what the Thai beaches were 10-15 years ago before they became major tourist resorts. There was already a lot of construction work going on at samloen. It makes me sad as part of their beauty is that they’re untouched and uncorrupted by pissed up westerners and rubbish, just as serendipity has been. I’m happy to have seen them before they may reach that state. It was the happiest I’ve felt with travelling on this trip, and the saddest I’ve felt to leave anywhere. I would love to go back one day and I’d even go as far as to say people should skip the Thai beaches and head straight to Sihanoukville instead (but only if you can handle the horrendous border crossing!)