The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Sihanoukville

Written by Frank on October 7th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

We approached Sihanoukville from the Southeast, coming from Kampot. I had a special detour in mind, when the road came to the old Sihanoukville airport. Straight on, it would have been a smooth trip on paved roads over a few more steep hills, that we would have had to share with many container hauling trucks, heading for the port. The road also forked south, towards the Ream Navy Base and Ream Nat’l Park and I knew that area well. No roads, but grasslands and a prairie-type of vegetation plus a few minor hills separated the Ream cutoff from southern Sihanoukville. It was worth the try for me, to tackle this task with the Proton and no GPS or map. See this short video to get an idea:

We made it, of course! Sihanoukville, the formerly sleepy city on Cambodia’s western shore, has seen some quiet days in the past. Modern developments here have made the country’s only ocean harbor the key of all or most supplies to the kingdom. The coastline was dotted with unspoiled, natural beaches. Today’s travelers find an abundance of bars and restaurants of all kinds. Lots of Nightlife and even GoGo-Bars, like the ones that made Pattaya famous for a few.

Even ATM banking machines have found their way to Sihanoukville. Although they are few, ATMs were unheard of in the whole of Cambodia up to the second half of this Millennium’s first decade!

The factual situation on the beaches in Sihanoukville is devastating! They were once the best beaches on the eastern gulf shore, combatting even the Thai resort island’s beaches on Koh Chang! What happened here now, did appear very creepy to us!;(

The northernmost have always been the most commercial ones with tour-boats, restaurants and a bit more trash than the rest. Their names were Victory Beach and Hawaii Beach, just different names for the patch of sand by the sea just down from Weather Station Hill, the backpacker’s Mekka of former times. We found this to be a huge construction site with massive amounts of concrete, too scary to stay even a minute. So we were heading south from here along the beach road .

Independence Beach, one of the largest, was fenced off with a gigantic green metal fence. This 10 ft. high fence only meters from the shore, separated the shore from the beach road. Independence Beach was another long, sandy beach now inaccessible to the public. Strictly for the few guests of the resurrected Independence Hotel, whose ruin structure was occupied by wild monkeys, stripped of every piece of metal or wood. Now a supposed beach resort for a few!. After the Hawaii and Victory Beach disaster, this was now the third local void for beach-lovers and sun seekers!

Our beach disappointment was going to continue further south, but we knew that ahead of our arrival. The private Sokha resort occupied 90-95 % of the nice Sokha Beach, leaving only an unattractive tip on the far southern end for the locals and non-residents. We were watching the baton-wielding guards keeping unwanted folks off the otherwise fenced in premises down by the beach!.

We continued further south along the coast, but had to leave the beach road, in order to get to Serendipity Beach, which in fact is only the northern tip of the famed Ochheuteal Beach, a long and wide sandy stretch of coast. Accessible via the lions roundabout on Ekkareach Street.

The entire length of Ochheuteal Beach in Southern Sihanoukville has always been the City’s finest playground for beach-lovers, within easy reach of the hotels and guesthouses on this side of town. It was a two hour walk for the backpackers on Weather Station Hill, or a 6 km ride with a motodup (motorcycle taxi) from there along Ekkareach. The Serendipity part of it was jam packed with bars and other beach businesses, but the further south one ventured along it, the more natural and tranquil it became. Beach vendors here still carry portable charcoal grills and sell their wares to the visitors. A small fishing community on the far end of Ochheuteal Beach provided the fresh seafood and human resources for this. The lack of roads prevented many from coming this far before, but now roads stretch further and include not only the southern Ochheuteal. Also the hill camp, that separated this formerly idyllic area from the next beach south is now in full swing and sports expensive beach-side huts on the cliff for wealthy travelers. Fully accessible by cars!

The motorized beach vendors here brought more choices, but also unbelievable amounts of trash. We were very disappointed by the appearance of what once was our favorite beach on the Gulf of Thailand. Thai vendors of Styrofoam snack packaging flood Cambodia with that trash. All pieces that we inspected here, did show some Thai script and wording on it, clearly revealing responsibilities.

Paper plates and Styrofoam snack boxes, the southern Ochheuteal had more resemblance with a landfill, than with a great looking beach: This is 12 m from the shore and the black water did stink really bad!

 

We traveled over the cliff to Otres Beach and walked a few kilometers along it’s shoreline. Digesting what we just witnessed. Here, the old style vendors were still using a sheet of paper for their ultra fresh grilled seafood. A full portion sets you back about 1 or 2 $ bills, not per piece, for the lot!

Uninformed tourists pay multiples of this sum or are being charged per piece. Melona had these before, when we came to Sihanoukville. She highly recommends to get them while they are hot with nothing, but “Ambalmerik-Krotchmai” (A Cambodian dip consisting of fresh ground pepper with lime)

Trolling back to the city, we encountered some signage and even more construction projects along the way on Ochheuteal:

Sbov Meas, one of the cool places in town for hungry fellows with a European or Western stomach and appetite offered a decent dish for me, as I can’t handle Melona’s seafood delicacies. Old Max’s Ying-Yang establishment, my prime restaurant choice in Sihanoukville on Ekkareach wasn’t open for business yet. Make sure to pay Max a visit, when in Sihanoukville and give him our warmest regards. He is not only a great cook, but a gifted entertainer as well. You can find the Ying-Yang on Ekkareach between the 90-degree turn and the roundabout on the northern side of the road.

Ekkareach Street is the main road in Sihanoukville. Most gas stations, shops and restaurants are located along it or in close proximity. There are no helmet laws enforced at present, but the rental situations for motorcycles is unclear and was reported as being problematic at times.

For us it was time after a few days to head back to Kuala Lumpur. An interesting vehicle on the outskirts of town caught our interest. An oxcart, loaded fully with pottery items, was taking a rest before the final uphill slope to the City.

The bridges were all open now, except for one. We again were facing a makeshift ferry along the way.

A fancy camera crew was shooting the happenings with the ferry and their geared up super de-luxe adventure traveler for a TV production. We did road trips with our stock Proton on a much tighter budget and didn’t carry extra mechanics, camera teams and also lacked the brand spanking new 4×4’s. But we weren’t jealous, we did travel Cambodia in a big loop on a small budget with a regular car.

 

The final Kilometers were uneventful, except for maybe some rock slides in the Cardamom Mountains.

Thailand was near again and the remaining 2.000+ km to our home in Malaysia were a piece of cake. Back home, the dudes at the Proton factory didn’t believe what we did with the regular registered and unmodified vehicle, then asked to have a few pictures for their company publication. Those we gladly exchanged for a free in-house inspection of the car.

The end.

 

 

 

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