We arrived to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh, as a direct bus ride from Battambang to Sihanoukville does not seem to exist. We decided to spend the night in the capital before heading on to yet another six-hour ride.
We arrived in Phnom Penh from Battambang after sunset, around 7pm. We were dropped off by the old market and got a tuk tuk for $2.50 (negotiated down from $4) to our hotel: Kha Vi Guesthouse, next to the Royal Palace, on Road 258 in Chaktomuk. The hotel was more than basic but good location for an overnight stop at $10 a room. Phnom Penh is a real busy city, the transition from the second most populated city to the first is more than noticeable. Our first impressions are of a well-developed city with tall buildings and bustling streets. There are street food and a street filled with restaurants next to our hotel, convenient to grab a quick dinner.
The hotel offers transportation by bus to different destinations around the country. The bus ride to Sihanoukville was priced at $7, we browsed a bit further, checked the guesthouses nearby, which offered the same prices and ended up finding a ride for $5.50, with G.S.T Express, one street away at a family-owned travel agency.
We headed to Sihanoukville for a little bit of beach town the next morning. The ride was 5-6hrs and we were dropped off at the city centre of Sihanoukville and not by the beach, as we thought. The beach was half an hour by foot away. After inquiring with locals the best route to get there, the sun had set and an incredibly generous, local business owner decided to give us a ride to our hotel! We were so grateful and lucky. Generosity still exists.
We got to our hotel Zana Beach Guesthouse and for once booking.com had quoted us a higher price than the actual. Online booking was $14, which we thought was a lot, but walk-in price was $10 a room – more than reasonable for the room, cleanliness and location. Zana Beach really felt like a three star hotel. We went across the street for $6 for a night and we could feel the price difference…ie: huge cockroach in the room as we arrived. Back to Zana Beach on our last night in Sihanoukville.
Sihanoukville in itself, is not the best beach town to go to if you are looking for serenity, calm and relaxation. At least not at the Ochheuteal/Serendipity beach. It is filled with lounge chairs, placed by the different restaurants along the beach (which was very enjoyable after a day spent in the bus), but it was rather dirty and do not expect clear, blue waters. There are so many bars and restaurants, it makes it hard to pick one. Cambodian children are also scouting the beach looking for tourists to sell their sunglasses, fireworks and other knick-knacks to. They all spoke really good English and sadly seems like they got the hustling game down at six years old.
It was a nice getaway but as we read in many reviews online, you’re not missing out on anything if you decide to skip the town.
We rented a motorbike for a day and went over the city center and to Otres Beach – supposedly the best in Sihanoukville. As we rode our motorbike towards the city center, we were pulled over by the local police. J, not wearing shirt (because we were doing laundry), did not help us go incognito. They asked for international drivers license and told us there was a fine of $50. We told them we had $5, handed them the bill and they let us go. Always have small bills on you, we could have gotten off with less but $5 was our smallest bill at the time.
It must have been our day because 2km later, we’re stopped again. Again, he is shirtless. Again, we pay 10,000 riel (now that we had ‘smaller’ bills). Right around the corner, we get pulled over AGAIN. This time, we say ” we saw your friends twice and we already gave them money twice”, as our pockets were being emptied real fast- the fines were almost as expensive as the motorbike rental itself – they waved us to leave. I guess they, too, thought we paid enough for one day. I wrap J in the little sarong that we had to at least cover a bit of himself hoping it’ll do the trick and that we won’t see any more of the royale gendarmerie.
We finally made it to Otres Beach early afternoon. It is definitely less crowded and you get more of a genuine local feel of island living, there are more Western tourists whereas local tourists seem to go to Serendipity Beach.
After four days of lounging – two would have probably been enough – we decided that our next destination would be Kampot. We booked a minivan for $5 each for a ride that would take two hours to the city known for its delicious and fresh pepper!