SIHANOUKVILLE - Most Famous Beach
By: Moul Vongs ( Jul - Aug, 2001 Volume 1 No.3 )

Sihanouk Ville

Sihanoukville is Cambodia's most famous beach town. Better known as Kampong Som to locals, is about 230 km southwest of Phnom Penh and boasts the best beaches in the Kingdom. On weekends and public holidays, the beaches are crowded with local Khmers, tourists and expatriates. Being a coastal town, it is not surprising that there are many restaurants serving fresh local seafood specialties as well as international cuisine. Crabs, prawns, lobsters, mantis shrimp, live fish, scallops and exotic shellfish abound the range of delicacies seems endless. Visitors can see the large fishing fleet sailing from the nearby port at dusk every night and watch their lights winking on the horizon as darkness falls. Many of these boats fish for squid, which lives in abundance off the Sihanoukville coast. At the time of printing, the city had 39 hotels, 24 guesthouses, seven karaoke lounges and countless spots to enjoy a quiet tea or coffee and watch the world go by. Points of Interest

The Municipality of Sihanoukville is flanked by Kompong Speu, Koh Kong and Kampot provinces. Covering just 1,283 square kilometers, it comprises three districts, namely Mittapheap (the downtown area), Prey Nop and Steung Hav. These contain 22 communes and 85 villages. Until the French withdrawal from Indochina in 1954, Sihanoukville was just a sleepy fishing village and Cambodia conducted its sea trade via the mouth of the Mekong. After 1954 this area reverted to Vietnam. King Sihanouk was one of the leading proponents for making Kompong Som the new main port of his independent Kingdom, and it was duly developed to now be Cambodia's only seaport.
It was officially renamed Sihanoukville in honor of the king in 1959, but reverted to its old name when King Sihanouk was removed from power by Lon Nol in 1970 and Cambodia was declared a republic. It regained its old name for the national elections in 1993, but many locals still refer to Sihanoukville as Kampong Som.


There are five main beach areas around town - Sokha, O-Chheu-teal, Independence (or Seven Story Hotel), Victory and Hawaii Beaches, plus the more remote Ream National Park areas. A mix of foreign and local fun seekers often crowd Sokha Beach on weekends, while the long, white stretches of O-Chheu-teal (sometimes spelt Ochheuteal in guidebooks) are popular with foreign visitors.


Shaded in parts and less exposed, Independence beach is named after the seven story derelict Independence Hotel which towers above it on the point. Hawaii is quieter still. Further around the coast from O-Chheu-teal are the secluded beaches of Ream National Park. These are not visited much by anyone except local fishermen and are perfect places to get away from the crowd. Boat trips to islands like Koh Rong and Koh Tang are available by booking at tour offices in the town center or at some guest houses.

Kbal Chhay

About eight kilometers out of town on National Route 4 is Kbal Chhay, which comprises several sets of quite beautiful waterfalls. The road to the falls can be difficult after rain but this does not deter hoards of picnickers from descending on them each weekend. During the week they are deserted. Deep pools and white water cascades make this a pleasant place to swim or relax.

Steung Hav

Follow the port road past the old Caltex depot to its terminus, then cross the railway tracks onto a wide dirt road and you soon reach the district seat of Steung Hav. There you can view a fleet of navy vessels and a massive UNICEF tanker, seemingly floating in a sea of grass. These Russian-made navy vessels served the Cambodian defense force during the 1980's but have since been left to rust in this surreal dock. Preah Sihanouk (Ream) National Park
Popularly called Ream after one of the villages that lie within the park's boundaries, this park incorporates forest, two large islands and the ocean area around them, making it Cambodia's only marine national park. The turnoff to the park is off Route 4 (the main road to Phnom Penh) along the Sihanoukville Airport road. Rangers from park headquarters (located just inside the park on the left hand side) are happy to arrange guided boat trips and walks.

Independence Hotel

Built in 1964, the Independence (actually spelt Independence on the French name plaque) accommodated some of the world's biggest names in its heyday, including actress Catherine Deneuve. It towers over Independence Beach. Only the shell of what was once the tallest structure in Indochina survived the war. Said to have been used as a prison and torture center under the Khmer Rouge, it is widely believed by locals to be haunted.