Why you shouldn’t go to Sihanoukville

So you’re seeing this picture and you might think «wait a second…did I just misread the title of this post?» Let me assure you: No, you have not. Why? I will tell you shortly.

Sihanoukville is a seaside town featuring Cambodia’s best-known beaches and is also a jumping-off point to travel to the nearby islands of Kho Rong or Kho Rong Samloem. But here’s the catch: As home to Cambodia’s only deep-water port – part of a vital trade route for China’s Belt and Road development initiative – the city has become a focal point for Chinese investment. The once sleepy beach town with prestine, secluded beaches is nowadays an giant construction site and garbage hole. And I mean this in the nicest possible, but very honest way. I was hesistant to write this post, because the locals I’ve met there are among the sweetest people, and I know if less tourists come, this is going to have an impact on their life. But let me put it this way: if you’re not a Chinese gambler, you’re very unlikely to enjoy this place. Sihanoukville has over 70 casinos (despite the fact that gambling is banished) and new ones are being built by the dozen right now. Besides the casinos, there is also a high number of new hotels and restaurants that are buing built. So there is a big amount of dirt, dust and garbage literally everywhere (and it smells!). And if you think the people working on the constructions sites right next to your hotel are only working during business hours, you are mistaken. They are working whether it’s a weekday, a weekend, day or night.

We were lucky enough to stay at the second to last hotel on Otres 2 beach, where construction sites seemed to be paused for the time we stayed there. But from the stories I’ve heard from other travelers staying there a couple of weeks later, it must have been impossible to sleep, let alone to enjoy a peaceful day at the beach. Here are a few impressions from the not so pretty side around our hotel. And those were actually the okay parts (we unfortunately didn’t have a camera with us when going to the even uglier parts).

The main street to our Hotel
Abandoned place right next to a hotel at Otres 2 beach
New Hotel in the background, trash in the front.

A secluded oasis of peace

If you have made the mistake of coming to Sihanoukville because you, just like us, could not find a word of warning anywhere on the internet, and are in desperate need of a nice place to stay, I’ve got you covered. Because here comes the best thing: We may have found the nicest hotel on the entire Sihanoukville coast. This is just our personal, honest experience (not sponsered) and something we’d like to share, because the place and the people at the hotel have been absolutely amazing. So if Sihanoukville is an inevitable stop in your Cambodia itinerary, do yourself a favor and stay at Tamu Otres. This small boutique hotel was our refuge after we got robbed in Phom Penh and let us relax for a couple of days. In fact, this place is the only reason we still enjoyed Sihanoukville. In case you are staying somewhere else and still want to come here: they have an excellent restaurant at the beach, which is open for guests from other hotels as well. Bonus: They have just opened up another hotel on Kho Rong in January or February 2019, which looks absolutely divine!

pool area
Hotel beach access

When we were here in January 2019, it didn’t seem like the construction boom was anywhere near an end and I believe, Sihanoukville is undergoing some massive changes over the next couple of years. If you are planning a beach vacation in Cambodia, I’d suggest you check out the islands – do read up on the topic of sand fleas, though!

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