Trip Start Feb 17, 2007
79Trip End Apr 13, 2012
Sihanoukville is a relatively young city in Cambodia. It has the only deep water port in the country. As such it was first developed by King Sihanouk after the French left.
Later, the Americans utilized the port during the Vietnam war. It provided safe transport for its effort against communist forces hiding across the border. The road from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh was one of the first in the country that was sealed (paved), courtesy of the US. Although listed as "Highway 4" on most maps, the locals refer still refer to it as "The American Highway."
Sihanoukville has since become a favored retreat for many Cambodians
My trip to Sihanoukville coincided with the Chinese New Year. There is a strong Chinese influence here. Translated: half of Phnom Penh accompanied us. Every hotel at capacity, restaurant full and beach packed. So lots of festivities everywhere. The Khmer new year in April is the biggest, with a four day holiday. That's followed by the Chinese new year, which is lunar. And lastly, the western new year at the beginning of January.
Sihanoukville features a variety of natural beauty. Most notable are the eight beaches within the city: clean, quiet (most of the time I hear) and easily accessible. What I like most is their low profile - they're not nearly as commercialized as their famous counterparts just a little further west in Thailand.
A few hours outside of Sihanoukville is Bokor National Park
A bit closer is Ream National Park, with an undeveloped white sand beach and clear water, marine estuary, oyster farm and mangrove swamp. Here you can see jumping shrimp, monkeys, eagles, dolphins and 150 different species of birds. Ideal for an exploration.
First, a morning swim at Koh Sam Pouch beach before it warms up. Around the bend appeared a large boat. It turned mysteriously towards shore and beached. Off jumped about 50 Khmer children celebrating the new year.
After a picnic lunch, a two-hour boat cruise through the mangrove swamp. Followed by an hour trek through the jungle. Concluded at Thmor Tom fishing village...and singing.
Usually fishermen sleep mid-day. But these voices were a bit younger. These songs came from the students at Jesus Elementary school, a one-room building with 40 students ranging from 4-12 years old. Too tempting to resist...so we visited. And shared some songs of our own with them.
Sihanoukville may be known for its natural beauty, but its unexpected cultural beauty may be just as appealing.