When we decided to move to the seaside after our rather disappointing visit to Phnom Penh, our travel guide warned us that even though the beaches are wonderful, the city of Sihanoukville is nothing spectacular. So with that knowledge, we took the 4.5 h bus ride down to Sihanoukville where we stayed at some people’s home, which almost caught fire one evening due to a bushfire caused by reckless neighbors.
Paradise Beaches in Sihanoukville
The positive things first: The beaches in and around Sihanoukville are truly wonderful, and most of them are still accessible, only a small stretch was a private beach where we were discouraged to enter (I don’t know if private beaches are legally allowed in Cambodia, but as corrupt as the country is, I can very well imagine). During our two full days in Sihanoukville, we spent several hours each day at the beach, as this was the only sensible thing to do there. One day we took our laptops with us, sat in a beach restaurant, and worked for several hours on our blogs while watching the sea and having drinks and snacks. It was really relaxing.
Sihanoukville: A City in Transformation
I don’t know if Sihanoukville ever was a pretty city, but what is happening at the moment is really a shame. The whole city is a huge construction site, accompanied with the noise, dust, and other inconveniences. There are already numerous Chinese casinos, and currenty, several huge hotel and casino complexes are under construction that will flood the lovely beaches in future with thousands and thousands of tourists, with all its consequences. Somehow I am happy that I still could visit the beaches now, but at the same time it is sad that the corrupt government in Cambodia does not take any measures to preserve the natural beauty of the country. I guess some government officials made some good money in exchange for approving the construction of the up to roughly 100m tall hotel complexes.
Other than that, the city has one street down to the ferry where there are some bars and international restaurants and a few nicer hotels at the beach, a bit outside of the city center. But apart from that, there is really nothing interesting here for us.
How our Airbnb Accommodation almost burned down
If I haven’t mentioned yet that Cambodia is a highly corrupt country, I have another story, and in this one we were affected directly. In the afternoon, a neighbor started burning leaves in her garden, as many locals do her. But then she lost control of the fire, and the grass and bushes around the house caught fire. After an hour, half of the hill where we stayed was on fire, and the fire was also approaching the house in which we stayed in. After having packed all our belongings and having moved them outside in case of evacuation, we observed what was happening.
Even though several properties were endangered by the bush fire, nobody wanted to call the fire department. I learned a little later why. Nobody wanted to be the one to call the fire department because you have to pay a lot in advance for them to move out and put out the fire. It does not matter who actually is responsible for the fire, nobody cares. The same applies to the police and the ambulance, and I guess all other kinds of authorities.
Only when the landlord of our Airbnb home basically saw the fire 5m from his house, he basically took the bullet and called the firefighters. Of course they came late, with a hose that was way too short, and they only spread some water around the house, then they left again. The fires more uphill were not their concern, and I guess they continued burning for quite a while.
Luckily, due to the wet vegetation, the fire actually did not set any of the buildings on fire, and after two hours, Ilinca and I took our belongings back into the house. But it was a shocking experience to experience firsthand the consequences of corruption and that nobody cares for anything else but themselves. I also heard stories from our hosts of ambulances not picking up injured people because they did not get bribed, and hospitals letting people die for the same reason. A human life does not value much here…
After two days, we have seen enough of this place, and we want to go to some nice beaches without all the annoyances that Sihanoukville offers. So we are moving on to Koh Rong, a small and remote tropical island that can be reaches in 30 minutes from Sihanoukville by speedboat.