OCHHEUTEAL is Sihanoukville’s most popular and by far the busiest…
a central point for activities, at day and at night. Transport to and from – is simple and quick – with only little gloomy sections (at night), sealed roads and 24/7 shops and stalls at its western end – the Serendipity Beach.
Ochheuteal, two words: O and chheuteal is the combination of the noun O, which means estuary and chheuteal – a tree, presumably the Tamarisk – or the Casuarina trees, that are common here. The same applies to Otres beach ( O – tres). Tres is the species of tree.
Serendipity beach is technically the western end (roughly one fifth) of Ochheuteal beach. It has been named by an American fellow, who came here in the Nineties. Struck by its (then) unspoiled beauty and pristine condition, he came up with the term, which quickly entered common vocabulary.
The eastern half of Ochheuteal was subject to countless development projects – including a golf course – none ever materialized. Unfinished structures and a confusing infrastructure are testimony to decades of ad-hoc planning, false promises and the abuse of administrative authority.
In fact, there hasn’t changed much over the course of 20 years – apart from a face-lift at the beach’s middle section in 2010, when all the huts were dismantled, moved further back towards the road and were standardized in size and shape. Ochheuteal can be hopelessly overcrowded at times. There are few beach huts situated at the very end of the beach, where the Queen Hill separates it from Otres beach – a suitable and calm retreat.
Otres beach has developed into a kind of special lodging place for Westerners. From 2004 to 2011 the place was kind of a mix of late Goa and after-the-wall-anarchy. Police made a clean-up that year, removing 70% of the Hippie places (mine included). Permanent structures beyond the road supplement the remaining places by now. A very popular, well established holiday retreat – but prices have also risen.
Sokha Beach is a very beautiful place. It is almost entirely occupied by the premises of Sokha Resort, which has the agreeable consequence, that the beach is clean and it sees very little visitors. The place is generally open to anyone, the use of facilities is not free, though.
Hun Sen Beach is at the very western end of town, behind the local port and essentially empty without beach huts and bars, there are only weekend and holiday visitors. The water is very shallow and could be a great place for families with kids. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is inconvenient and there is definitively a garbage problem.
Sihanoukville by the sea
Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s premier sea side resort. The city’s short but very turbulent history has left marks on its appearance, its demography, its culture and its commercial integrity – in short – its composition is unlike any other. War, shifts in political alliances, the Khmer Rouge terror, the Vietnamese occupation, Cambodians’ post-war diaspora and even the years of the UN – mandate, all contributed to the city’s present state – a state that is best be described as – inconsistent. The town’s layout reflects all of that, too. It is a non-place without structural planning – full of surprises and ambiguities. But an unplanned town with eight beautiful beaches, its own tropical sea-bay and pristine islands in sight. Who needs city-planning here?
Nowadays people from all over the world with greatly differing walks of life have made Sihanoukville their home. The fact that the Cambodian administration maintains a course of very moderate intervention in regard to business ideas and procedures has lead to a very colorful enterprise landscape.
A striking feature is the near total absence of international brands, ”global players” , wholesale companies and respective retailers.
Trade in and provision of groceries is (all over Cambodia) still very individualistic – Western style super markets with imported commodities are being run by families. Effects that deserve remarks are:
Basic foodstuffs remain unprocessed – the majority of domestic food can be labelled as organic.
On the other hand, most imported articles, apart from tobacco products and alcoholic beverages lack in variety, are (subsequently) too expensive and are too often in an unacceptable condition and/or exceed their expiration date.
Nonetheless, there exists a rather numerous and versatile foreign community in town – living here despite obvious peculiarities. Some just enjoy their pension and profit from the pain-easing properties of the local weather, others fell under the spell of the natural beauty of the area. Although individual business in Cambodia is an affair against all odds – with little regulative official supervision and no support – many foreigners appreciate the very inviting and non – bureaucratic situation. Visa and business papers are reasonably priced and are quickly to obtain.
As a tropical sea-side resort, Sihanoukville’s night life serves tourists’ romantic ideas of easy-going encounters and beach parties under palm-trees, complete with exotic cocktails. All along the central tourist area between Golden Lion Plaza and Serendipity Beach are international and Western styled bars, live music venues and beach-discos to be found.
Young Cambodians seem to prefer classical night-clubs with air-condition, lavish interior and dedicated, more traditional services.
At Weather Station Hill, bars tend to also adopt traditional Asian and local elements of recreational services. Many Westerners consider these as clearly part of the sex industry. With respect to the fact that prostitution is illegal, bar operators publicly avoid procedures, that violate local ethic standards.
Victory beach has been t h e traveler’s hangout for many years until activities slowly shifted towards Ochheuteal beach and a consortium of Russian business people undertook large scale development here. Although some of the project’s installations and features might be a bit too grandiose, the beach is being taken care of and is subsequently clean and nice.
Independence beach This beach used to be popular, especially among Cambodians. A couple of years ago all the beach huts were removed and…this is the status – still. The place is actually “in town” and easy to reach. A good choice for everyone who is in a blitz mode and prefers privacy.
Sokha Beach: Sokha Beach is around 1.2 km long and located west of Serendipity Beach. The beach is privately owned by – and its southern half occupied by the Sokha Beach Hotel, the first five-star luxury beach hotel in Cambodia. While the beach is well kept and many facilities are provided, visitors have to pay for their use and beach vendors are not allowed.
Victory Beach: Victory beach is around 300 m long and situated at the furthest north of the peninsula of Sihanoukville. It was heavily used by backpackers and is still popular with budget travelers. The deep water port is located at the northern end of the beach. A consortium of Russian business people undertook large scale development here. The beach is regularly maintained.
Lamherkay/Hawaii Beach: is the southern succession of Victory Beach, situated north of Independence Beach. It is a strip of similar length as Victory Beach – around 300 m. Here is the very place where the French/Cambodian construction team’s groundwork began for the construction of the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in 1955.
Treasure Island Beach south of Lamherkay/Hawaii Beach is less than 50 m long and its entire length is fringed with concrete steps and wooden pavilions of a big Cambodian seafood restaurant.