Archive for the ‘Southern Cambodia’ Category

  • Sihanoukville

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    Further north in the coast, the area around Sihanoukville is being spoiled by property investors speculating with the coastal terrains, constructing resorts and privatising beaches, since tourism is proving the industry of the future. We were expecting to find hordes of tourists and Khmer families enjoying the beaches and massive tourist development all around the area, but we got such a nice surprise once we arrived there.

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    Making plans in advance is sometimes good but it can also be unadvisable – at least we don’t like it. Before arriving in Sihanoukville, we had decided to apply for our Visa for Vietnam in the Sihanuokville Consulate, which meant we had to plan which day we would be entrying in Vietnam and therefore planing how long we would be in Sihanoukville, when we would be in back in Phnom Penh and when we will cross the border (too much planing for us, believe me!!). Since we thought that we wouldn’t like so much the atmosphere here we planned to be only for 3 days in Sihanoukville before heading back to Phnom Penh.

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    We arrived early in the morning, making all the way along the coast in the back of a truck of a Cambodian family. Hitch-hiking in Cambodia isn’t that bad, although not as many people is willing to take you as in Thailand. We went directly to the Vietnam Consulate and did all the burocracy stuff, which took less than we thought, pretty straight forward. Once we got the Visa we were ready to look for a place to stay and explore the city. The first impression about the town wasn’t that bad, since the views of the sea were fine and there seemed not to be as many visitors as we were fearing. We did a long walk carrying our backpack through the town until we found a good, cheap room in Weather Station Hill, where we were able to rent a motorbike –it was supposed to be banned for tourists in this town- to explore the surrounding beaches. We did a loop around the coastline, from east to north, and visited all the beaches in the area. Now it comes the reason why we first said that making plans can be unadvisable, because what we were expecting to be an awful and overcrowded tourist resort like Benidorm –a bad example of tourism development in the Spanish coast- was in fact a much relaxed place to stay with nice beaches outside the main touristic area of town, like Otres beach, a dessertic white sand beach that we almost had for us alone.

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    So, due to planning in advance we could not spend as much time in Sihanoukville’s lonely beaches as we would have like to. But anyway it was a pleasant stay away of the noise and the inconveniences of big cities and mass tourism. There were not so many visitors around as we expected, probably because it was low season. Being able to visit places not crowded with tourists is one of the things that we like the most, which convinces us that travelling in low season is best for us.

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  • Kampot, Kep and Koh Tonsay Island

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    The south coast of Cambodia is blessed with tropical white sand beaches, little islands, small fishing communities and national parks. It is a good place to relax, after being in the stressing city of Phnom Penh. It is also visited by very little number of tourists, since development here is very low at the moment.

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    Historically, the towns of Kep and Kampot where the most important centres in the region. Kep is no more than a fishing village on a small headland of palm-fringed coast, with narrow and grubby beaches, although it has a laid-back atmosphere which makes it a perfect place to just relax. It was founded as a colonial retreat for the French in 1908 and later was one of King Sihanouk’s favorite spots in Cambodia, where he used to entertain visiting foreign dignataries. The remains of magnificient colonial villas can be seen along the seafront, most of them destroyed by the Khmer Rouge guerrilla during the civil war.

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    We arrived to Kep by bus and found a guest house just by the sea. Enjoyed a couple of days there, just relaxing in the hammoks or strolling the coast line. We also did a day boat trip to one of the nearby islands, Koh Tonsay ( Rabbit Island). The island was a lot nicer than Kep seashore, with white sand and palm trees beaches, and an even more relaxed atmosphere. Just few tourists there, hanging on their hammoks, sunbathing, swimming or enjoying the pleasure of just doing nothing. The island perimeter could be explored in a couple of hours, but had a dense jungle in the middle that seemed quite impenetrable.

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    Three days after we moved to the riverside town of Kampot, which we wanted to use as a base to explore Bokor National Park and its abandoned hill station by motorbike. The bad news were that the road was closed due to improvement works on the pavement, so the only way to get there was with an organised trekking tour which we were not interested to join because of its elevated price. So we continued with our trip, heading to Sihanoukville on the next morning. We were not really interested in visiting this town, since we have read it is the main tourist town of Cambodia’s coast, full of tourists and well-to-do Khmers on the weekends. But we were hoping to arrange our Vietnam Tourist Visa there and thus leave Cambodia sometime soon.

  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital

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    According to the normal pattern, the capital of a country is the busiest and most modern city of the nation. This happens again in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The streets are noisy, dirty and polluted because of the high concentration of vehicles -private cars, tuk tuks, taxis, big motorbikes, mopeds, buses, truks and many more- which also makes to cross the road a pretty dangerous action, since everybody drive as they please –with red light, in the wrong sense of the road or on the pedestrian zones-. We haven’t had any problem with the traffic so far, but have had to stand in the middle of the road more than once, waiting for the vehicles to stop at the red traffic light. We have spent many hours wandering around town and have suffered from the fumes until our lungs could feel it. Now, from a smoke free area in an internet cafe our throat is getting better but, in case we come back to this city, we will consider to wear this surgical masks that many locals do wear.

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    About the city itself there is not much to highlight due to its lack of sights. The city is chaotic and charmless. There are no nice parks, interesting neirbourhoods or impresive buildings, apart from the scarce french colonial architecture, the central market or the Royal Palace. Having visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok before, it wasn’t appealing enough for us to visit it here. Furthermore, walking around Phnom Penh can be very tough and tiring, since it’s very hot all day long. There is no breeze nor shadow in this city, which makes it very unpleasant to stroll around. And we are in the wet season, who knows what hell could be in the dry one!!! The best moments of our stay have been chating with locals in the street and a couple of visits to the exterior of some french colonial villas, which looked really beatiful however their decadent aspect. Spending two days here for us was more than enough and we decided to head towards the Cambodian coast, searching for a relaxed and refreshing place to hang aroung for a while.

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