Sihanoukville and Koh Rong – Beautiful Beaches at the Cambodian Seaside

February 9, 2018

We decided to spend the last few days of our stay in Cambodia at the beach, to also see this side of the country. And also, honestly, because who wouldn’t want to spend a few days on white sand beaches with crystal clear water? So we were for 2 days in the city of Sihanoukville and for 3 days on the Rong Island.

Sihanoukville: A Cambodian Las Vegas by the sea

After a 5-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, we arrived in Sihanoukville, on Cambodia’s sea coast. As the Lonely Planet puts it, Sihanoukville “would never win first prize in a pretty-town competition”. I couldn’t agree more. The city itself is only remarkable for the increasing number of casinos it houses, and the rapid construction of mammoth hotels on the seashore. Rich Chinese investors are driving the development of the city, despite most Cambodians not liking it. You have to get a bit out of the city to reach the nice beaches, but, once you’re there, you can almost forget about the hustle and bustle of the smog-filled city.

Koh Rong: Remote white sand beaches

Koh Rong (Rong Island) is just a 45-minute boat ride away from Sihanoukville, but it feels like a world away: it’s quiet, relaxed, and amazingly beautiful – all things which Sihanoukville is not. It has the remote white sand beaches that you imagine on the tropical island of your dreams and the (almost) unspoiled nature of a tropical paradise.

We booked a bungalow on one of the less populated beaches, which had only 1 or 2 resorts, some tent camps, and a set of bungalow houses like ours spread over a few kilometers of beach. That meant we had peace and quiet, and not much else to do than hang around at the beach during the day. Not that I am complaining – who would complain about spending 3 days on a perfect beach, every now and then going swimming in the sea, and every now and then moving from a sundeck chair, to a hammock, to a swing, and then back again?

Highs and Lows


  • Seeing that beaches like the ones on Koh Rong still exist. I suppose mass tourism will reach it soon too, but for now it’s a small, almost untouched piece of paradise. Sure, the quality of the accommodation and of the food on the island is not high by any standards, but complaints would be out of place given the natural beauty that surrounds you there.


  • The house in which we slept in Sihanoukville almost burned down. Yep, no joke. We stayed in an Airbnb (for the first time in Southeast Asia), with a nice family of expats from Turkey. On our last evening in Sihanoukville, while we were in our room working on our laptops, we realized that there was a big fire outside, just a few meters from the house! We asked our hosts if that was normal by Cambodian standards and if the fire was controlled, and they said “no” to both those questions. They had tried talking to their neighbors about it, but no one wanted to call the firefighters, because they were afraid they would have to pay for it if the fire brigade comes. Our hosts couldn’t call the firefighters themselves because they didn’t speak Cambodian. In the meantime, the fire was extending and coming closer and closer to the house. We found out that the fire was started by a neighbor, who wanted to burn something in her garden, and then took no responsibility when the fire extended! By the time the fire was a few meters from our house, the owner of the house arrived (from whom our Turkish hosts were renting the house), and he panicked when he saw the extent of the fire. He called the firefighters, who finally came and the fire was controlled. By that time, we and our Turkish hosts had already packed our bags, put them in their car and we were ready to leave the house, in case it starts to burn. Because, really, a big fire was just meters away from the house, as you can see in the photos below – our house is on the left of the photos. So, finally, everything turned out ok, but it was a bit of a surreal situation to have such a big fire so close to the house and no one was calling the fire department!
  • On another evening in Sihanoukville, we went for dinner at the restaurant of a hostel. It had a nice and very animated terrace, lots of backpackers having dinner there, and a lot of variety in the food choices on offer, so we decided to get dinner there. But there were no free tables, and so we had the bad idea of sharing a table with a guy, who turned out to be drunk and having a bad day. He started a discussion with us, and, although he was never violent, he started waving a knife in the air and saying all sorts of drunk-guy things. Daniel says the knife was not sharp, so we were never really in big danger, but at that point I just wanted to get up and leave. Daniel thought it was better to continue the “conversation” with him until he calms down. We did that and then left as soon as we finished eating. Perhaps he was indeed never really dangerous, but the experience was not at all pleasant. Plus, when he heard I come from Romania, he said the only thing he knew about Romania was that it’s full of gypsies. Huh. I didn’t think there was much point in explaining to him that’s not true.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go top