In the distance on Otres Beach a golden runny sun slips behind the horizon. “Another day in paradise coming to a close,” remarked one tourist.
Sihanoukville is known for its tranquil beaches and idyllic islands and long been a destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the humdrum of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
The province boasts numerous beaches such as Otres, located about five kilometres from the town, and along the unspoiled Saracen Bay on the island of Koh Rong Samloem.
Visitors can pick from a variety of competitive tour packages that include a glass boat and fishing trips, while for those looking to travel in style, Sail Cambodia offers charter services on a 45-foot racing yacht Cygnet.
Similarly, groups can also hire private boats and go fishing or travel to and from the islands without a tour guide, an option popular among Cambodian families, travel agents say.
For those struggling to find their sea legs, an afternoon well spent with spectacular views can be had at Wat Leu temple, which sits on top of a hill about 1.5 kilometres northwest of the city centre.
Similarly panoramic views of Sihanoukville from a swimming pool, along with top-quality sushi, can be found at Victory Castle Villa and its restaurant Yamashiro.
But for a truly luxurious experience, it doesn’t get much more exclusive than Sokha Beach Resort. The hotel has a casino, three restaurants and six bars and two large swimming pools. While part of Sokha Beach is private there is also a section available to the public.
Only minutes away from luxurious Sokha Beach, the D’Seaview complex is beginning to take shape. Though in a prime location, this property by Singaporean developer Camhomes is not only affordable for the very rich but also for new families, young professionals and other prospective buyers.
Units are available from as little as $675 per square metre. Until the end of the year, Cambodian buyers may even enjoy a 50 per cent subsidy on their purchase reducing the price per unit from $66,000 to $33,000. Financing options to fit lower incomes are also available. Interested buyers are advised to make up their minds quickly as this special offer is running out at the end of the month.
Once finished, D’Seaview will boast state-of-the-art facilities including a swimming pool, a fitness centre and sauna, function rooms and a children’s playground, all catering to a modern family lifestyle and all with a view over the ocean in the heart of the port city.
When it comes to sampling the freshest seafood in the country that comes right from the port, Sihanoukville is the place to go.
The city is famous for its fish. Fresh red snapper, shrimp and crab are served at most of the restaurants at very affordable prices.
Early birds looking to bypass the popular fish market in the town can buy from fisherman who sell their latest catch by the shore in the morning.
Damien Pradayrol, general manager of the newly opened Chivas Beach Club and Sports Bar in Occheuteal, said having good food on the menu is crucial to keeping his more discerning clients happy.
The high-end bar, which has nine TV screens showing the latest sports programs, opened just one month ago but is already taking big bookings from Cambodian and Asian clients looking for refined food and entertainment.
“There’s no other place like this in Occheuteal. Everyone is trying to open in Otres so we thought why not set up here,” said Pradayrol.
Authentic European cuisine can also be found in Sihanoukville. The Italian restaurant, L’Osteria di Gino, offers homemade Italian meats and pasta dishes, while the French restaurant Susaday ages its own beef.
As the province grows in popularity, more flight and bus connections are being established, linking it to the rest of the country and region.
Sihanoukville International Airport now operates flights from South Korea, Singapore and China, as well as daily flights to Siem Reap.
Pan Sophy, co-owner of Wonderful Travel and Tours, says about 13 bus companies connect Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vietnam and Thailand.
The road to Kampot, another popular nearby destination, has been recently improved, cutting the time considerably to about one-and-a-half hours by taxi.
“Before the road was bumpy but now very easy to get there so more companies are offering tours to Kampot where you can see the pepper farms and see the river.”
The city also looks poised to benefit from greater investment as the government looks to capitalise on Sihanoukville’s infrastructure and accessibility to Phnom Penh.
Advisor to the Cambodian government, Dr Sok Siphana, said in August that the government plans to shape Sihanoukville province into a primary hub for trade, logistics and manufacturing, which also involves improving the connectivity to Phnom Penh.
To achieve better connectivity, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Henan Provincial Communication Planning, Survey, and the Design Institute Co. Ltd for the construction of a 190-kilometre-long, 25-metre-wide expressway linking Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville on National Road 4. This project is said to begin next year and finish in 2020.
Moreover, last month Korean developer Green Eco Energy Co. Ltd’s signed up for development the 275-kilometre-long, 20-metre-wide Sihanoukville expressway along National Road 3 that could begin as soon as next year.