Last day in Snooky. Paradise found.

I realised I hadn’t done the final post in my series on Sihanoukville – so here it is!

So our last day in Sihanoukville turned out to be the experience we were after in Snooky all along. And we found it a Otres Beach. Just look how close our bungalow was to the beach, as seen reflected in the window.

Having left our swanky bungalow at Serendipity on New Years Day, we  did have a half hour of trudging around to find our accom. Dom did the legwork and found us La Casa, which for us was almost perfect. I say “almost” as once we settled in, we saw it didn’t have a toilet. Nice one, Dom! There was a separate little room with a shower and sink, but for a loo we had to walk to a little block behind the bungalow. Small price to pay though.
We booked it through the owner’s wife, and later on this extremely inebriated Spaniard stumbled over and mumbled at us, but we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. It turns out he was the owner, and perpetually drunk. He seemed surprised the bungalow was occupied and we gestured at the booking office to indicate we’d paid. He eventually stumbled off, presumably to get another drink.
We settled back into the sunloungers by our bungalow to enjoy the view, contented.
When sunset hour approached, this time we didn’t have to go chase it. It came to us, as we lounged and waited for our dinner to arrive. Not the most spectacular one we’d seen, but it was fantastic to just sit by our bungalow, VERY close to the water, and take it all in.
See how close?
Later on we had a walk up the beach, and had a nice chat and some drinks at the Otres Shack . Go there – the owners are great!! They’re Brits too, and were incredibly helpful; the wife even rang around and booked us on a bus the next day when everything seemed sold out. And we weren’t even staying there. (I had to laugh when she asked if the owner of our place was drunk that day…ah, she knows the place well!)
This was what we came here for. The island was pretty spectacular and unspoiled, but finding Otres Beach on the mainland was a real godsend.
There
ARE still places to chill in Sihanoukville, and Otres is one of the best.

New Year’s Eve in Snooky, still chasing sunsets

We booked a gorgeous villa at the top of Serendipity Beach. The place was called “Above Us Only Sky” Bar & Bungalows. The room was big as you can see, and had the best views! There was a great porch with comfy lounge chairs on which to hang about and watch the ocean.

View from our porch. Yes, we were porch monkeys (reclaiming the term!)
You can just see the bar, below the bungalow

In the afternoon we hopped on the motorbike to check out the beaches we hadn’t visited yet. Sokha Beach hadn’t changed much – still only accessible at the ends, due to a big private resort there. But the bit you could get onto, was lovely, with fine white sand.
Independence Beach was likewise cordoned off due to the very upmarket Independence Hotel, so we zipped along to Victory Beach. On the way we saw a bunch of monkeys hanging off the private resort’s fence, and they were so cute, we just had to stop.
 At Victory beach we saw the fairly bizarre Airport Disco – a bar/restaurant that had an actual plane in it. We stopped for a drink and Dom went up into the plane cockpit, but we decided we’d return to Independence beach to try to catch the sunset.
It was a race against time, as the sun was getting low. The only entrance we could see to get onto the beach had a checkpoint and the guy pointed to a sign saying the beach was for hotel guests only. Damn.
As we drove away, we saw a little sidetrack that was all rocky but bugger it, we were going for it.  Success! We dismounted and ran to the shore, just in time. There were just a few Khmers there picnicking and watching the sunset with us, and it was lovely.
For dinner we went to the restaurant at Cloud 9 bungalows next door to where we were staying. It was right next to the beach, and you could see all the way down Serendipity and Ochheuteal. Fireworks were going off constantly and it was very festive.
I’ll be honest and say we had a snooze b
efore heading out later that night; we wanted to make sure we could see in the New Year.  A bit of beach barhopping was in order, and  everywhere was packed! It was a full moon that night and the beach was packed silly with backpackers, flashpackers and Khmers.  If it wasn’t for the Khmers, it’d look just like Ko Phangan. I wouldn’t want to see it like that every night, but for New Years Eve it was fun, and at least the locals were enjoying themselves too.
As the countdown to midnight started we downed our beers, watched the fireworks in the sky, and stood by the shore. When it hit 2010, we went into the water, up to our knees.
And as people packed the dancefloors or dwindled off slightly, we grabbed some papasan chairs by the sea, and just watched the waves. It would’ve been even better if we’d had mates with us, but it was pretty good.
Unfortunately, while we were ready to hit the hay by 2am, the loud pumping music kept going til almost 7am, so we had the worst night’s sleep of our entire stay. Great bungalows, great view, but just too close to the action.
Next day we cancelled our booking for that night, and decamped to Otres Beach.
Last instalment of the Cambodian Chronicles to come.

Chasing the Sunset in Snooky

Last time we were in Sihanoukville, Dom and I saw a spectacular sunset, which we filmed, and this time we were keen to try to find the same spot and see it again. You’d think that’d be easy, right?
No. We couldn’t agree on whether it was Independence, Victory or Hawaii beach. We knew it had a restaurant nearby, because we remembered a waiter guy came out but allowed us to stand there and watch the sunset.
Accordingly, this time around, we went in search of it. Well, the bit of coast we thought it was on, was now a huge development of luxury apartments, and the road didn’t go to the coast there anymore. There was something called the Snake House nearby too. The nearest you can get to Hawaii Beach is a little further south than we expected, but we took the little road that leads off to Treasure Island Seafood Restaurant.
And then we saw – a restaurant ON Hawaii Beach!! Not really as we remembered, and there was not a soul dining there. But we thought “hang it; we’re here now”, and when the proprietor came out we nodded that we’d stay.
A walk along the beach was in order first, and this part of town is actually really peaceful; a world away from Serendipity. There were a few families there with their kids, a few trying to catch fish or crab. Off in the distance a few boats bobbed in the sea. Yeah, this place is pretty dang lovely.
We ordered the Crab in Kampot Pepper sauce, and waited for the sunset with cold drinks in hand. Could this be the place? Well, there’s a dirty great big bridge being built now that ruins the view somewhat, but if you kept your eyes to the right, you could block it out.
Here is what we saw…
At this point the food arrived – YUM!!
The sun had almost totally set by now, and the sky was a beautiful rose colour
Well, we weren’t convinced that we’d found the spot from 5 years ago, and would go out on the bike next night to look again. But for now we’d had a lovely meal and a gorgeous display.

Sihanoukville, Ocean Walk Inn, Otres Beach and M’lop Mean Seafood Restaurant

And so we returned to Sihanoukville, after 3 idyllic days on Ko Rong Saloem. Being high season, we’d booked our accom for the next 3 nights before we went away, to save being stranded.

Disembarking from the boat and having to swim/walk to shore, we were wet from the chest down when we went to our next hotel to try to check in. Up the dusty, bumpy road we walked to Ocean Walk Inn, the next place we would lay our heads.
Conveniently, the Ocean Walk Inn is next to the Lazy Beach booking office, and run by a young English guy, Matt. Situated halfway between the beach and the Lion roundabout area, it’s not too far from anything, and pretty quiet. The only exception to this is when you’re eating there of a day, as the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project is just to the right, and the kiddies like to express themselves verbally as well as artistically :)
Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we had some cool drinks while we waited. Dom was well pleased when we got in – it had fans AND air-conditioning! You can imagine, we had constant fights about the temperature, as it was way too cold for me. The room was really big though, with mega high ceiling, 2 double beds, WIFI (!) a TV, table and couch – and a bar fridge – WAHEY!!
After settling in, we rented a motorbike and took off to explore the other beaches.  First stop – Otres, via the Queens Hill Bungalows. They were really nice, and had a great vantage point overlooking Ochheuteal beach – not a bad place to stay if you don’t mind being out of ‘town’.
The Otres came into view. What can I say? We immediately felt at home, seeing the lazy chilled atmosphere of the very low key develoment (if you can call it that). The bungalow and beach bar operations were spaced nicely, so you could see ocean between them, and trees. The beach was wider there too, so plenty of room for walking along the beach without stepping on some bar-hopper’s toes.
Having heard good things about the Otres Shack, we headed there for cold drinks (again! you easily get thirsty in Cambodge).  THIS is the Snooky we love, even if it wasn’t here the first time around. Yep, all the huts on this beach have been built since we were here last time, when  the beach was almost deserted. Now it is the place to be, if you don’t want to feel like you’re in Ko Phangan.
We really wanted to stay on this part of the beach now we’d seen it, but then we wanted to stay in the thick of things for New Years Eve. Dilemma. We decided to stick with our booked accommodation, for now at least.
Lunch beckoned, and so it was back on the bike for a visit to a Khmer seafood restaurant with the funny name of M’lop Mean, in the downtown area.  The plastic chairs were packed with locals when we got there, although we spotted  a couple of white faces who were probably NGO’s. Everywhere people were chowing down on crab, squid, prawns and fish, and throwing the toilet tissue that they use for napkins, on the floor afterwards! Something you have to get used to in this part of the world :)

Weird blow up dolls, porpoises etc hung from the ceiling and it had a ramshackle quality to it. Nonetheless, the food was great -
WHEN you could catch their eye to serve you! We had prawns stir-fried in the famous Kampot pepper, with rice. And again with the cold drinks. By 2.30 the place had almost emptied – there’s definitely a rush hour around here, so you might want to have either an early or late lunch to miss the chaos.
We couldn’t believe how cheap it was when the bill came, either. At first we thought it was a lot – $17US dollars!! “Bloody hell, tourist prices!”, we thought. Then we realised – it was 17,000 riel – or $4.40 Australian.  So, definitely a bargain.
A nap was definitely in order after the feed, and then a trip to rediscover a beach from yesteryear in the evening, possibly rounding out the night with drinks in the Monkey Republic.
Next up, we revisit Sokha, Independence and Hawaii beaches, chase glorious sunsets…..and celebrate New Years Eve with a mad Full Moon Party on Serendipity Beach. Stay tuned.

Sihanoukville in December 09. Same Same but Different.

If you are up with larks you may want to stay on the riverfront in Phnom Penh. However, if you are a late night owl, like us, falling in the door at 3 and wanting to sleep til noon, you may want to try somewhere else. The River Star hotel was fine in itself, but the jackhammering that commenced after 5hours sleep was not pleasant.

At 8am I was roused from my much needed slumber by the raucous sounds of machinery hitting concrete. Urgh…

I suffered and tried to doze, eventually getting up for breakfast. I ate my first banana pancake of the trip, while chatting to children who came up and deftly avoiding being sold anything (no mean feat!)  I struggled with the way-too-strong-Khmer coffee too, having forgotten how lethal it was.

Whilst munching brekkie we thought we’d better settle up our bill and check with reception about the bus we’d booked the night before. “Oh no,” they said, “there’s no booking here”. Oh dear. At the last minute they got us onto a bus leaving for Sihanoukville within the hour, and got us a driver to take us to the bus station. Phew.

Last time we were in PP, the buses were pretty woeful, with broken aircon, busted seats, overheated engines and crazed bus drivers. This time however, we got the Angkor Express bus and it was a world apart from our last experience. Double decker, nice seats with plenty of leg room, air-con that worked, an on-board toilet (!!) – AND we nabbed the 2 front seats on the top deck for a superb view as we travelled.

Around 3 and a half hours later we alighted in Snooky town, but could get a tuktuk for no less than $3US to take us to our hotel. Ripped. We knew $1 was probably right and were trying for $2, but they formed a consortium and refused to take us for less. Oh well.

As we neared the famed lion monument at the big roundabout, we marvelled at how many more buildings there were, banks everywhere, even a lit up Coke sign. A bumpy road took us to the top of Serendipity beach – it didn’t exist last time we were here. Now it was lined with hostels and bars. Ah progress…but it didn’t bode well for a relaxing time.

Coasters was the hotel we’d booked, and it had quite a good location, being on the beach. Well, the restaurant was on the beach. The bungalows were further back. The owner was Irish and very friendly, especially when he heard my surname which is a common Irish one.

We were delighted as we walked to our half-bungalow, to see our first big gecko on a wall nearby.

We were somewhat less delighted when we got to our room. It had a musty smell. What is that odour? I wondered…it was sooo familiar. Oh yes!! It smelled of cabbage! I think it was the bacteria in the bathroom, but best not to think about it too much.

Tummies were rumbling so we nabbed a table at the seaside (and I mean the waves were mere feet away from us), and ordered Amok and Luc Lac. It was lovely being by the ocean again as we ate, toes in the sand.

But as we looked further down Serendipity and Ochheuteal beaches, we saw that where once was the occasional bar/restaurant on the beach with space in between, now it was absolutely jam-packed with these places. See?

As we walked along them after dinner, we couldn’t help but notice there was hardly any beach left – partly due to bad storms back in July.  And each bar would have its own music blaring, so you’d be assaulted with a cacophony as you stumbled along, trying not to fall onto the rocks or into the sea.

I had to confess that the naysayers had been right – Sihanoukville is very much in the grip of overdevelopment. Would there be anywhere we could go that still had that relaxing chilled out vibe from 5 years ago?

Well, I’m pleased to say the answer is yes. But for that you’ll just have to stay tuned for future posts. Next up, the boat ride to the paradisical island known as Ko Rong Saloem, and Lazy Beach Bungalows.