"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Otres Beach 1 Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

December 2015.

It was a typically hot and humid Cambodian afternoon when Wonderboy and I arrived in the city of Sihanoukville. The plan was simple, all we wanted was a few days of beach lazing and overeating before our boat out to the nearby island of Koh Rong. Where, funnily enough, exactly the same thing awaited. We’d had a busy time in both Battambang and Phnom Penh, hence it felt like a recharge was just what the doctor ordered.

Pat Pat Guesthouse Sihanoukville.

Pat Pat Guesthouse, Sihanoukville.

From the tin shack bus station, we jumped straight into a taxi to our Sihanoukville lodgings, the French-owned Pat Pat Guesthouse. Much to our delight, our twin room was right by the pool. Thus we dropped our bags inside, threw on our swimming shorts and took a quick dip before heading onto the beach.

Otres Beach Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Otres Beach 1, Sihanoukville.

Pat Pat is just a five minute walk from Otres Beach 1, a lovely stretch of sand hugging The Gulf of Thailand. It was an idyllic scene, not yet ruined by globalisation and the subsequent explosion of Chinese casino hotels.

We stationed ourselves at Amber’s Bar, where the drinks and fried snacks kept on coming. It was the early days of my blog, then known as Leighton Literature and I recall working on one of my India short stories while Wonderboy lay snoring on his deckchair.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Fruit seller Otres Beach Sihanoukville.

Otres Beach 1, Sihanoukville.

Tapping away on my laptop, I drank in the sound of the seagulls and the crashing waves. Every half hour or so a local fruit lady swung by carrying a fulsome fruit basket. With barely any other people around, all their attention was on us. Moreover, these women were masters in the art of not taking no for an answer

In fact, I remember having to buy two bananas and a mango just for the privilege of the above photograph. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed our time at Amber’s Bar, which has sadly closed in the years since our visit.

Otres Breach 1 in Sihanoukville.

Otres Beach 1.

When we grew restless, Wonderboy and I would take a stroll down Otres Beach 1. We’d read that this was Sihanoukville’s busiest and most popular beach. But there was very little happening during our two day stay, which was just fine with us.

Otres Beach 1.

Moody sky Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

The beach was, of course, magnificent at sunset. I’ll always remember the fishing boats bobbing in the sea and squadrons of tiny crabs scurrying about like Dali-esque stop motion beasts. As we drew closer, they’d disappear into the little holes they’d made for themselves in the sand.

Stranded jellyfish Sihanoukville Cambodia

Otres Beach 1.

There were also a few stranded jellyfish providing sudden bursts of vivid colour against the dark brown sand. Simultaneously gruesome and beautiful, they literally begged to be photographed.

Otres Beach 2.

Otres Beach

Otres Beach 2.

If you walk far enough, Otres Beach 1 blends seamlessly into Otres Beach 2, although there’s no sign or anything. The further you progress, the less bars, restaurants and guesthouses there are. According to my research, only a few of the beach hotels we saw have survived the passing of the years. Of these, both Sam Papa Pippa Bungalows and Mushroom Point come highly recommended.

Amazing sunset Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

We made a particularly fantastic discovery on Otres Beach 2. The Secret Garden was an award-winning restaurant that specialised in traditional Cambodian dishes with a modern twist. With tables and chairs overlooking the beach and sea, it wasn’t a difficult decision to grab a table and order some dinner. If memory serves me well, I went for their Peppered Squid and Honey, Ginger, Chicken & Mango Salad.

The Secret Garden.

The Secret Bar Garden and Restaurant Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

However, it was actually dessert that ended up stealing the show. I’ll certainly never forget The Secret Garden’s Chocolate Bomb, a dense, white chocolate ball filled with pistachio ice cream. Sat atop a bed of warm brownie chunks and surrounded by playful drizzles of chocolate sauce. “What’s in the jug?” I hear you ask. Warm caramel sauce, baby!

The Chocolate Bomb

The Chocolate Bomb!

We loved The Secret Garden so much, we had dinner there both evenings. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed down in August 2019, which must have been a huge loss for Otres Beach. R.I.P.

Bamboo Bistro Bar Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Bamboo Bistro Bar, Otres Beach.

Bamboo Bistro Bar is another spot that hasn’t survived. This is where Wonderboy and I embarked on one of our great pool table marathons. After several hours, we decamped outside with cocktails on the beach. What a pity this place has gone, yet another nail in Sihanoukville’s proverbial coffin.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Pink sky Sihanoukville Cambodia.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

It’s been sad reading about the negative impact Chinese investment has had on Sihanoukville over the past five years. Over $4 billion has gone into power plants, offshore oil operations and towering casino hotels.

As a result, the backpacker scene has all but disintegrated, replaced by gambling, pollution and organised crime. To read more about Sihanoukville’s decline, take a look at this interesting article by

Visit Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

In any case I’m glad I got to see Sihanoukville as it was on those sleepy December days back in 2015. It was so chilled out and pretty I could’ve happily spent a week on Otres working, drinking, eating and sleeping. I’ll never forget our brief stay, nor indeed that exceptional Chocolate Bomb.

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  • 100 Country Trek

    We were there and this brings back memories of our time there.. the horrendous site was being at the Killing Fields.

    January 24, 2021 - 12:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely. I’ll be doing an extended article on the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum later in the year. Thanks for reading!

      January 24, 2021 - 2:52 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    Beautiful….though no doubt I would have stood on one of those jellyfish lol!

    January 24, 2021 - 6:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh lord, that would have been quite the squelch. Those things were huge.

      January 24, 2021 - 6:05 pm Reply
  • I’ve Bean Travelling

    It’s disappointing to learn about the negative impact of Chinese development on Sihanoukville. By the time I visited Cambodia for the first time in 2020, it was well known as a place to avoid, rather than the beautiful beach destination you have depicted.

    January 24, 2021 - 9:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Such a pity. I also heard a bunch of stay away stories during my second stay in Cambodia last year.

      January 24, 2021 - 9:12 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Sounds like the ultimate paradise! If I were you, I’d empty all the mangoes from the fruit lady’s basket; I love mangoes! The jellyfish looks fascinating and large; I had no idea they were that big! And that dessert looks absolutely decadent; I assume you poured the warm caramel sauce over the white chocolate ball to melt the exterior? Sometimes, a vacation can be just relaxing by the beach, which I see you enjoyed fully. Thanks for sharing, Leighton!

    January 25, 2021 - 4:16 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m also a big mango fan and yes, that caramel sauce went right over the top of the ball!

      January 25, 2021 - 8:10 am Reply
  • Lookoom

    A friend of mine lived for several years in Sihanoukville, he ran a guesthouse. So he saw this Chinese intrusion and had to stop his business. This confirms what you report.

    January 25, 2021 - 8:22 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Mm, it’s weird to think that a place I saw just over five years ago is essentially ‘gone’. What a pity. Hope your friend moved onto greener pastures.

      January 25, 2021 - 8:24 am Reply
  • Katie Askegaard

    I wish I could have seen this version of Sihanoukville! I visited in 2018, and again at the start of 2020, and even that change was crazy to see. All the streets were ripped up, half built sky scrapers everywhere, destroyed beaches. Truly devastating.

    January 25, 2021 - 9:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh lord, sounds like a horrific sight. It sounds too far gone that it can ever be recovered.

      January 25, 2021 - 9:51 am Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    That chocolate bomb dessert looks awesome Leighton.

    January 25, 2021 - 10:47 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It was so good I’m still mourning its passing.

      January 25, 2021 - 11:16 am Reply
  • yourtravelrecipes

    Another part of Cambodia I missed and a good reason to visit again. Thank you

    January 25, 2021 - 2:30 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Great beach shots. I’ve seen jellyfish washed up on beaches but never like that. I never would have guessed it was a jellyfish. I need to find some place that makes Chocolate Bombs.

    January 26, 2021 - 6:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      We all need to find a place that makes Chocolate Bombs!

      January 26, 2021 - 6:24 pm Reply
  • Msdedeng

    Wow! and the jellyfish “burst” is incredible!

    January 27, 2021 - 11:53 pm Reply

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