I had heard extremely mixed reviews of Sihanoukville, from Adventurous Kate who dubbed it “the ultimate backpacker party paradise” to other bloggers who likened it more to a seedy cesspool. Yet I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy it and spend a few nights before heading over to my most anticipated destination – Koh Rong.
I was therefore disappointed to find after my long day of travelling by bus from Siem Reap via Phnomh Penh that the famed Monkey Republic (which had albeit been rebuilt somewhat recently due to a fire) had no useful common area for solo travellers – only a large bar with individual, separate tables. I wandered to The Big Easy hostel and bar nearby to find the same scene and sat down next to a couple of people there who said they had been having a great time with people they’d met in their dorm room. Personally, however, I couldn’t justify sleeping in a dorm room in Cambodia when private ensuite rooms were about $17 per night.
The three of us did head down to the beach bars, where my initially poor impression of Sihanoukville was not improved. It probably didn’t help that it was raining, but the bars were not very busy and the beach cluttered with sacks of sand, paving stones and with a generally ramshackle look. Although I met one enthusiastic traveller who partied with me, and I didn’t notice any of the apparently ‘seedy’ vibe I’d read about; I concluded that Sihanoukville was essentially a wannabe Thai island, and not succeeding at all in its attempt to emulate one. The next morning, I changed my plans and booked onto a boat that afternoon to Koh Rong.