Oct 15 2012
Sihanoukville’s Serendipity beach area has been changing so fast it’s hard even for those of us who live here to get our heads around it. It all went into high gear late in 2011, when they started paving Serendipity Road. Suddenly, what had been a rough road leading to the backpacker haven of Serendipity beach started to become a major tourist centre. Whether you come to Sihanoukville for the beaches, sightseeing or a boat trip to the nearby islands, odds are you’re going to find a reason to take a walk down the wide concrete road that formerly bumpy track has become.
I recently took a walk down the road from top to bottom instead of using my usual modes of transport, my bicycle or motorbike. The first thing that caught my eye as I turned right from the bitumen road that continues on to Ochheuteal beach from the Golden Lions was a new commercial complex. When I ride past it on my bike in the morning, my eyes on the road and my mind on breakfast at Le Bistro Gourmand, it’s just out of my line of sight. Last time I looked, which wasn’t really that long ago, an old Cambodian restaurant was there. Although as of this writing it is yet to be completed, already several gift shops and small cafes have opened up along the path that leads to what’s rumoured to become a big open-air restaurant and bar at the back of the complex.
Further down the road, it’s hard to miss the row of NGO-run souvenir shops on the south side of the road, but I’d never noticed the Rajana Arts and Crafts shop just opposite them before. I can be forgiven the oversight, because it’s not at ground level and the building that houses it wasn’t even there a year ago, but don’t overlook it when you take a walk down Serendipity Road — they sell wonderful fair trade Cambodian arts and crafts.
The aforementioned Le Bistro Gourmand is just across the road from my three favourite after-breakfast eateries. Cafe Mango serves possibly the best fresh pasta dishes this side of Italy, while Maybe Later has arguably the best Mexican food this side of Southern California. Maybe Later shares its patio with Bad Panda. It’s the perfect arrangement. Bad Panda, which specialises in absurdly delicious bagels and donuts, closes at 17:00, when Maybe Later opens for business. I overheard someone who looked like he knew what he was talking about say that Mike, the bartender, is “the second best bartender” he’s ever met; that may be one of the reasons why Maybe Later rarely closes before 03:00.
Had it been later, I may have continued down the road to the bar at the end of the pier. Aside from an interesting music mix, the nameless bar has the best sunset views in Sihanoukville. That’s not the only reason for visiting the pier, though. Its main function is to serve as an arrival and departure point for boat trips out to nearby islands.
I was neither going for a boat trip nor for a beer though, so I turned around at the bottom of the road. I made a bee-line for Bad Panda, reckoning I deserved a liqueur-laced “drunken donut” and cappuccino after my exertions. From my post at the table, I pondered the mystery of the big hotel just across the street. Why hasn’t it been completed in time for this year’s high season when the nearly-as-large Serendipity Beach Resort, just down the road, was completed in time for last year’s high season?
Refreshed and refuelled, I walked back up to the top of Serendipity Road to the miraculous shopping and eating complex. I wanted to take a photo of it, just to assure myself it was real. As you can see, it is, but it won’t look like this when you arrive in Sihanoukville. Look for it next door to Led Zephyr, Sihanoukville’s newest live music venue, which has become something of a “complex” in its own right, having added bungalows and dormitories since it opened in December 2011, just about the same time they started paving Serendipity Road.
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Tags: Serendipity Road