Off the beach at Ochheuteal Beach

What we say: 3.5 stars

There’s another Ochheuteal Beach in Sihanoukville you might miss unless you happen to be staying in one of the hotels or guesthouses there. If you are, you may be patting yourself on the back for having discovered the benefits of staying off the beach at Ochheuteal Beach.

Tola Street café, sihanoukville cambodia

Escape the madding crowds off the beach at Ochheuteal Beach.

The downside to staying on Serendipity Road or further down Mithona Road is that there’s no way to escape the high season crowds unless you retreat to your room. You can stay downtown or on Victory Hill, but then, when you want to go to Serendipity or Ochheuteal Beach, you have to find transportation there and back. That’s easily accomplished, but the haggling over tuk tuk or motodop fares grows tiring.

The solution to the problem is just one block behind Mithona Street. Years ago, Golden Sand was the biggest hotel on Tola Street. It’s had a facelift recently and is still pretty impressive looking until you go a bit further down the road and see the brand new OC Hotel with its gleaming white minimalist facade.

OC hotel, sihanoukville cambodia

The new OC outclasses the old Golden Sand.

Further still, directly opposite the street that leads to the official entrance to Ochheuteal Beach, there’s a hotel slowly taking shape. When you pass this rather gargantuan structure, there’s mostly vacant land, but signs of further development are appearing. Red, Sihanoukville’s newest and flashiest nightclub, just a short walk further along the other side of the road, had their grand opening in late November 2012 and a few hotels are in various states of progress. One completed accommodation, the Sihanoukville Grand Hotel, may want to consider changing its name. Although nice looking, its close proximity to this far grander hotel makes the name look a little silly in comparison.

big hotel on Tola Street, Sihanoukville Cambodia

This grand hotel even makes Hun Sen’s beach house across the street look smaller.

It’s worth taking a walk down Tola Street even if you’re not staying there. The string of restaurants between the Beach Club and Orchidee are Sihanoukville classics. Years ago, I had my first $3 barbecue in one of them and although I can’t prove it, my guess is that all the 150 (give or take) Ochheuteal Beach bars that offer the same took their cues from these long-established family-run restaurants. The difference, though, is that these little alfresco restaurants have actual dining tables and chairs and you don’t have to deal with beach vendors and beggars while you enjoy your meal.

Whether it’s going to become a hot spot or not remains to be seen, but a new commercial complex sprang out of nowhere just near the traffic circle recently. As of writing, there’s just a smattering of bars and a doner kebab cafe to choose from, but when I went in for a closer look, a couple of Western entrepreneurs were feverishly working on their stalls. Hopefully, the new stallholders will have more imagination than to open yet more bars. If they do, the complex could become a nice place to wander around in when it’s finished.

new business in sihanoukville cambodia

Will they be ready for the Christmas rush?

I finished my tour of Tola Street at the temptingly named Barista Cafe. Unfortunately, the proprietor had nothing to offer but coffee. He hadn’t prepared for the burst of business the estimated 40,000 extra tourists that came to Sihanoukville during Water Festival week brought in and to make things worse, his suppliers had all taken holidays. Never mind. It was nice to sit under the shade of a tree and relax away from hectic Serendipity Road for a change.

Last updated: 27th March, 2015

About the author:
Rob has always had a knack for living in places that are on the cusp of change, but none has compared to the coast of Cambodia.

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