Feels like home
When the bus station in downtown Sihanoukville was knocked down to make way for a commercial complex, many of the guesthouses in the surrounding area fell on hard times. Some closed and others changed hands, but one weathered the storm: The Small Hotel.
The Small Hotel can’t give credit to its location for its survival. It’s not on a main road and it doesn’t sport ocean views. In fact, the hotel is in an alley behind Ekareach Street near the Caltex petrol station. The secret of its success only begins to become apparent when you step inside and sit down for a meal in their shaded alfresco dining area.
It’s like entering another world as you leave the potholed alley behind and see the neat row of tables on the veranda. There’s not much of a view unless you like looking at the backs of buildings, but the owners have cleverly taken care of that disadvantage by planting hedges that block the “view” and provide a pleasant garden setting.
This attention to detail and making the most of what you’ve got is one of the secrets of the Small Hotel’s success. Like many guesthouses, there’s a large ground floor reception area, but unlike so many guesthouses, it has an inviting, homey feel to it, with a dining area that resembles an English pub and reading room off to the side. A wall-full of books gives you plenty to choose from.
The proprietors’ attention to detail is evident in the meals they serve, too. The menu runs the gamut from specialties like Henrik’s Swedish meatballs to Mom’s traditional Khmer dishes. It’s all well prepared and well presented by staff who have been with the hotel for years and seem like part of the family. They make you feel like part of the family, too.
Just as they managed to overcome the disadvantage of their location, Henrik and Mom found a way to offer their guests a beachfront bar/restaurant without teleporting their hotel to the beach. A couple of years ago they opened the Small Beach Bar on Independence beach. A free shuttle service leaves the hotel at 09:00 and returns at 16:00. The same friendly staff that work at the hotel work there and the menu is identical, so except for the five-minute ride from the hotel, it seems like you’ve never left “home”.
Room rates at the Small Hotel start at $18 for a single room and work their way up to $25 for a deluxe double. All rooms have hot water, air-con, TVs and DVD players, and they are scrupulously clean, and as neat and comfortable as your first impressions of the hotel would lead you to believe. With only 11 rooms to choose from, the Small Hotel really is small, so book early to avoid disappointment.
The Small Hotel is not for everyone. If you want to be in the centre of the action at all times, look for accommodation at Ochheuteal beach. If you want to stumble out of bed in the morning and walk a few metres to the beach, try a guesthouse at Otres beach. But if you fancy the idea of having a clean, quiet, friendly place to retire to at the end of the day and know that the proprietors and staff have your best interests at heart, the Small Hotel is great. They say their prices remain the same all year, but it may be possible to negotiate during the low season.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.