Photo: Beach scenes at Otres Beach.

Eat and meet

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Occheuteal and Serendipity Beach

This area has a good selection from beachside shacks and bars through to fancy European restaurants.

The latest Cambodian addition to the very popular and well-established series of restaurants created by Friends International, Sandan serves creative Cambodian cuisine in an airy, open-plan garden courtyard just 150 metres from the Golden Lions Traffic Circle. Their wide-ranging menu runs from the refreshing (prawn and cucumber spring rolls with palm wine and honey sauce ($6) and prawn ceviche with lime and chilli long beans and peppers ($4)) -- to the hearty (Khmer Muslim beef and peanut curry ($7). This is traditional Cambodian food, recreated in contemporary style, with subtle creative twists that you can see in dishes like the twice-braised sticky pork ribs with Chinese five spices and Coca-cola ($8.50). Sandan is a training restaurant, which means that most of your staff are learning on the job, while also being given the necessary support in health, education and social care to rejoin society as active and productive citizens and build their own futures on their own terms. It is part of a hugely successful network of restaurants across Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, including Romdeng and Friends in Phnom Penh and Marum in Siem Reap.

A simple menu in a simple set-up add up to a lot of delicious traditional Khmer dishes presented in a more contemporary environment at Nyam. In true Cambodian style though, they recommend ordering a lot of dishes and sharing them with your table, much like Spanish tapas. Highly rated by expats, Nyam offers a range of typical Cambodian salads ($3), soups ($2.75-$3.75), spring rolls ($2.25-$3.25), and stir-fries that find a place for meat fans and vegetarians alike. Fish lovers are well catered for as well.

Every evening, on Ekareach Street besides the Golden Lions monument, the local night market sets up and serves cheap and reliable Khmer fast food. Among the offerings are ‘delicacies’ such as cockroaches, crickets and tarantulas, so don’t forget your camera — we think they taste like envelope glue, but they say it’s the way of the future, so count this as training. More mainstream fare like fried noodles, soup and rice are also available for the squeamish.

Formerly the New Sea View Villa Restaurant, So stands out as one of the lovelier venues in this part of town. With two extensive menus covering breakfast/lunch and dinner, offering international food with strong continental influences, they’re not the cheapest but there is great value to be had with the two starters plus two mains for $10 offer on selected dishes. Breakfasts include a giant omelette, which really is giant and packed full of vegetables and bacon, ham or spinach ($3.50). For lunch, you’ll find a large selection of ciabatta sandwiches, salads, stuffed jacket potatoes, pastas and oven baked dishes, and homemade specialties like spinach quiche and chicken liver pate. Prices range from $2.75 for a veggie melt sandwich, with herbed aubergine, tomato, onion and cheese, including a side salad, to $5 for a vegetarian lasagne. Dinner is a more complex affair, and while you’ll find most of the plates available at lunchtime, there are also some more sophisticated dishes like fillet steak with pepper or blue cheese sauce ($7.25), duck with raspberry sauce ($8.25), and lamb shanks ($10). Vegetarians are catered for a little more creatively than the usual offering of omelette or salad, with a selection of Italian dishes including lasagne ($5.25) and parmigiana ($4.75). And fish fans are in for a treat, with swordfish, tuna, barracuda, salmon, snapper and black sea bass, or maybe half a kilo of fresh sea prawns to choose from. The pretty dining area is outdoors and, in keeping with the food, the setting feels Mediterranean with a light stone garden and dinghy sails to keep off the sun.

Invito was opened by a trio of young Cambodians who spent ten years working together in Italian restaurants in Thailand. Coming back to Cambodia, they brought their skills and knowledge with them and the result is this narrow, elegant restaurant with its extensive menu of Italian, Khmer and Thai dishes. For some dishes, it’s a little pricier than other places nearby, but the attractive decor (we especially love the art deco lamps over every table), attentive service and generously flavoured food may make it worth the splurge. Breakfast is good value though with, among others, a fried egg, stir-fried veg and toast for just $2, and lunchtime baguettes and sandwiches can be had for not much more than anywhere else -- a club sandwich for instance is $4.50. At dinner time, the prices go up a little, with a selection of classic wood-fired pizzas priced between $5.50 for a Margarita and $9.50 for a quattro formaggi. Pasta dishes, generously portioned and richly flavoured, come in at $7.50 to $8.50. They’re also served with a portion of garlic bread wrapped in tin foil. The Thai food offerings maintain the classic approach, with soups, curries and pad Thai for an average of $6. The steamed red snapper, with white cabbage in lemon chilli sauce, looks seriously tempting at $7.50. Meanwhile, the Khmer dishes feature all the favourites like fish amok ($7.50), eggplant with pork ($6), and sour soup ($6). The service here was very polished, without being stiff or formal. Simply professional. Open from 07:30 to 23:30.

“Killer tacos. Healthy cocktails. Mostly interesting conversation” is how Maybe Later tag themselves and it’s pretty spot on, except for the bit about the cocktails. Those are absolutely lethal. The scent of cumin hangs tantalising in the air in this small, simply put together joint as the kitchen knocks out reams of generous tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, salads and quesadillas stuffed with tequila lime chicken, or slow-cooked shredded beef, and served with drunken beans, cheese, sour cream and delicious salsa, for an average of $5. Flip over the menu to find the cocktail list which features all of the classics, plus a couple of interesting peculiars like Shady Alibi (vodka, Amaretto, cranberry juice, Angostura bitters), a seriously punch-packing Chuck Norris (vodka, gin, tequila, blue Curacao, lemonade, Red Bull), and Bad Panda (Kahlua, vanilla vodka, coke, cream). The cocktails are all $3.50. And to top it off, the staff here are friendly, helpful, efficient and fun. Recommended. Open 17:00 to 02:00.

Sihanoukville has a remarkably good selection of Italian places to choose from, all of which serve excellent pastas and pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens, and Marco Polo is no exception. They offer the usual range of pizza and pasta dishes the names of which we’ll all recognise from a million different Italian menus. What really makes it stand out though is the inventiveness and the ingredients, some of which are deliciously exotic. This is where you can go for a pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, capers and gorgonzola, or perhaps a ’Tartufona’, topped with tomato sauce, taleggio cheese, potatoes, parmesan and black truffle. If pizza doesn’t float your boat, then how about tagliatelle with black truffle instead, or pappardelle with ceps and cream, or tagliatelle with tomato sauce, cream, chanterelle mushrooms and parmesan? They also do grills, including grilled cheese, and imported beef entrecôte with a selection of sauces. The set-up here is verging on the rustic inside, with a small garden at the front for outdoor seating. The meal prices range from $6.25 for a margarita to $14.25 for the signature Marco Polo pizza, topped with tomato sauce, cherry mozzarella, gorgonzola, Parma ham and parmesan. Open 12:00 to 22:00.

There are few things more joyous (honestly) than an occasion to build up your own burger from scratch, leaving you free to indulge in all kinds of wilful perversions that standardised burgers just won’t allow. At Ernie’s Burgers, for $3 to $6.50, you can choose from classic or double beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian burgers and then load them up to your heart’s content with 22 free toppings, including beetroot, pickles, mushrooms, pineapple, fried or raw onion, chillies, and another 10 extras like mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss and blue cheese, and pepperoni, guacamole, jalapenos or chilli con carne. Add on a side of fries, and you’re home free. If burgers aren’t your thing, they’ve also got hot dogs, pizza and spring onions. When you go into the American-diner style outlet, just go to the bar and grab a form, then start ticking what you want. And it may be a fast-food joint, but the service was restaurant standard, friendly, helpful and efficient. The burgers were seriously tasty too. Open 11:00 to 23:00.

Serving up Western comfort food like chilli con carne, bangers and mash, meat pies, Cornish pasties and fish and chips, Thida’s Inn is a popular spot with both expats and travellers alike. As an added bonus, their Khmer dishes are also excellent; the beef salad, which is served ceviche-style with lots of lime juice, is delicious and highly recommended. They also deliver.

Other Asian
Set on Serendipity Beach Road, popular favourite Happa has expanded to a larger space and is serving teppanyaki, Japanese and Khmer dishes. You can watch the teppanyaki dishes being cooked on the iron skillet near the front and mix and match the many small dishes to put together your fare for the evening. Agedashi tofu and chicken teriyaki are standouts and you can wash it all down with some icy cold frosted Japanese beer. Open 17:00 to 22:00.

On simple outdoor benches and tables underneath a wooden canopy Slumdog Curry serves up what they claim, tongue no doubt firmly planted in cheek, is the best Indian food on the planet. It might be fairer to say that Slumdog Curry offers a short menu of decent Indian dishes, including vegetable and fish curries, dhal and palak paneer. Where they stand out is their incredibly good prices. A dhal curry, that was perfectly spiced if a little thin, was just $1.75, making us feel churlish for even thinking it was thin. The most expensive stand-alone dish, a prawn masala, is just $2.75. And if you’re feeling the hunger, then the most expensive thali, which includes prawn masala, squid curry, dhal, raita, rice and a chapati will cost a whopping $3.75.

Bars and nightlife
You can’t have the beach without rum, seriously. And what better way to serve it up than in a range of flavoured infusions carefully crafted on site. La Rhumerie is a small new bar on Serendipity Beach Road, got up in an interesting neo-80s style (think Miami Vice), with a blue backlit bar and a rather stunningly kitsch chandelier. Gently infusing in big glass jars at the back of the bar, the flavours they offer include tropical fruits, Kampot pepper, vanilla, coffee, peanuts, ginger and chilli, which can be had for $2 a shot. They also serve a collection of cocktails ($3-$3.50) and shooters ($2.50). The music was perhaps the best we heard in a bar in Sihanoukville, and the service wonderfully warm and welcoming. Open from 18:30 to late.

Utopia has staked out the choice corner on the junction of Serendipity Beach Road and 14 Mithona/Ochheuteal Street, where the combination of location and insane drinks offerings have helped them build a strong following. The bar, a dark-but-not-too-dark venue, starts pumping drum and bass and electro by 21:00 and doesn’t stop until near dawn. Utopia is a popular hangout for backpackers, sex tourists and prostitutes; the former seem to hang out until midnight and then head to JJ’s, while the latter are the bulk of Utopia’s late night business. They’ve just opened an enclosed nightclub on the premises, which may change the atmosphere by keeping the main area slightly less hectic and bringing the volume-obsessed DJs inside. Those in need of soakage for all of those cheap beers, can choose from a selection of associated fast food joints within the Utopia complex.

If you’re spending your evening stumbling from one bucket to another, chances are good that at some stage you’ll end up at Dolphin Shack. Find the green, neon dolphin on Ochheuteal Beach for one of the most happening — and loud — of the various joints on Ochheuteal Beach. Cheap drinks, great dance music and live DJs attract a young crowd that will party with you until dawn. They also run full-moon booze cruises and, occasional, mud wrestling bouts. Open 24 hours.

More of a rock vibe than most of the other bars along Ochheuteal Beach, though sometimes the music is surprisingly serene, Gas & Surf also distinguishes itself by offering an interesting Spanish menu including tapas and paella. As you sup and dine, you may notice a collection of bikes, big and small, all the way up to 1100cc, out the back behind the pool table, all of which are for hire. Open 09:00 to late.

Backpacker favourite JJ’s Playground is packed every night of the week, with a college like atmosphere, live pyro-shows, DJs and general mayhem on the menu. The music leans towards pop hits, hip hop, R&B and house. They offer a 25c beer to all visitors between 21:00 — 22:00 nightly (or a free one with a flyer) and have various drink promotions. The party really gets started around midnight, then hold on to your shorts. It’s likely to be quite a ride. Open 18:00 to 06:00.

As the name suggests, Sessions is all about the music, and they play a lot of English indie, rock and dance music from the 70s, 80s and 90s here. As a result, it’s a lot more chilled out than its neighbours and is often the place people choose to go to wind down, rather than pump it up. At the end of the night, it’s also where you’re most likely to find the group members you’ve lost along the way. Live music, live DJs, open mic nights on Wednesdays, and all-day happy hour on Mondays. Open 11:00 to 04:00.

If the heaving beach bars are too hectic for your mood, chilled out bar and restaurant Momo’s lies just off Serendipity Beach Road. Highlights include four types of absinthe. They serve all of the Khmer-standard cuisine — it’s not the best you’ll find but the portions are fairly large and the meal prices are fairly low. If you’re there to eat and not just drink, the beef lok lak is recommended. Large mattresses outside for reclining on make for a decent choice for a more relaxed evening.

Proving that running a good bar doesn’t have to be complicated, Bar From Home is a simple place where the main ingredients seem to be a warm welcome, a cold beer and lively conversation which somehow inevitably turns into an excellent session. A favourite with expats and travellers alike, we didn’t try the food, but are told it’s awesome. A series of events keeps things lively, with loads of drinks specials and music nights. Highly recommended. Open from 17:00 till the last person falls out the door.

Bar From Home: Mithona St; (096) 445 3149
Dolphin Shack: Ochheuteal Beach; (068) 553 063;
Ernie’s Burgers: Mithona St; (098) 844 400;
Gas & Surf: Ochheuteal Beach; (078) 500 664
Happa: Serendipity Beach Rd; (034) 934 380
Invito: Serendipity Beach Rd; (070) 3387 791
JJ’s Playground: Serendipity Beach; (012) 769 109
La Rhumerie: Serendipity Beach Rd; (016) 489 213
Marco Polo: 2 Thnou St, next to Sunset Cafe; (092) 920 866;
Maybe Later: Serendipity Beach Rd; (097) 869 5264;
Momo’s Absinthe Bar: 14 Mithona/Ochheuteal St; (016) 552 611,(097) 458 4110
Night market: Ekareach St, next to the Golden Lions Monument.
Nyam: 23 Tola St; (092) 738 615.
Sandan: 2 Thnou St; (034) 452 4000;
Sessions: Ochheuteal Beach; (089) 884 260
Slumdog Curry: Utopia Plaza, Mithona St; (034) 934 319
So Restaurant: Serendipity Beach Rd; (017) 918 966.
Thida’s Inn: 2 Thnou St; (012) 495 859
Utopia: Serendipity Beach Rd; (034) 934 319;

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Otres Beach

Mom’s Kitchen is a streetside hang-out attached to a small general store whose long tables and benches are filled with hungry travellers almost all day long. Mom herself is there cooking up typical Khmer fare on two outdoor gas burners, including breakfast ($2 - rice with soy caramelised pork and pickled vegetables -- and, seriously, there are few better ways to start the day if you’ve already got your clothes on), noodle soup ($2), fried rice and noodles ($1.50/$2.50 with chicken or pork), and barbecue meats, as well as more Western-influenced dishes like omelette, pancakes and sandwiches. All best washed down with a nice iced Khmer coffee with sweet milk (75c). The food here is tasty and the best value you’ll find along Otres. The service is sometimes a little haphazard. When it is, just chill, order again and remember that the only thing you’re losing is a little beach time.

More than just a guesthouse, Mushroom Point has gone all out to be taken seriously as an eatery as well, and they’ve succeeded so far as we can tell. Almost every guesthouse or hotel owner in the vicinity that we asked recommended it, and a lunch there more than proved they were not afflicted with sunstroke. They grow a lot of their own herbs and salad ingredients, make their own breads and muesli, and also work hard to ensure that the maximum of waste is recycled or reused as compost or pig food. You can eat either in the garden complex or beachside, though the relative quiet, and gently relaxed vibe of the garden seems more appealing to us. The menu offers a selection of pizzas, including a margarita ($6), a ‘Khmer’ pizza with chicken amok, coconut milk, chilli and mozzarella ($6), or the chilli con carne pizza ($8), among many others. They also have lepinjas, an Eastern European bread that is like a cross between a nan and a pita, which they stuff with all kinds of things like chilli con carne, or chicken schnitzel. Their fish amok was the subject of intense raving by one person we spoke to.

Chez Paou is another place that comes highly recommended by those in the know, including the presumably hard to please general manager of a world-class resort. Chez Paou blends beachside relaxation with some classy turns on the menu which features French food, pizza, pastas, salads, steaks, sandwiches and fresh seafood at mid-range prices. In the evening, the restaurant service continues but a deeper bar vibe kicks in, and occasionally an impromptu live music session might kick off. The atmosphere then is really lovely.

Papa Pippo is the creation of Papa Pippo and son, this is a relaxed beachside hangout that also happens to sell awesome Italian food with fresh homemade pastas, pizza and piadinas. The pizzas range from $3.50 to $6.50, and include some real tempters such as one with German sausage, and other with Italian sausage, a prosciutto and jalapeño pepper, and a divine sounding tricolore with tomato sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and parmesan. For the pastas, you can mix and match your pastas and your sauces, which include carbonara, vongole, bolognese, arabbiata, as well shrimp, courgette and cream, Italian sausage with mushrooms and cream, and many others. The Norma, with aubergine, mozzarella and tomato sauce ($6.50), was stunning; a rich, full-flavoured sauce, with plenty to indulge in. They also have a selection of stuffed pastas, ravioli, that they’re very proud of. If you prefer something a little more substantial, a small selection of mains includes beef and pork meatballs in tomato sauce ($7), or maybe breaded mixed prawns and squid on skewers ($6.50). The atmosphere here is very relaxed, though the service remains good. They have pub quizzes on Tuesday nights, and live music on Thursdays.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking into the beach restaurant at Tamu, especially at night. Two pyramid-shaped thatch roofs shelter the dining area which is so much larger than anywhere else on Otres. But the space is used well, with plenty of room between tables giving a sense of intimacy accentuated by the candlelight. But while the setting may be lovely, the menu is anything but pretentious, including burgers, pasta, salads and more. It’s certainly a little pricier than other places along the beach, but there’s nothing here that is liable to break any but the most brittle bank. The service was perfect on the times that we visited even though it was busy.

An offshoot of Done Right, Blame Canada is an uber-relaxed beachside hangout, with a distinctly masculine vibe though, it must be said, not of the seedy variety. It just looks like the kind of place that most guys dream of when they’re picturing their dream bar. Nothing’s overdone or pretentious. It could probably do with a good scrub but it’s dark enough so who’s going to notice or care, and the main ‘design’ feature seems to be a sense of humour, and the cannabis leaf on the sign outside. The bar downstairs has a pool table, and there’s also a top deck for catching any passing breezes and enjoying the view. They sell all the things you expect a bar to sell, and they throw some seriously fun-looking parties.

After visiting Shin during the day and thinking it kind of okay, we later discovered, but too late for us to personally verify, that it is a favourite party venue for Otres -- the kind of place you won’t want to leave and so may require you to write off the next day, and very possibly the one after that too. We should have paid more heed to the signs on the bar inviting us to join in the “Shenanigans” every Wednesday, with live DJs and music, 75c beer from 21:00 to 23:00, and all night food, especially the very highly rated sushi. Other nights are much more relaxed.

Chez Paou: Otres 1. T: (016) 955 493
Mom’s Kitchen: Otres 1
Mushroom Point: Otres 1. T: (097) 712 4635, (078) 509 079.
Papa Pippo: Otres 1. T: (010) 359 725.
Shin: Otres 1. T: (096) 289 6217
Tamu: Otres 2. T: (088) 901 7451.

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Best places to stay in Sihanoukville

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville town

Hidden down a nondescript sidestreet in downtown Sihanoukville, Ku Kai offers some of the best Japanese cuisine you’ll find in town and it’s very affordable as well. Their building looks more like someone’s home, and the small outside sign is in Japanese, so be prepared to miss it on the first attempt. Their menu has offerings like marinated deep-fried fish ($2.75), eggplant with grated radish and ginger ($2) and braised pork and potato ($4), along with more traditional offerings like prawn tempura (US$4.75) and pork katsu ($4.75.) They also have daily fish sashimi choices ($2.50-$3) which are so fresh they taste like they’ve jumped from the ocean directly to your plate. The braised pork belly ($4) we ordered came to the table glistening and looking succulent. It was fall-apart tender, and could well have been the best pork belly we’ve ever had; we can also recommend the fried eggplant with minced pork ($2.75.) Portion sizes are large and we wound up taking some home with us. With an elegant and romantic ambience, Ku Kai would be a great choice for a quiet date night. Cream walls are accented by dark wooden furniture and a few potted plants. A little play area with games is available for children, so parents can leave them to play while enjoying their meal. The main chunk of Ku Kai’s business comes from Japanese tourists and a few long-term expats. Despite their lack of advertising or helpful signage, they do a good business and it might be best to call ahead for a reservation.

Another strong Japanese player which is, according to the owner, the only Japanese restaurant in town with a Japanese chef, Cafe Sushi is a smart, compact air-con restaurant that may be a little pricier than surrounding restaurants, but good sushi always is. They offer an extensive menu of sushi and sashimi as well as grills, yakitori, noodles and more, as well as daily specials of, for example, octopus, tuna, and salted grilled fish. They also offer fishing tours for those who would like to catch their own dinner.

Holy Cow took its name from a local bovine with mysterious healing powers. While a bite of the beef cottage pie may not be curative, it sure is comforting. The menu is mostly Western, with hearty breakfasts (from $1.50 for toast to $4.50 for a Big Fat Fry Up), sandwiches, pasta dishes and some real comfort offerings like cottage pie ($5.50), grilled fish with Dijon sauce ($5), pork chops with mashed potato ($6) and jacket potatoes with real hunger-busting fillings (from $4 to $5.50). Cambodian dishes are here too, including the not-often-enough seen Cha Kroeung, a tangy, dry-fry sauce with galangal, peanut and coconut, as well as chicken in ginger, and Cambodian sweet and sour soup (both $3.50), among others. Vegetarian options are thoughtful, not forced. For the food alone, Holy Cow is generally considered unmissable by those in the know, but the setting is lovely too. A typical Khmer villa is broken up into discrete spaces, and it feels almost like you’ve been welcomed into someone’s home than a restaurant. Upstairs, a small shop sells crafts, clothes and jewellery.

The Dao Of Life is a vegan restaurant/creative arts centre/social community/events venue/and more all wrapped up into one whose openness and diversity reflects that of its founders who are Argentinian/Italian, Swiss/Canadian/English and English/Bangladeshi. They offer a vegetarian menu, which is actually vegan it turns out, that includes their famous veggie burger ($4.50), made up from sweet potato and black beans topped with salad and homemade cashew nut cheese, and served with white cabbage coleslaw. Other stars include zucchini fritters with a cilantro and lime dipping sauce ($4.50), and spiralised zucchini linguini ($4) with sautéed cherry tomatoes and garlic, olive oil, balsamic and slivered almonds. And just because they’re virtuous, it doesn’t mean they’re not also naughty. Dairy-free home-made ice cream ($3) made with a banana base comes in divine sounding chocolate, espresso and peanut flavours, with loads of toppings to choose from. They’re also very proud of their juicing menu, and offer a range of detoxing, cleansing immunity boosting flavours, including green juice, which is a high-speed way of getting a whole tonne of veggies and all the goodness they carry into your system. And if that sounds a little too sober for you, they even have vegan wine. Yoga classes, zumba classes, live music and performances are just a small part of the programme here. Not to be missed.

Stepping through the wrought iron gates into a romantic little garden that houses Starfish Bakery and the Starfish Project shop and massage rooms is really like stepping into another world. The gritty, sordid atmosphere of Sihanoukville is washed away as you pass the stone fountain that looks like something from an elegant English garden just bursting with roses. There are no roses here, but instead the garden is festooned with lacy ferns, bamboo and the entryway is flanked by two leafy banyan trees. All the profits from the shop, bakery and cafe go to supporting local Khmer people in rural areas by providing housing, sanitation, medical and educational programs. As if that wasn’t good enough, the food is really lovely, especially the bakery. The bread, yoghurt and muesli are all freshly made in the cafe, as are the divine cookies and cakes. They serve a simple selection of sandwiches and salads ($3.50 to $4.50), as well as mezze, quiches and fajita wraps (all $4). The cookies are worth the trip alone. Besides the cafe, this site is also home to a shop selling well-finished and attractive crafts created by disabled Cambodians across Sihanoukville. There is also a blind massage room, with a one-hour Japanese shiatsu massage for as little as $7. Highly recommended.

Striving hard to support young Cambodians carve out their own futures, the Don Bosco Hotel School is a full service hotel and restaurant where many of the staff are completing a two-year training programme in hospitality, English and computer skills. More than 400 students have graduated since 2007, equipped with the skills necessary to kickstart their careers. The restaurant is inside the hotel and serves up a short menu of Khmer and Western favourites, including sandwiches ($4.50 to $5), pasta ($3.50 to $6), pizza ($5.50 to $7.50) and specials like a South African Bunny Chow ($6.50), which is a chicken curry served inside a crispy bread loaf. The atmosphere here is a little bit school canteen-like, but the staff put a smiling, keen effort into service that you won’t find in any school canteen. Nor would you normally find wine in a school canteen. The list here is short -- five reds, five whites -- but very well chosen, and the pricing is even better. It’s worth a trip just for that and the chance to enjoy a few glasses, and perhaps a plunge, by the large, stunnning outdoor pool.

Cafe Sushi: #25 Ekareach St. T: (034) 934 800. Open 11:30 to 13:30, 17:30 to 22:00.
Don Bosco: Street Ou-Phram, Sihanoukville. T: (034) 934 478. Open from 06:30 to 21:00.
Holy Cow: Ekareach St. T: (012) 478 510. Open 09:30 to 22:00.
Ku Kai: #144 7 Makara St. T: (012) 593 339. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 17:00 to 21:00.
Starfish Bakery: #62 7 Makara St (behind Samudera supermarket). T: (012) 952 011. Open 07:00 to 17:30.
The Dao of Life: #375 Ekareach St. T: (097) 706 1144. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00 to 21:00.

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Victory Hill

The long-running Corner Bar offers good tunes, fine pizza and ice-cold drinks. It is a popular casual hang out spot attracting both expats and travellers with its affordable meals and drinks. If you’re staying on Victory Hill, chances are you’ll find yourself here at some stage or another, though most likely for no other reason than its convenience.

Raphael’s Tavern is something of an anomaly on Victory Hill. Tucked in between dives with names like Shooters, Metal Heart and Golden Time, it is a small but fine Italian restaurant set up by a young chef from Barcelona who has also worked at Ole at Reef Resort. With space for only 14 people, soft lighting and and wooden furniture emphasise intimacy, all the better to enjoy the house-made pastas ($4-$5), panini ($2.50-$3.50), piadini ($4-$5) and piadizza ($3.50-$4.50). They also serve platters of cured meats and cheeses. Head there between 12:00 and 17:00 on Mondays to tuck into the young chef’s passion for Spanish tapas, including jambas jail, tosta huevo chorizo, montado with cheese, ham or chorizo and salteado de pimiento with prices ranging from $1.20 to $3. Open in the evenings from Tuesday to Sunday, and Monday afternoon.

Aquapoolco is a new venture just around the corner from the seedier stretch of Victory Hill, on the road that leads down to Sakal Bungalows and Victory Beach. It’s kind of a playground for the kids by day and the grownups by night, with a bar and grill serving up a simple menu of sandwiches, burgers, pizza and pasta with prices averaging around $3.50 to $4. But, as the name suggests, the main attraction is the pool with plenty of loungers all around and an easy space for parents to keep an eye on their kids. They host some fab-sounding parties, with live DJs, drinks and food specials. Open 09:00 to 00:00.

When we went to see Tiki Club, there was no one around to greet us and show us around -- no one around at all. So we waited for 20 minutes while the woman chopping things in the kitchen tried to find someone to do the honours and had a nose around the bar while they did. We weren’t fantastically impressed. It was clearly a place that saw a lot of parties, there were event flyers, photos of happy people, a small stage with bongo drums. We were unimpressed and prepared to write it off until we mentioned it to an apparently balanced expat who nearly fainted at the idea. According to her, Tiki Club is the place to go for live music in Sihanoukville, with the manager able to secure gigs that even the well-known Otres Market hasn’t scored. We’re passing on the recommendation. Open 09:00 to 02:00

Aquapoolco: Victory Hill; (015) 844 088
Corner Bar: Victory Hill; (012) 479 395
Raphael’s Tavern: Victory Hill; (071) 869 2124
Tiki Club: Victory Hill; (096) 923 6582

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Sihanoukville? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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