Photo: Tides are changing.

Introduction

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After beginning life as an obscure fishing village, situated on the country’s south coast with Koh Kong to the west and Kampot to the east, Sihanoukville is now Cambodia’s most important (and only) port and its preeminent beach resort as well as being the gateway to a small but delightful archipelago of popular off-shore islands.


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Keep reading to learn more about Sihanoukville!

Technically the province is Preah Sihanouk and the capital is Sihanoukville though Khmers more often than not employ the old name, Kompong Som, while foreign visitors simply refer to both as Sihanoukville. In a surprisingly short lifespan, the town has already displayed a bewildering number of different incarnations and even the briefest of visits will confirm that it hasn’t finished yet.

Beach time. Photo taken in or around Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

Beach time. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

After an early existence as a tiny fishing and trading port—and even for a brief period a pirate base—development of port facilities only began after independence in 1954 and so, unlike Kampot or Kep, very little evidence of the French colonial period can be seen here. As Cambodia’s only deep-water port it served as a conduit for US aid to the Lon Nol regime in the early 70s, Chinese aid to the Khmer Rouge during the late 70s and Soviet aid to the Vietnamese backed regime during the 80s. The first adventurous tourists began to arrive in the late 90s after which Sihanoukville gained backpacker popularity as a cute, chilled-out beach destination.

Unfortunately perhaps as restrictions tightened and beer prices increased in neighbouring Thailand a sleazier girly bar scene also rapidly developed with Sihanoukville gaining an unwelcome reputation as a kind of Pattaya reject’s destination. Things then went from bad to worse as Russian gangster elements were the next to home-in on the poor old town and for a while news reports from Sihanoukville were largely restricted to either gangland killings or paedophile ... Travelfish members only (Around 2,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Sihanoukville.
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 Read up on where to eat on Sihanoukville.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Sihanoukville.
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