Photo: Pick your chariot.

Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville

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Renting a $5 a day motorbike or scooter from one of Sihanoukville’s ubiquitous hire shops and devising an itinerary to take in the principle beaches isn’t rocket science but to maximise your day tour we’ll give you our take on the basic loop which incorporates some less obvious but worthwhile side trips and, of course, some suggestions for refreshment breaks along the way.

Our route isn’t far distance-wise but does involve numerous stops so allow a full day. It kicks off, for no reason other than it’s a central location, at the Golden Lion Roundabout and heads in a clockwise direction, for no reason whatsoever, before finishing at Ochheuteal Beach.

Start here. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Start here. Photo: Mark Ord

Having fortuitously avoided the police checks at the traffic circle, then take the Sokha Beach Road heading southwest. We deliberately avoided starting our tour in a cafe since your first coffee break comes up early with a stop at the excellently situated Malibu Bungalows. The driveway is on the left at the point where the beach road meets the southern end of the beach itself. If you don’t want a coffee, have a juice as this makes a picturesque pause with some fine unspoilt views of the sea between the rocks, orchids and trees.

If you want a peek at Sokha Beach then park at the foot of the hill unless you’re planning on passing by Sokha Beach Resort, the supposed owners of most of this de-facto private beach. This southern end is accessible to the public and affords unobstructed views down the length of the meticulously tidy white sand beach—Sihanouk’s cleanest. Most of the remainder of the beach is then taken up by Sokha which has fortuitously curtailed any other development of the seafront. At the far end of the beach, the road winds up and over a tree-covered hill which separates it from neighbouring Independence Beach.

Break the trip at Independence. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Break the trip at Independence. Photo: Mark Ord

Sadly Independence Beach does have extensive, ongoing construction projects in the form of huge, high-rise, Chinese financed resort and casino complexes, though towards the northern end, on a quiet stretch, the Small Beach Bar makes for another worthy stop with excellent cafe fare, tables in the sand and good overall views of the beach.

Climbing up the rocky tree-lined outcrop upon which the iconic old Independence Hotel is situated keep a look out for the area’s hordes of macaques. This well-preserved, albeit small, patch of lush jungle is a reminder of what most of the area would have looked like until quite recently.

Descending to the north the next up are the twin beaches Hawaii and Victory separated again by a narrow rocky headland. Both are bordered with numerous building sites and a clutch of already existing local style resorts. Hawaii is slightly more scenic and popular with local families while former backpacker fave Victory is these days very grubby and down at heel.

Corner Bar is on the corner. Skip upstairs. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Corner Bar is on the corner. Skip upstairs. Photo: Mark Ord

If you’ve stopped for a swim at one or two of the preceding beaches you may be ready for an early lunch so head up Victory Hill to our local recommendation, the Corner Bar and Restaurant. The cafe is a fine spot for either a local or Western lunch with a pleasant terrace affording views of the tumbleweeds blowing past the adjacent strip of past-their-prime hostess bars.

From here we’d nip back onto the parallel main road, Ekareach, and carry on to the traffic lights and major intersection at the top of the hill. Continuing straight on takes you into what passes for downtown where you need to look out for a Sokimex station on the left. Taking this turning, (Makara Street), should lead you up the town’s largest and liveliest market, Phsar Leu. This makes for a great spot to stretch your legs and don’t miss the weird and wonderful arrays of local fish and seafood specimens.

The Wat Leu outlook. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

The Wat Leu outlook. Photo: Mark Ord

Our next detour, to the hill-top temple Wat Leu, is where things get a little tricky. You’ll need to exit Phsar Leu on the north side and take a right onto the first main road you meet which should be Omui Street. Look out for a steep but wide, newly constructed road on the left heading directly up the adjacent hill. It’s a busy road that provides a short-cut to highway 4 so to some extent you can follow the traffic but if in doubt a well-placed “Wat Leu?” with locals ought to do the trick. As you reach the summit you should see a narrower lane, again on the left, leading along the crest of the wooded hill towards the distant rooftops of Wat Leu. The first temple buildings you reach are an annexe and monks’ quarters—the principal wat is the second building.

Wat Leu is situated on the hill’s highest point and affords near 360-degree vistas though the surrounding trees do mean you’ll have to poke around a bit to find a good viewpoint. This is also another popular spot with macaques and you may need to keep your eye on the temple dogs too. Otherwise, Wat Leu is a peaceful, scenic spot and whose expansive views provide the opportunity to put the entire area into perspective. You’ll have passed a sign for Pagoda Rocks just before the wat entrance and this is another very picturesque resort deserving of a stop.

Cool off at Otres. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Cool off at Otres. Photo: Mark Ord

Return to Omui Street by the same route and take a left. If Victory Hill was too early for lunch then Don Bosco School Hotel, upcoming on the right, makes for a convenient late lunch instead with a pleasant outdoor eating area overlooking the pool and garden. Continue on the main road and you’ll soon find yourself at the entrance to Otres Beach. The first of two turnings is a sealed road taking you down towards Otres Village and Riverside while the subsequent left turn is the unsealed Otres Beach Road paralleling the seafront all the way down to Otres 2. You can then do a loop; contrast the two beaches and swing through cutesy and leafy Riverside while a range of the area’s interesting refreshment suggestions is listed in our Otres eat and drink section.

On departing then follow the road you arrived by until you reach a T-junction. Right leads you back to downtown and left to Ochheuteal. If you’re not in a rush do check-out the small and highly unusual Phum Khmer Dey Meas Park indicated by an English language sign on the left-hand side of the road heading back to Ochheuteal. We’re not really sure what it’s all about to be honest, and there was no-one around to ask when we visited. Set amid a mangrove swamp you’ll find a series of shrines and viewing areas on roofed wooden salas jutting out on stilts over the murky waters.

Exploring the unusual Phum Khmer Dey Meas Park. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Exploring the unusual Phum Khmer Dey Meas Park. Photo: Mark Ord

In the centre of the park a stepped, stone pyramid houses an eclectic display of statues including Ganesh, Lokesvara, Shiva and Vishnu accompanied by nagas, lions, lingams, apsaras and temple guardians. Ferns and orchids droop from surrounding trees creating an atmospheric and bizarre scene. We found it all very attractive though opinions are going to differ but do stop and have a peak. (We did return the following day seeking some information only to find the gate locked so it may be a hit and miss thing but we repeat; it’s worth trying.)

Back on the sealed road and a left turn again leaves you a short hop down to the southern end of Ochheuteal and the end of our day tour. We’d head down to Purple Bar for some seafood and a cold one but that bit’s up to you.

Off road biking also a possibility. Photo taken in or around Motorcycling in and around Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

Off road biking also a possibility. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Note also that if you’re looking for a more adventurous 2-wheel experience then check out Stray Dog Adventures who have an office outside Utopia Bar and who propose guided one and two-day off-road tours of the area. Indeed if you’re interested they have three-day programmes taking in Koh Kong Province and the Cardamoms as well as everything up to 10 to 14-day all Cambodia tours. Day tours on a Honda XR 250 or Yamaha TTR250 are scheduled for Fridays and Monday and go for $120 per person including equipment hire though not including insurance and two-day tours for $260. (Discounts are available for larger groups.) Staff members were very helpful, their website is comprehensive and instruction is available if required.

Stray Dog Adventures c/o Utopia Bar, Mithona St, Ochheuteal T: (017) 810 215

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