If a walk along relatively quiet Independence Beach away from the hordes of Occheuteal appeals to you, go there sooner rather than later. The nearly finished Holiday Palace Casino & Resort is just the first sign of what’s to come; a green fence marks an area that, if the billboard on the road is anything to go by, will one day be a mega-resort. In the meantime, though, contrary to rumour, the beach is not closed to the public; you just need to know how to find your way in.
Independence Beach is a kilometre long, and runs roughly from the north end of the headland that separates it from Sokha Beach to the headland the Independence Hotel is perched on top of. If you approach it from the beach road that winds around the Sokha Resort, it’s easy to miss. The south end is obscured by the new Holiday Palace Casino & Resort. After that, except for a rough dirt and sand track that leads to a “secret” local beach hangout, a long green fence blocks your view of the beach until you reach a more passable opening about half a kilometre further along. That’s the entrance to Independence Beach’s modest “restaurant row”; the first eatery you’ll come to is the Small Beach Bar. Set up by the proprietors of the Small Hotel, one of downtown Sihanoukville’s best hotels, it’s one of the most popular bar/restaurants on the beach.
If there is more activity than you’re in the mood for along this relatively busy section of the beach, it’s easy enough to escape: just start walking south. On weekends, the area that parallels the green fence is a popular local picnic spot and you may not be able to find a place to plant yourself, but that’s okay. Keep walking and pretty soon you’ll come to the “secret” spot mentioned above. Stop there for refreshments, or stop for the day. Although there’s nothing flashy about it, the food and drink stall sells everything you need and the enterprising proprietors have set up random seating under the trees.
Still not mellow enough for you? Keep walking south. Don’t be intimidated by the cement posts that mark Holiday Palace’s turf as they are just there to tell motorbikes not to pass. Once you get past Holiday Palace, there’s a lovely stretch of beach no one ever seems to go to. As a bonus, there’s a little pier you can walk out on to. At the end of the pier, a gazebo provides shade for a picnic table that is rarely taken advantage of. If you stay for any length of time, or even if you don’t, the caretaker may ask you for 1000 riel for the privilege, but then again, maybe he won’t.
If you’re really ambitious and a little bit adventurous, you can continue walking all the way to Sokha Beach. It’s a bit circuitous, but there’s also a system of dirt roads and tracks on the headland that lead to a fishing village tucked away in the corner of the headland.
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