Photo: Not Sihanoukville’s quietest beach.

Ochheuteal and Serendipity beach

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For an area so small, Ochheuteal Beach has a surprising array of personality traits. Even the three-kilometre long beach from which the area takes its name changes character as you stroll or stagger along it, depending on your fancy.

The area includes Serendipity beach, which is tacked like an arthritic knuckle on to the top of the long straight finger of Ochheuteal beach; Serendipity Beach Road with its rowdy array of bars and cheapo guesthouses; and the three 1.5 kilometre streets that run from Serendipity Beach Road and the Koh Rong ferry pier through to the gloriously tacky Golden Lions Traffic Circle.

Take a stroll to escape the crowds. Photo taken in or around Ochheuteal and Serendipity beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Take a stroll to escape the crowds. Photo: Mark Ord

This is the busiest section of Sihanoukville in tourism terms with the widest choice of accommodation, eateries and bars and with the busy island ferries toing and froing throughout the day to connect with Phnom Penh minibus services also forms the main transport hub. The district has perhaps stagnated slightly of late as budget travellers and increasingly flashpackers go directly to the islands without passing ‘Go’ and it does quieten down during the area’s ferocious rainy season but it is still immensely popular with Phnom Penh expats and local holiday-makers any weekend of the year. Large groups of Asian visitors bussed down from the nearby casinos add to the mix.

Ochheuteal’s disparate collection of human and geographical elements gives rise then to a surprising array of personality traits. Khmer kids splash around in the waves while parents lean back in rattan beach chairs ordering copious amounts of Angkor beer and grilled seafood as they clink glasses with anyone in sight. Romantic couples have candle-lit cocktails on the rocks over Serendipity while later in the evening Ukrainian go-go dancers gyrate in back-of-beach joints and backpackers reach for the mojito buckets while taking in the pyrotechnic shows and booming sound systems at early hours beach bar parties.

Sunsets can be good. Photo taken in or around Ochheuteal and Serendipity beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Sunsets can be good. Photo: Mark Ord

We would day it goes from the sublime to the ridiculous though frankly the former is in short supply. Still, some things don’t change and an end of day plate of grilled prawns or ribs plus a glass of vino for a few bucks with toes in the sand while watching the sun set over Serendipity is still pretty good. The beach is cleaner these days—and we mean in terms of fauna as well as litter—and service seems to have improved without large price hikes as competition between the bars has increased.

The boat jetty at the northern end of the beach separates the short rocky stretch known as Serendipity from sandy Ochheuteal proper. South of this there’s a row of a couple of dozen or so larger and somewhat smarter bars aiming at foreign visitors and better-heeled locals while beyond that you’ll see a similar number of simpler, more local style cafes where Khmer families pile out of the backs of pick-up trucks or collectively hired minibuses. The remaining half of the beach stretches in quieter fashion down towards the rocky headland at the far end which separates it from Otres. Don’t get excited though—this area is slated for development with various resort and casino projects and even a rumoured golf-course on the cards.

Pretty rather than gorgeous. Photo taken in or around Ochheuteal and Serendipity beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Pretty rather than gorgeous. Photo: Mark Ord

Behind the beach, the grid of streets houses a selection of smaller, flashpacker resorts as well as a clutch of large mid-range hotels aiming primarily at the Asian market. From the top end of Ochheuteal Mithona Street climbs gently up to meet Serendipity Beach Road at its mid-point between jetty and traffic circle. The latter is lined non-stop with eateries covering everything from pizzas to chicken tikka masala, amok to falafels and pub-grub to pad Thai as well as an eclectic collection of accommodation options interspersed with travel agents, dive schools, souvenir boutiques, moto rental shops and minimarts.

Finally on this stretch and perhaps useful for rainy days you’ll find the Top Cat and Galaxy cinemas with the former claiming “thousands of movies to choose from” for a $4.50, 2-hour price tag and the latter charging $3 for a VIP room, (minimum 2 persons) and opening 24-7.

As Victory Beach and Hill continue their free-fall and Otres remains in its state of constant flux and uncertainty, (it’s always been like that but it’s worse now), Ochheuteal keeps its head above water and in terms of choice, facilities and convenience is still perhaps the best base for exploring Sihanoukville’s mainland delights.

Galaxy Cinema Mithona St, Ochheuteal T: (012) 506 549 Open Mo–Fr: 24 hrs
Top Cat Cinema Serendipity Beach Rd, Ochheuteal T: (012) 790 630 Open Mo–Fr: 11:00–02:00

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Location map for Ochheuteal and Serendipity beach

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