The rambunctious beach capital is coming into its own as a major player in the nation
From sleepy backpacker beach town to Cambodia’s very own Little China, Sihanoukville has undergone a remarkable transformation in the last few years. Cheap hostels, burger vans and bars aimed at young travellers stand faded and incongruous against gaudy hotels and casinos aimed at Chinese expats and tourists, while along the beachfronts some of Cambodia’s most spectacular condominiums are redrawing the skyline. The local economy is certainly booming with land and property prices soaring. The rapid pace of change could see the town become unrecognizable in the coming years as tourist numbers grow.
1. Seagate Suites
Cambodia embraced condos later than its neighbours. The cost of living is much lower than in Thailand and Vietnam, and Cambodia’s foreigners have usually been more comfortable staying in a quaint colonial villa than a snazzy high rise. But the condo market is growing at an astonishing rate and now they’re springing up along Sihanoukville’s beachfronts in anticipation of a further swelling of the expat community. One of those is Seagate Suites, a 43-storey block featuring a KTV studio and infinity pool and a panoramic view of Victory Beach. The USD200 million project has 1,118 homes on offer, in addition to 280 hotel rooms. Seagate Suites has opened for sale from the 16th floor and upward, with prices starting at USD70,000 per unit.
2. Blue Bay
Covered in green netting, the Blue Bay project doesn’t look like much currently. But once this project launches it will elevate the standard of accommodation a little bit higher. Blue Bay will feature a stunning swimming pool facing the sea, a Sky Garden, a shopping centre, a variety of bars and restaurants, and an array of entertainment facilities, including a casino. The units range from 55 square meters to 113 square meters and as expected are spacious, elegant and offer breath-taking views of the beach and mountains. The project could easily compare to some of the highest quality projects being built in Thailand or Malaysia. Unit prices start from USD150,000.
3. M’Lop Roussey
This quiet, unassuming restaurant looks like any other standard Khmer joint that serves decent but unremarkable local fare. But this is quite possibly the most surprising restaurants to be found not just in Sihanoukville but anywhere in Cambodia. Not only do they serve fresh fried spring rolls and expertly made local food, they also do amazing pizzas and western salads (they make Greek salads using real Feta) and stock other continental cheeses that would cost you a fortune in one of the western-style supermarkets. The small restaurant with its wooden furniture and red checked table cloth has the feel of eating in someone’s house. Best of all, everything, including the drinks—they do great cocktails, too—is astonishingly cheap.
Cambodian coffee is everywhere in Sihanoukville—in the guest houses and on the street. It’s cheap and does the job, but soon enough that slightly sweetened chocolatey taste gets a bit sickly. Good coffee is much harder to find. But at EnoCafe the friendly staff know how to brew a robust Italian cup of Joe that has a thin layer of crema every time. The café serves fresh pasta—the tuna and zucchini spaghetti is particularly delicious—and pizzas brimming with toppings and baked to perfection, giving the crust that satisfying crunch. The café also has a range of authentic Italian cheeses and sausages and homemade cakes.
5. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem
Sihanoukville is somewhat bereft of the usual tourist attractions one might find in other cities. But then, who needs museums when you’re amid some of Cambodia’s best beaches? Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem offer the Southeast Asian idyll: think picture postcard beaches with white sand and turquoise water. Koh Rong is popular with backpackers but walk a mile or so away from the generic reggae bars and shisha cafes and the island transforms into a paradise. Koh Rong Samloeng is perhaps more impressive and untouched but unless you’re on a romantic break there’s not much in the way of entertainment or nightlife.
6. WM Casino
Love them or loathe them, casinos are everywhere in Sihanoukville as Chinese money floods the city. Most are tawdry, boring and populated by handfuls of customers. But the WM, which opened a couple of years ago, offers something classier. Much of the floor is cordoned off for online gaming, but there are tables for physical play. Customers are required to dress smartly—shirts and shoes—and to refrain from raucous behaviour. For players who like small gaming floors and classic understatement, without the garish lights and sounds of a big hall, the WM is for them. A free selection of mostly Asian food is available for players, along with free drinks.
This article originally appeared in Issue No. 148 of PropertyGuru Property Report Magazine
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