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The Curious case of Sihanoukville | Blogs

The Curious case of Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a place that can polarize opinions in extreme directions. The many facets of this small beach town embodies this place with different shades. Touted as one of Asia’s popular party destinations, known mostly for the wild late-night parties, this place can also provide a tiny peek into the lives of the local people. I came down with fever after a day in Sihanoukville hence, I really could not explore as much as I had hoped to. Here’s  what I feel was the biggest highlight of my time in Sihanoukville – The Beaches and Locals


There is a decent array of beaches at Sihanoukville. I did not get the scope to visit Independence beach, Victory beach or Sokha beach. Otres beach is probably where the tourists are to be found because of its quieter surroundings and it is actually a very good place to just relax all day. However Otres is not the livelier of all the beaches. Ochheauteal beach is the place to go if you want to feel the vibrant atmosphere, some excellent seafood and late-night parties. What makes this place so lively? Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not the usual seduction of parties or hot bods. It’s the locals on the beach.



For me it was very refreshing to see that a beach in one of Asia’s popular party destinations, is being enjoyed by the locals more than tourists. As I sat at one of the restaurants and watched the people having so much fun, I realized that it was a way of life for them. Cambodian people love their beaches and the sea. From small kids, or an entire family, to a bunch of teenagers or “so much in innocent love” couples, this beach has it all.

IMG_3063 IMG_3106On weekends, locals from all over and outside of the town converge to Ochheuteal beach and just let their hair down – eat drink play. Add to that several vendors selling barbecued squid-on-sticks, deep-fried crabs, crispy crepes and what not, it is almost like a carnival of its own.

The Bars and Restaurants

Yes, bars and restaurants are everywhere, so whats special about the ones in Sihanoukville? The sheer variety of cuisines available here – authentic Khmer, Mediterranean, Thai, Western and many others –  and some really creative, quirky,cheeky names of the restaurants. I never expected to find an Indian restaurant in Sihanoukville considering this place isn’t that renowned among Indians. But then I found this.



Nice food, cheeky name!! The restaurants located along Ochheuteal beach serve some delicious barbecued meat and fresh seafood. Those were really some of the best barbecued seafood I’ve ever had.There are the usual party hotspots like JJ’s Playground, Utopia and Why Not(Dudes in bikinis??) that have people partying till early hours in the morning. But then you come across places like Coffee Time and my personal favourite – Maybe Later – a popular cozy place that serves fantastic cocktails and some really decent Mexican food.



The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Here is where my statement about polarizing opinions gets prominence. For every good in Sihanoukville there is an equal bad out there. The beaches are beautiful alright but some stretches of Ochheuteal beach are deceiving dirty with trash thrown all around. The locals are friendly but at the same time the vendors can seem to be a bit pushy. Your heart goes out to the adorable kid vendors selling wristbands on the beach. The late night parties are fun but then sometimes they get a bit shady and sleazy. So on everything has a grey shade to them – well, except Maybe Later!!

But eventually  it is up to us what we absorb and take back with us. Personally, I want to take in the good parts and at the same time be aware of the bad. Pushy vendors? That’s their livelihood. Small stretch of dirty beach? Longer stretches of cleaner ones out there. Refusing to buy stuff from child vendors? That sends those children back to school. Shady late-night parties? Don’t get involved. I eventually ended up spending my last night in this place chatting, connecting and making friends with complete strangers at my favorite restaurant.


Beaches and wild parties – that was mostly what I had heard or read about Sihanoukville prior to my travel to Cambodia. But there is so much more to know and learn over here. Hence my opinion of Sihanoukville – great potential, needs work!!


Essential Info:

  • Sihanoukville is located in the South-West of Cambodia. Journey from Siem Reap takes 10-12 hours by bus and 1 hour by flight from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.
  • Giant Ibis is the one to go for bus services to Sihanoukville and costs around 25$-30$ for the entire journey. 
  • The road to Sihanoukville is smooth and extremely picturesque with the green countryside.
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The Curious case of Sihanoukville
The Curious case of Sihanoukville | Blogs

The mystic ruins of Ta Prohm – final insights of Angkor

The city of Angkor is so huge that there is no way I could explore each and every corner of it in a single day. I was now in the final leg of this tour and the most awaited one. After cycling our way out of the Angkor Thom complex and again back into the jungle that seemed to have got more dense, extremely humid with a few harmless animals around (not gonna name them here), we reached our final destination for the day – Ta Prohm.

IMG_2990This temple is what I would call as the actual ruins. Yes, this place is incredibly beautiful and provides plenty of amazing photo opportunities. But I felt an entire side to this place as I meandered across the temple ruins. Huge trees that have their roots making their own way on the stones, walls and terraces of the temple provides an ethereal and mystic aura to this place.

IMG_3018IMG_2993As I looked around the ruined walls, dark corridors and smaller temples that were restricted to the public, I couldn’t help but feel that all those heaps of fallen stones and even the smaller temples that were sealed shut by larger stones, hold some secrets of their own. Secrets that have been sheltered for ages from the outside world and have never been uncovered. Or maybe I’ve been watching too much of X-Files lately.

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IMG_3011Everything about this place – the surrounding of the dense forest, the moss-covered boulders of stones, the fallen walls, the closed doors and the century-old gigantic trees – gave me a realization that there are places in this world that could tell us a million untold stories and at the same time they will always be shrouded with unfathomable mystery.



Essential Info:

  • Do not at any time attempt to climb on to the heaps of fallen stones. I have witnessed somebody trying to do that and ending up with a broken leg.
  • As many other ardent fans of this place would say “Take your time to explore. Do not be in a hurry”.
  • Beware of muddy/slippery grounds – they can be deceivingly dangerous. Paul from my group almost went head on to the rocky pathway after slipping on those grounds.
  • Keep the Angkor pass handy as it will be checked here before entry.
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The mystic ruins of Ta Prohm – final insights of Angkor
The Curious case of Sihanoukville | Blogs

The Ruins of Angkor – Exploring in the wild

When I booked the Angkor Sunrise Discovery Bike Tour through Viator, I had imagined that we would be cycling around the temples on the usual known paved paths taken by the other tourist vans, so I was expecting the same. Once we were done with our breakfast after our early morning visit to Angkor Wat, we were handed over what looked like proper mountain bikes.

As we started on our ride, the paths that we took were entirely unexpected. We headed straight into the jungle, not on the road or designated tracks, we were riding right through the jungle. For me this was exactly what I wanted, meandering across the trees, dodging branches that were hanging low and the occasional uphill climb.




I even got lost and reached a dead-end once (pic above) yet I realized this is as wild it would get around here and I was enjoying every moment of it. We passed through a village and rice fields and back into the jungle, heading towards the walled city of Angkor Thom. A thirty minutes ride later we emerged back into civilization – The South Gate of Angkor Thom. If Angkor Wat felt huge to me, then this place was enormous!! Just to know that this was a place of precise dimensions was fascinating enough for us just to gauge the magnanimity of it.



The central temple of Bayon, which is located at the exact geographical center of the walled city, can feel like a convoluted maze once you are in. There are numerous towers inside the temple that give it the picturesque look.

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We just went on and on exploring each and every corner of this magnificent temple and the wall carvings were quite similar to the ones at Angkor Wat, yet we could see a unique feature in them. Out guide funnily enough pointed out that the wall carvings here depict a huge part of Cambodian daily life – eat, drink and fight!IMG_2954


After an hour of moving around inside the temple, through narrow hallways and climbing up/down a few steep stairways, we took a much-needed break outside the complex. We met up with a Japanese couple as we were seated in the resting area. We had an interesting conversation about the distinctly differing architecture styles of the temples at Angkor and the Tanah Lot (and Uluwatu) in Bali. Each entirely different but equally fascinating. But I was still in anticipation of seeing some actual ruins of the ones at Ta Phrom – The Mystic Frontier!!

Essential Info:

  • There are numerous smaller temples within the walls of Angkor Thom, hence the availability of 3-7 days passes.
  • A walk or cycle ride on the walls is worth it as it gives some of the most extraordinary views of the jungles beyond the walls.
  • Water and lots of water needed to spend the whole day exploring the place. Cambodia is humid.



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The Ruins of Angkor – Exploring in the wild
The Curious case of Sihanoukville | Blogs

The Magnificent Angkor Wat

I am not a very religious person neither do I regularly visit any religious monuments.
But just like my visit to the Tanah Lot in Bali, I wanted to visit Angkor to experience the unmistakable aura around this place. Having seen it in pictures, read about it in books/articles and catching glimpses of it on TV, my curiosity levels were at a high and I was inclined to see it for myself.


I booked a sunrise and cycling tour with Grasshopper tours through Viator. That would mean I had to start as early as 4:30 AM. To my surprise there were just three of us in the group which was good in a way. After reaching the ticket booth and getting our passes done by 5, we headed towards Angkor Wat.
That was where we would catch the sunrise. We took a spot by the reservoir located outside of the temple complex. I was told by our guide that this is THE spot to get the best view as opposed to a location by the lake inside the temple complex. It gets very very crowded inside and we would have to jostle for space. So according to him, we got the best spot and it really was good enough for me with not too many people around. Maybe about 10-15 people were seated on the pavilion along with us.


As the dawn started to set,we got busy with our cameras while listening to the tales of history about Angkor city from our guide.Have a look at few of the clicks below. I haven’t seen a sunrise in a very long time and being there watching the sky changing colors just made me forget everything. Around me everybody was quiet and just stared at the view for several minutes without uttering a word.

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Once the sunrise time was over, we headed inside the temple complex and the first thought that comes into the mind is – This place is huge, amused it took just 30 years to build. As we explored through the temple and its corridors, a few interesting facts caught my eye.

  • There were Buddha statues without heads. All of them.
  • Bullet holes all over the temple walls.
  •  Intricate and detailed wall carvings on the corridor depicting tales from Hindu mythologies and King Suryavarman.

The rest of the next 2 hours we explored the entire temple and all the time our very knowledgeable guide kept providing us with each and every detail of the place.
We took the first climb to the main tower that was 63 meters high and the makeshift stairs were quite steep too.

The temple structure, the wall carvings we could notice there was an amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism all over the place. There were headless Buddha statues, statues of Lord Vishnu – the Hindu deity, Sanskrit writing carved on the walls and of course the tales honoring King Suryavarman.


For the first time I have seen the elements of more than one religion at a single religious monument. That made listening to the history of the Cambodian kingdom even more interesting. We could see the pieces of the entire Cambodian history through Angkor Wat – from the rule of King Suryavarman , to the scars of the Khmer Rouge.


It was time to take a parting shot of this majestic place as we took exit from the West gate and headed towards the next leg of the journey – the bike tour.


Essential Info:

  • Passes to Angkor are not included in the tour package. They have to be bought at the ticket sales booth en route to Angkor Wat. Passes come in 20$ (1 day), 40$(3 days) and 60$(7 days).
  • Appropriate clothing required to visit certain sections of the temple complex.
  • Water and lots of water needed to spend the whole day exploring the place. Cambodia is humid.
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The Magnificent Angkor Wat