In The Search For White Sand Beaches in Cambodia
We have arrived in Sihanoukville city by night bus from Siem Reap.
The travel hack number one is not buying bus tickets at hotels in Siem Reap. We figured out that mostly they sell tickets of the bus company with a bad reputation. Avoid Virak Buntham buses as much as possible. We found a lot of bad reviews and their buses look very old. So we decided to buy bus tickets on our own, and it was the right choice. We went to the city center and quickly found Giant Ibis company and bought tickets on the same day without hesitation, but at the hotel reception, we’ve been informed that it’s too late to buy tickets any other company except the one they were partners with.
Our bus was in the evening, and we had a big gap between our check out from the hotel and bus departure.
We found a great cafe the evening before when we came back from Angkor Ancient City. So we spent all the time there doing some work.
The night bus was a new experience for us, but in general, it was ok. They have 2 drivers on board and drive not very fast. You almost don’t feel turns and stops which is very convenient if you go at night and want to have a nap or even sleep all night if you used to this kind of trips.
Basically, it was the only reasonable way to commute in Cambodia. Since domestic flights are expensive.
Sihanoukville and Otres
Early morning we arrived in Sihanoukville and took a tuk-tuk to the guest house we booked in advance. Sihanoukville city felt very dirty and rubbish. The guest house was actually a nice place to stay in the quiet village Otres not far away from the city.
There are 2 Otres villages. Otres 1 is the first and busiest, and Otres 2 is quieter and 2 km further. We stayed in Otres 2.
The village itself is very small and basically under construction in many places. We used bicycles the first day to explore the area around and to go to the Long Beach that’s located in Otres.
It’s not that we were really excited about the beach. The thing about Cambodia is that there are no palm trees in many places, even on islands. So it hasn’t felt like a tropical beach. There were also a water festival and lots of locals on the beach. This place seemed overcrowded even if comparing it with beaches in Bali, but I might be wrong, and it’s different most of the time except national holidays.
We found a cafe on Foursquare that we wanted to try out for lunch, but prices there seemed weird to us. Most of the dishes cost $5, and it’s for local and western options. It’s still cheaper than in Europe, but $5 for local rice with chicken is nonsense let’s say in Thailand or Bali. By the way, it didn’t taste fresh at all.
At first, the atmosphere, in general, seemed depressing. We saw lots of locals who live in very poor conditions and places that are hard to call homes. There are no convenient stores, except minimarts that actually sell stuff on the street. Nothing similar to 7-eleven as in Thailand.
The Sihanoukville is actually a small city, and there are only around 90,000 locals are living there.
Streets are covered with dust everywhere, and if you go near the road eventually, you’ll be covered with it. So it’s hard to stay clean.
We spotted several casinos in Sihanoukville that looked out of the order. Basically, if you see a casino, it’s like clean, modern and a developed building surrounded with trash everywhere.
Despite casinos, mostly, travelers going to this part of Cambodia for white sand beaches, but probably it depends on the time of the year, and if the weather is nice, the sea is clean, and the beach is really beautiful. We haven’t sen beautiful white sand beaches not in Sihanoukville, not in Otres village.
The owner of the guesthouse we stayed in told us that there are some problems with managing trash in this part of Cambodia and basically, they have just one company with one or two cars. That’s definitely not enough to keep clean that big area and mostly it depends on people and their behavior.
Eventually, we have figured out that many backpackers don’t stay in Sihanoukville or Otres and directly go to the pier and take a boat to Koh Rong islands.
There are actually two islands. One of them Koh Rong is already in a good development pace, and another one Koh Rong Sanloem is still wild, and people say you can even find king cobra there which is one of the most dangerous snakes.
The island vibe makes things better. We went to Koh Rong on the next day. This island is a pretty new tropical destination, and even the road near the Long Beach was built this year (early 2017). But this is not even a road because it consists of soil, small rock, and sand.
We arrived at the main pier of Koh Rong island and went straight ahead to the Long Beach. It was tricky to reach this beach. Since it’s positioned on the opposite side of the island and they have a hiking trail through the jungles with elevation and rocks on the way.
This was the most adventurous part of our trip. The island is really wild, and there were not many signs in the middle of the islands. The only funny thing that we knew is that we should follow a black cable and time from the time we saw flip flops pinned on visible places close to the trail. Partially these two things were the only sign we were going in the right direction.
We were climbing and sweating all way and spent almost an hour to reach the opposite side of the island. On the way out we were surprised...
As usual, we were expecting to see something beautiful like tropical heaven, white sand beach with turquoise water and nobody around, but the first impression was quite the opposite to it.
When we got out of wild jungles of the island, the only thing we could see is dirty construction on the coast.
The first thing that came to mind is that we missed our turn and this is not that part of the island that we supposed to reach. But we met a local guy who has shown us the way to the beginning of the beach.
He also told us that the last boat from the island would be at 3 or 4 pm, which seemed quite early, but anyway we didn’t plan to come back to this place and go through the jungles again.
The beach is really beautiful and almost untouched. The sand is really white and crunchy and it’s loooong. So be prepared for about 15 kilometers of a walk if you want to see it all.
There is nothing on the beach yet and it makes you feel isolated but in a good way.
A huge resort just started developing, and probably it will be the first one on this side of the island.
We spent time nicely walking by this beach, took a break and swam for a while then continued walking until we reached the end of the beach and there we found a local village with several cafes and a couple of tourist services like renting a taxi boat or scooter. We were considering to use one of them since we needed to go back to the pier which is on opposite side of the island.
Basically, there are not many options. We asked the price of official boat service and then asked local guys that were on boats. They all had approximately the same price around $20-$30 which seemed too much for such a short trip. So we bargained the scooter taxi for $12.
This was the ride that we’ll never forget. First of all, 3 of us were sitting on the bike, and there were no roads on the island. By roads, I mean asphalt roads. Instead of it, there was a ground way with sand and rocks everywhere, but the guy who was driving the scooter had a good experience, and we passed pretty much rough sections of the road smoothly.
The interesting part started where we reached the construction of the resort I mentioned before, and there was no way to went straight through it. Anyway, we managed to get to the police beach, helped our driver on rough sections to push the bike through the sand. It was adventures and memorable experience.
The Police beach is where tourists stay if they visit the island. There are some mini-hotels and hostels, several cafes. We were hungry and right after checking the time of our boat back to Sihanoukville went to the cafe and ordered pizza. It was really good and probably the only place with wood-fired pizza on the island.
We came back to mainland full of impressions. The island is worth of visiting at least as one day trip, and we’re glad we did it so early before it became developed similarly to other islands that we saw, for example, in Thailand with a bunch of tourists, vendors, hotels, noisy and hectic.
We couldn’t stay much longer in Cambodia. Since we didn’t realize what else to do and we needed to catch up on some work. It was a good experience and visit Cambodia and compare it to other Asian countries that we’ve been so far, but it was time for us to leave.
The next destination was Koh Lanta in Thailand, but before that, we decided to stay for a week in Krabi and explore it a little bit. We were really surprised by this part of Thailand, but more on this in the next post.
There were no direct flights to Thailand from Sihanoukville so we took the bus to Phnom Penh and used their international airport.
Our Cost of Travel to Cambodian Beaches
All prices are in USD because almost every place in Cambodia accepts dollars instead of their local currency.
- Bus from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville - $50 (for 2 tickets)
- Hotel Oasis in Otres - $90 (for 3 nights)
- Breakfast for 2 in our guesthouse - $7
- Lunch for 2, rice with chicken in a beach cafe - $10
- Tuk-tuk between Sihanoukville and Otres - $4-8 for a ride (depends on how you bargain)
- Boat to Koh Rong (roundtrip) - $44 (for 2 tickets)
- Bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh - $44 (for 2 tickets)
- Motorbike rental - $5/day
In total, we spent around $300-$400 for 3 days in the coastal area of Cambodia.
Data provided by Finnapp.io