Stylish Sihanoukville – 6 Ways To Stay Chic In Cambodia’s Beach Town
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Sihanoukville and style aren’t two concepts that always go together.
But while some tourists feel that Cambodia’s coastal town isn’t worth visiting – its reputation precedes it and not always in a good way – I’ve always loved spending time in so-called ‘Snooky’. In fact I think Sihanoukville is one of South-East Asia’s most under-rated beach resorts.
Trust me, there’s more to this gap year enclave known as ‘SinVille’ than bars and backpackers – you just have to know where to look to find Sihanoukville’s stylish side.
Start by looking here…
Here are my top six ways to enjoy a chic sojourn in Cambodia’s beach capital – and do Sihanoukville stylishly – without necessarily checking into one of the area’s luxurious upscale hotels…
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1. Breakfast at Starfish Cafe
Tucked away down an unassuming alley off Ekareach Street (turn right at Samudera supermarket) is Sihanoukville’s most European foodie retreat, the Starfish Cafe and Bakery.
It’s a delight to wile away the morning with coffee and croissants or even spend the afternoon eating salads and quiches all within the subdued atmosphere of the leafy garden.
Don’t forget to browse the little on-site gift shop on your way out for cute, locally-sourced hand-made treasures.
2. Check Into A Nice Beach Hotel
There are a number of very stylish and upscale beach retreats in and around Sihanoukville, and that number is growing which is great news for those who are hoping to see the stylish side of Sihanoukville, but many of these resorts are exceptionally expensive and not necessarily locally owned.
So if you are on a budget and want to straddle the middle ground between boutique hotel and budget conscious guesthouse without giving up on contemporary design and still want to see your cash go to the Khmer community then Nice Beach Hotel is well worth a try.
Rooms have a nod to style, include amenities normally found in a much more upmarket hotel, such as in tea making facilities, fridge and flat screen TV, plus there are baths as well as showers in the modern European-style bathrooms – add in the large balconies and this is an absolute steal.
3. Lunch At Cafe Sushi
It’s unlikely you’ll stumble across Cafe Sushi by chance, as it sits mid-way along the busy main road between the Golden Lions roundabout and downtown, but if you’re a fan of Japanese food and you’ve grown tired of Khmer cuisine it’s worth making a trip to this Japanese enclave.
In this dinky and laid-back restaurant where red is the undoubted theme, plenty of different types of sushi and other Japanese staples are served up to what appears to be a largely Japanese clientele.
The sushi is a tad ‘expensive’ by Cambodian standards and the service well-meaning if a little clumsy (plus the edamame appeared to have made the acquaintance of a microwave) but overall the enjoyment of having superior sushi complete with avocado in my maki – quite the delicacy in South East Asia – outweighed any small quibbles.
4. Afternoon Coffee at Cafe Noir
Cafe Noir as the name suggests is Sihanoukville’s answer to Cafe Nero – in other words this is real actual coffee – not always easy to find in this part of the world and indeed this part of the country.
It’s in a handy spot right on Ocheteaul Beach, and they also serve home-made chocolate cookies fashioned out of real Swiss chocolate – you know they’re good because they aren’t overly sweet, so they’re not using the technique of masking the lack of real flavour with sugar.
My only complaint is that they don’t serve soya milk, but very few places in Cambodia offer soya milk, so it’s a small price to pay for being presented with freshly roasted arabica beans.
5. Sun downers on The Deck at Lemongrass, Sokha Beach
Probably the best spot on the whole of Sokha Beach, if not the most stunning setting in the entire area, watching the sunset here accompanied by tipples and ‘tapas’ is almost certainly the most stylish thing you can treat yourself to while in Sihanoukville.
The Deck overlooks the Gulf of Thailand and unsurprisingly turns out some pretty amazing seafood – the crab lasagna is notable – while the tapas menu includes traditional Spanish dishes such as albondigas and patatas bravas and some more non-traditional items, including arancini which are excellent. You can mix and match sushi and other items from the menu to create the perfect pairing with your sunset cocktail.
6. Dinner At Sandan
Sandan is the Sihanoukville outpost of Cambodia’s well-respected set of training restaurants for disadvantaged youth – it’s also my favourite branch in the country, knocking spots off those in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
The staff here are clued up yet sweet and shy and the menu is exciting and inventive – I loved the half-portion options which are great if you want to sample different flavours, and there are plenty of veggie ideas too.
On my last visit I opted for king prawns which were beautifully prepared, and washed them down with a jackfruit and lime daiquiri; it was perfectly blended, tasting tangy and sweet at the same time. Dessert was a delicious bargain at $3.
In fact after a main, a dessert and a daiquiri, my bill came in under $13, though any money you save will be swiftly dispatched in the on-site shop – profits from which also go to the charity.
Another lovely touch is the provision of mint tipped toothpicks, and they take credit cards which is fairly rare here.
Just don’t make the same mistake of saving Sandan for your last night in Sihanoukville – once you know how good the food is and just how reasonably priced it is compared with other local restaurants, you’ll want to return.
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