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Introducing Sihanoukville

Surrounded by white-sand beaches and undeveloped tropical islands, Sihanoukville (Krong Preah Sihanouk), also known as Kompong Som, is Cambodia’s most happening beach destination. Visitor numbers have risen steadily in recent years – and stand to skyrocket now that flights from Siem Reap have been initiated.

For the time being, despite the boomtown rents, the city and its sandy bits remain pretty laid-back. While backpackers continue to flock to the party zone of Serendipity Beach, more subdued Otres Beach, south of town, has made a comeback. That and the emergence of the southern islands as cradles of castaway cool give non-backpackers a reason to visit.

None of Sihanoukville’s beaches would qualify as southeast Asia’s finest, but it’s easy to have stretches of casuarina- and coconut palm–shaded sand to yourself, especially if you venture outside the centre.

Named in honour of the then-king, Sihanoukville was hacked out of the jungle in the late 1950s to create Cambodia’s first and only deep-water port, strategically vital because it meant that the country’s international trade no longer had to pass through Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.