Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sihanoukville - Beach Resort

'Beach town', 'port community', 'fledgling resort destination' - all describe Sihanoukville, Cambodia's premier beach town. Sihanoukville's white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a             great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out.

Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambodian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most Cambodian provincial cities.

Nowadays, Sihanoukville is as much a beach town as it is a port town, catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. Still, the pace of life in Sihanoukville is very relaxed.

Cows occasionally wander the main road, outside town foreign faces draw smiles and curious stares, and most of the beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries, and a growing number of restaurants, bungalows and hotels.

Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommodations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach, several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few 'upscale' three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses, especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill).

Considering the moderate number of visitors to Sihanoukville, the town offers a surprising number and variety of restaurants and bars.

Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish, has always been one of the town's biggest draws, but there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines - Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian, pizza places, a couple of western bakeries and even a espresso coffee shop.

And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.

ORIENTATION
Sihanoukville is not a small place, and the best way to get around is to hire a motorbike.  Sihanoukville itself is east of the main backpackers' beach and close to the more mid-range Ochatial Beach. Due south of town is tiny Ko Pos Beach, which ha a solitary mid-range hotel, and the larger Independence Beach, which has the crumbling Independence Hotel - slated for redevelopment.

INFORMATION

Cambodian's only deep-sea port is located here and considerable international aid has been spent to improve the infrastructure in the province. Although tourism has increased over the past few years, the beaches of Sihanoukville are some of the most unspoiled in all of Southeast Asia. It is a prefect tropical getaway, filled with lovely beaches and facilities for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or just sunbathing. Boat trips are also available to many of the nearby islands. There are several hotels and local restaurants serving fresh, delicious seafood on the beach. On the weekend, there are many local visitors from Phnom Penh to relax, swimming and enjoy fresh seafood.

Phnom Penh City

The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of three rivers - the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap.  The city is divided into three sections - the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the centre or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops.

Over the past four years, the city has undergone tremendous changes - businesses are springing up constantly and tourism is once again booming.  Cambodia has one of the most liberal investment laws to further boost managed to retain its charm and character - cyclos that weave through traffic with ease, broad boulevards, old colonial buildings, parks and green spaces that reminds one of the country's French heritage, and above all its people who always have a smile for you.

A stone's throw away from the Tonle Sap is the royal Palace built on the site of the Banteay Kev, a citadel built in 1813. The Palace grounds contain several buildings: the Throne Room of Prasat Tevea Vinichhay which is used for the coronation of kings, official receptions and traditional ceremonies; the Chan Chhaya Pavilion which is a venue for dance performances; the king's official residence called the Khemarin; the Napoleon Pavilion and the spectacular Silver Pagoda. This pagoda is worth exploring.  It owes its name to the 5,000 silver tiles weighing 1kg each which cover the entire floor.

The emerald Buddha sits on a pedestal high atop the dias.  In front of the dias stands a life-size Buddha made of solid gold and weighs 75kg. It is decked with precious gems including diamonds, the largest of which is 25 carats.  Also on display at the sides are the coronation apparel and numerous miniature Buddha in gold and silver.

The walls surrounding the compound which is the oldest part of the palace, are covered with frescos depicting scenes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.

INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT

The monument was built in 1958 to symbolise the independence that Cambodia gained from France in 1953. The French fully abandonned their interests in Indochina following defeat by the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Independence is marked in Cambodia o­n the 9th November. The monument has a unique and peculiar style and doubles as a memorial to Cambodian patriots who died for their country.

NATIONAL MUSEUM
The NATIONAL MUSEUM of Cambodia is housed in a graceful terracotta structure of traditional design (built 1917-20) just north of the Royal Palace. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 to 11 am and from 2 to 5 pm; entry is $3. Photography is prohibited inside. The School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-arts) has its headquarters in a structure behind the main building.

WAT PHNOM
You may also want to check out WAT PHNOM which sits on a tree covered hill about 30m high in the northeast of the city.  It is said that the first pagoda was built in 1373 to house four statues of the Buddha deposited here by the Mekong river. It was discovered by a woman named Penh.  Thus, the name Phnom Penh, the hill of Penh. The people believe that this temple is powerful in that anyone who makes a wish will have it granted. It is not surprising to see many people coming here to pray for protection or healing.  Many bring lotus flowers as offerings for prayers answered.

TUOL SLENG MUSEUM
In 1975,Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot's security force and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21) It soon became the largest such centre of detention and torture in the country. Over 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who die during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds.

CHEUNG EK KILLING FIELD
Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.

NEW CENTRAL MARKET
A visit to the markets and market halls is a must as they give an opportunity to be acquainted with the country's local produce and also to buy textiles, antiques, gold and silver jewellery.

The four wings of the yellow coloured Central Market are teeming with numerous stalls selling gold and silver jewellery, antique coins, clothing, clocks, flowers, food, fabrics, shoes and luggage.

TUOL TOM PONG MARKET

For some good paintings or if you prefer antiques, head from the Tuol Tom Poong Market also known as the Russian Market.  A word of caution though: you need to sharpen your bargaining skills as the prices here can be outrageously high.

Angkor Archeological Park

This section as intended as a guide for visiting the monuments at Angkor. It can be either read in advance of a visit or afterwards to reinforce the experience, or used at the sites to enable the visitor to be an active spectator. Historical quotes from early visitors to Angkor are included where appropriate to try to capture the spirit of its past glory.

Legends and symbolism are also included whenever feasible to give the visitor additional background for a better appreciation of Angkor.

VISITING THE MONUMENTS

It is based on the amount of time the visitor has to spend at Angkor and take into consideration the roads, proximity of the temples, and favorable light conditions.

For some temples it is important to begin at the principal entrance to perceive the space and decoration as the builder intended, and entrances are indicated in the text. The monuments are oriented according to the four points of a compass which can be used as a point of reference. the temple of Angkor Wat is covered in detail in this book because of its importance, complexity and size.

Angkor provides wonderful photographic opportunities. the monuments and the surrounding jungle afford unlimited textural and lighting opportunities for composing a picture.

Clouds are common and tend to diffuse the light which is somewhat flat even though it is intense. As most of the temples face east the best lighting conditions are in the morning except for Angkor Wat where the best light is in the afternoon because it faces west. the temples surrounded by jungle such as Ta Prohm and Prah Khan can be photographed with good results when the sun is directly overhead and shining through the foliage. Just as one is never prepared for the enormous size and overwhelming beauty of Angkor, one is never ready to leave it. With photographs and visions etched in memory, one need never say good-by to Angkor, for its magic will go with you wherever fate and the gods may take you to colour your thoughts and dreams to life's very end. The name of the monuments at Angkor are often modern ones designated by Cambodians or early European travellers. In publications by the French the enclosures of a temple are numbered starting from the central sanctuary and progressing towards the enclosing walls. The system used in this book reverses the order for the convenience of the visitor. Thus the first enclosing wall the visitor encounters when entering a temple is number one. the numbers ascend from the exterior to the interior of the monument. In many distances, though, only traces of the enclosing walls, particularly the outer one, remain.

ADMISSION FEES

You must possess an admission pass (an 'Angkor Pass') to visit the temples and sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Passes may be purchased at the main entrance on the road to Angkor Wat. One-day tickets only can be purchased at the secondary tollgate on airport road entrance near Angkor Wat and at Banteay Srey.

Passes are sold in one-day ($20), three-day ($40) and seven-day ($60) blocks that must be used on consecutive days. Photo taken on the spot with free of charge is required at time of purchase.


Visiting hours are 5:00AM - 6:00PM. Angkor Wat closes at 6:00PM, Banteay Srey closes at 5:00PM and Kbal Spean at 3:00PM. Always carry your ticket. It will be checked upon each park entry and at major temples. There is a significant fine for not possessing a valid ticket inside the park. A regular admission ticket is not required to visit Phnom Kulen, Koh Ker or Beng Melea, but there is a separate entrance fee of $20, $10 and $5, respectively.

What to See in Cambodia

Cambodia is located in the heart mainland of Southeast Asia, which conjures images of a glorious and mysterious past and rich of the cultural heritages, particularly the world's renowned ancient temple city whose magical image draws ever-increasingly tourists from all over the world.

The divergent facets of the Kingdom provoke both the serious and casual traveler, generally charmed and sometimes bewildered by its mysteries. Not only Angkor Wat, Bayon, Taprohm, Sandstone of ancient holy places, the giant

roots of ancient trees, the graceful shapes of Apsaras and some temples buried in the jungle, hill tribes settled in the remote areas, colorful pagodas, strings of pristine islands and the century beach, as part of cultural tour that Cambodia is proud of her presentation, but also the splendor of the Khmer civilization and its people who have shown their friendliness everywhere you move in the country.

For most, Cambodia first conjures up the legendary Angkor (the magnificent Empire erected by Kings between the 9th and 13th centuries) that continues to admiration from Khmers and foreigners alike. The humanity and disaster of the nature have failed to compromise the awe of Angkor. The temples remain with an enigmatic grandeur, as a testimony to the Empire that symbolized the country at the present day.

They are the silent witnesses to the perennial cycles of life, which occur with each rainy season. The Kingdom emerges from its lethargy and springs back to life. Clouds, swollen with moisture, burst their monsoon rains to fill in the Tonle Sap (Great Lake ) that bring over thousands tones of fresh water fishes.


Every year, the country is transformed in a nature cycle, which is unique to Cambodia. The flow of the mighty Mekong River swells until it forces the Tonle Sap to reverse its course, pushing up stream from the ancient capital. Every year, the reversal of the river is celebrated with the country's most spectacular Water Festival in November.