In 1954 Vietnam gained independence from France and the Mekong river was under the control of the Vietnamese. This situation cut Cambodia off from its main access to the sea. A new access point to the sea was needed and a new port had to be constructed fro Cambodia. The location chosen for this port was Kompong Som, situated on the south coast. The main reasons for this decision were the water depth at this location and its accessibility. The new town was named Sihanookville after King Sihanouk.
A construction team worked on creating the port from 1955 to 1960 and a road to and from Phnom Penh was funded by the USA. At first the town was a settlement for those working on the new port.
Sihanookville is built on a small natural peninsula and can be reached by bus, plane and car. Most tourists visiting Sihanookville travel to the port via Phnom Penh. A bus trip from Phnom Penh to Sihanookville takes about 4 to six hours depending on the traffic on the fairly busy road from Phnom Penh. This makes Sihanookville a great place to take a break from a busy travel schedule. Most visitors stay for an average of 3 to 4 days in Sihanookville, which is a good number of days to relax, eat, drink and soak up the sun. Those who enjoy water sports will probably want to stay a while longer to make full use of all the possibilities available to visitors in Sihanookville.
Sihanookville is now known as Cambodia's best beach town to visit. There are white sand beaches and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. Sihanookville is a great place for those who love fresh sea food, the beach, snorkeling and diving or chilling out on the beach. The beach town feels and looks new and different from other Cambodian cities, as most of it was constructed around or after the 1950s.
Finding a place to stay in Sihanookville is never difficult. There is a 5 star resort on Sokha Beach and there are plenty of 3 star hotels as well as guesthouses and smaller hotels for budget travelers, mainly located around the Station Hill area. Sihanookville is not small and renting a motorbike is one of the best ways to travel around and take in the sights. Sihanookville is close to the Ochatial Beach and south of the center is the small Ko Pos Beach. The beaches remain relatively unspoiled and not too crowded (the weekends are busier due to the influx of visitors from Phnom Penh). The nightlife offers plenty of places to visit for a drink and entertainment. There is a wide range of bars that are open until late every night. There are plenty of beach bars, especially around the Ochheuteal, Serendipity and Victory beaches.
Sihanookville is a great destination for those who want to be well connected to transportation to explore other places in Cambodia (or around Phnom Penh), but need a relaxing beach break. This makes it a good place to soak up the sun and the atmosphere before you leave Cambodia at the end of your holiday.