In Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the most popular tourist spot but now there is another one, Sihanoukville, the newest resort town in Cambodia. The town is located in the Krat of Cambodia, in the south of the country, far away from the coastal resorts.
I have been to Sihanoukville a few times for the last 10 years but my recent trip was the first time I have stayed there.
The town is a mix of new and old. There are a few old Cambodian structures left in the town but most of them are either being renovated or under renovation. Interestingly, the structure on top of the hill that sticks out of the surrounding area was actually the beginning of Sihanoukville.
The town is about a 1/2 hour drive from the airport in Phnom Penh and about a 3-hour drive from Phnom Kul, the main city in the province of Koeun.
Sihanoukville is a mix of Mekong and Cambodian history. Like Siem Reap, the town is built on a valley between two ridges of the Mekong. Like Siem Reap, the town is mostly under development. But it still has a lot of charm.
The main tourist center in Sihanoukville is called the “Sihanoukville National Museum”. This is a special development of the building, it is built on the site of a Mekong river temple. At the time of the temple being built, about 1000 years ago, there was already a thriving market in the valley and the inhabitants of the area decided that there should be a permanent market and the name was given to the town.
The market is now about 300 years old and has many interesting items to be seen. You can see a lot of carved wood, wood carvings, items made of coral and stucco reliefs. A lot of the carvings are of Buddha. These carved wooden items are very realistic and depict the Devi in a very colorful way.
Just a few kilometers far from the Sihanoukville National Museum is the “Sihanoukville Buddhist Pagoda” also known as the” Statue of Laarapitha”. This pagoda is dedicated to Laarapitha, a 17th century Buddhism founder. Every year a marble statue of Laarapitha is brought from Thailand and worshipped at this pagoda.
Phnom Penh is the center of historical Ho Chi Minh City. Many of the pagodas, temples and memorials that were built during the reign of Ho Chi Minh City’s first emperor, including the Temple of Literature and the Precious Burr, are made of masonry from the Wat Cho Phrao period.
Paulownia Park is very close to the Sihanoukville town. This is a great place to explore as it covers about 250 hectares of land. The park was established in 1961 as a botanical garden and in 1976, it was declared as a globally significant reserve. Among the things you will find here are orchids, hillside villages, beautiful streams and forests.
Phnom Penh houses the Royal Palace and the National Museum. The most interesting museums in Phnom Penh are the Fine Arts Museum, The Khmeranical Museum, the Museum of Weapons and Modern Art Museum. The most beautiful temple in Phnom Penh is the Wat Phnom, better known as the Temple of the Virgin. Wat Phnom is a great place to visit during the festival of theatching of the Nile. If you happen to be in Phnom Penh during the festival of the Nile, then you should not miss the yearly water show in the evening.
In the Hopkins Dam area, one can watch the 4-minute long river pageant annually. This is made by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is made byocating light bulbs and lots of colored lights along the river bed to create a realistic effect.