Sihanoukville city is the capital of the province Sihanoukville which got its name as honor to the still beloved king Norodom Sihanouk. As per 2008 the population of Sihanoukville stood at some 90.000 but the numbers have risen ever since. Maybe not with Khmers but certainly with expats and the likes. Since 1955 there is a seaport that gave Cambodia acces to easier trade that could lead to economic growth. With an oil terminal and drilling capabilities, in cooperation with other countries, Cambodia has potential and resources.
Even more Sihanoukville city. Much later than the port a SSEZ was established, Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone. Was this all been done with the eye on developing the city and Cambodia as a whole, it could be a fierce competitor of its neighboring countries by now. Unfortunately it seems far from that and therefore you could conclude that the people since ages in power earned from it without having the capabilty to share it for the better of all.
With a big line of beaches there was even more potential, tourism. With Mlop Srey beach, Prek Treng beach, New Beach, Sokha beach, Independence beach, Ochheutual beach, Otres beach and several more beaches plus a national park with waterfall and spring, it could be a heavenly place as it probably once was. Before the invasions and selling out.
Prices went over the period between 2014-2019 from $3 to $7 a meal. Just french fries. A pizza cost easily $10. A beer cost $1.5 or $2 a draft. Not the 0.50 cents as in Siem Reap or as mentioned online or in books.
The easy visa rules that were in place till at least 2014 but still relatively easy compared to Thailand created an influx of expats. Loads of backpackers ‘doing’ SE Asia or travel even more kept hanging around for some time. Then came the Russians after the breaking down of the Sovjet Union. Pattaya in Thailand and Sihanoukville got flooded by them. Everywhere was Russian language to be seen and heard. Of course, there were some westerners as minority too.
Then the Cambodian regime opened its doors to China. They litterally sold the city of Sihanoukville and you could say their whole country to China. Direct or indirect. For the development as Special Economic Zone it gave acces to what looks only Chinese companies and investors. As per Oct 2019 there are an estimated 80.000 Chinese living in the city, 90% of the total number of expats. This number doesn’t include the tourists from China alone. Roughly a 1000 Chinese fly in and out daily. With 3 flights alone between 8 and 8.20 pm to Being, Wuhan and another Chinese area. The Russian language is replaced by Chinese. In Restaurants, menu cards, signs on shops, factories, construction companies, investment companies and foremost, hotels and casinos. Chinese don’t like islands, beaches, activities as much as gambling. The city is now full of casinos. The invasion and take over is complete you could say.
With a tradition of corruption and a lack or unwillingness of vision and organizing, the city of Sihanoukville became the worst of all Asian cities regarding infrastructure. The Chinese are building casino after casino and hotels, tower after tower. More than 50 high rise cranes to be seen from the sea. It is one big traffic jam to and from the city, 4 lanes, two in either direction full with cement trucks, cargo trucks, construction material trucks, etc. These trucks have ruined the complete infrastructure. Not a single piece of asphalt or concrete can be found. It’s mud, dust, potholes or just nothing that even looks like a road. A few km drive takes a long time of traveling.
As the construction goes on for at least another 10 years and the city looks like a copy of Benidorm or one of the Spanish costa places, there is no way or logic in fixing roads now. The urban planning has totally overlooked this point or just couldn’t care less and neither do the Chinese. Put on top the huge piles of garbage on what was once a road and the chaos and uglyness is complete. Only Chinese can’t be bothered by that, as long as they can work, live and gamble.
For all the Chinese airlines to come in and departure, Sihanoukville has got its airport the tag international. Whatever that means, they probably thought. Surely not a certain standard or level that belongs to such a tag. When you arrive by taxi from the sea ferry place to the airport for $20. These 20 kms take an hour. Your first surprise will be a molehill stretch of what looks like a parking lot to the building. You’d rather call it a warzone. Who cares? There isn’t will, no vision nor money. The economic zone is very economic for the very few in power and the ones dealing with them. With huge numbers of people using the airport daily it’s unimaginable how bad the situation is.
Within the airport building the arrival and departure sections are within 20 meters of each other. With 6 check-in counters, there are exactly 5 seats for waiting people to check-in. Yes, after check-in there are more seats available and a restaurant on the first floor at gate 3 & 4. Unfortunately the 100’s of people waiting for the check-in counters to open try to find their places on the floor. No authority can’t be bothered by it but don’t you bring your dangerous sunscreen, deo or shampoo on board.
Chinese airliner for local flights
May we notice that the flight between Sihanoukville and Siem Reap is done by a Chinese airline called JC ‘international’ airlines. We wonder about that tag again. On either side of the isle all three seats at the emergency exit are unoccupied. This while this reporter got frequently asked by other airlines if you like to sit at one of those exits as they need people there. Safety rules are different by airport officials and airline employees here. The standard instructions of safety measures before take off happens more as a joke. Your life vest is under your seat. They show how to tight it but they don’t show how to inflate it. This among other missing instructions and in ununderstandable English.
We can suggest you one thing. Skip Sihanoukville as fast as you can. It has become a nightmare city in every way except when you are a casino and Chinese lover.