The Cambodian Coast

The Cambodian Coast

A few hours drive south of Phnom Penh one reaches the Gulf of Thailand, a coastline that was once called the Cambodian Riviera and was dotted with villas of the Cambodian and French elites. Those days are long gone, but as in much of the country, resurgence is underway. Still, nothing is more idyllic to the beach lover than a palm-fringed stretch of pristine white sand to himself. Fresh coconuts and inexpensive barbequed seafood, what else do you need?

Sihanoukville, also known as Kampong Som, is Cambodia's seaport and for the moment, its premier seaside resort as well. Several beaches, each with a different character, follow the coastline near the town. Accommodations vary from a sumptuous resort to simple bungalows. Trips to offshore islands are available for scuba divers. A hilltop casino attracts searchers of Lady Luck.

The nearby hill station of Bokor has yet to recover from the depredations of the Khmer Rouge, but the cool air and lush vegetation provide an interesting contrast with the coast. Two other seaside towns, Kampot and Kep, also offer pleasant beaches and a glimpse of life in rural fishing villages.