Story: Viet Thang

Just five hours by road from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh lies the coastal town of Sihanoukville, an old seaport that’s been turned into a bustling tourism destination. From first glance I knew I would enjoy this place with its salty breezes and dreamy views. I was in dire need of some“Vitamin Sea”.

My bus pulled up slowly, disgorging visitors from all over the world. A new day was just beginning in Sihanoukville. The sea has a magical ability to soothe, sadness and worry floating away in the warm water. The local people welcomed me with sincere smiles. Upbeat music played in the beachside bars or from the mini-speakers that sunbathers had placed on the sand.

While there’s no bad season to visit, the coolest time (20-28C) falls from November through March. The hot season (20-35C) is March through May. And the rainy season runs from May through October, when humidity can get up to 90 percent. For beach perfection, aim to visit from November through January.

While this isn’t a high-end destination like the Maldives, there are plenty of places to have fun. Serendipity Beach and Occheuteal Beach are packed with barbecue stalls, guest houses and hotels. Meanwhile, Otres Beach, Hawaii Beach and Victory Beach are more serene. Victory Beach is the best spot to enjoy the sunset, which turns everything to brilliant golden hues.

After dark, this coastal city comes alive with brightly colored lights. Walking slowly along the road, I found little corners under umbrellas offering tasty seafood at good prices. Visitors ordered cocktails and chatted. Everyone was friendly and eager to swap stories.

About a two-hour boat ride from Sihanoukville lies the island of Koh Rong, which truly deserves the title of ‘Beach Paradise’. While Sihanoukville is a fun place to spend a few days, if you’re looking for stunning and unspoiled beaches head to Koh Rong. The best-known way to get there is via a “party boat” which transforms the trip into a party.

Pulling close to Koh Rong I could see smooth white sand, coconut palms and sparkling clear sky-colored water. Visitors spend their days swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and diving around coral, and fishing. In the moonlight the sea was full of phosphorescence, making the scene even more magical. It looked like millions of blue diamonds were decorating the waves.

I’ve heard it said that the only thing you pay for that makes you richer is travel.  My trip to southern Cambodia didn’t just help me to relax. It helped me to realize that heaven was closer than I’d thought.