Sihanoukville, Cambodia | Beach Paradise Ruined

As I set foot on Serendipity Beach my mind cast back to my first backpacking trip in 2008 when I first marvelled at the beaches located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This popular beach town was once described by the Lonely Planet as follows: “Surrounded by white-sand beaches and as-yet undeveloped tropical islands, Sihanoukville (Kompong Som) is Cambodia‘s premier seaside resort.” However, as the warmth of the white sand penetrated my toes I was on guard trying not to step on what seemed like an infinite trail of garbage. In just over several years time this once ‘nice alternative’ to the crowded Thai beach scene has turned from a small slice of paradise into a complete and utter dump.

Garbage found on the beach in Sihanoukville

I’ve come to realize over the years that it can be dangerous to romanticize a place in your mind to the point you expect things to be the same when you return again in the future. I’ve seen destinations take a turn for the worse. On the other hand, I’ve seen positive development as well. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite seen anything as bad as this. This wasn’t just a few pieces of garbage that littered the once pristine sands – this was a complete dump. Audrey and I spotted discarded flip flops, used condoms, pregnancy tests, broken beer and spirit bottles, fish netting and even construction materials. My heart sank a little after every footstep.

Rubbish piles on the beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

How did it get this bad?

Gorgeous skies with huge fluffy white clouds in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

I feel as though all parties are to blame in this type of situation. Shame on the young backpackers who come here and irresponsibly discard their waste on the beach like immature teenagers. Equally, shame on the locals and business owners who haven’t taken the measures to preserve this area for future generations.

Waves crashing in at the beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Audrey and I are celebrating our one year anniversary. Instead of enjoying activities on the beach we’re now considering alternative measures. We had planned staying for roughly a week to enjoy some down time and to get caught up on work. Now, our plan to ‘sort of’ salvage this situation is to check into a nice hotel with a fancy room and pool. Instead of enjoying the splendours of a natural beauty we’re now resigned to creating our own artificial temporary oasis.

Khmer lady walking in the filthy waters of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

I’m left feeling a sense of shame as a backpacker. For all those who travel for the right reasons (to experience new cultures, sample new foods and interact with locals in a positive manner) there are far too many who come to places in far off corners of the world without any sense of moral responsibility or respect to that given area. Sihanoukville is exhibit A: …

from paradise to paradise ruined!


115 Comments

  • Will says:

    Just want to point out that these beaches are not being destroyed by tourism per se, they are being destroyed by irresponsible tourists and some irresponsible locals. Tourism, and grass-roots development, is helping bring a lot of local people out of poverty, into jobs and education. While lack of local education is clearly a factor, why is it that so many predominantly western, educated tourists think it’s acceptable not to clean up after themselves?

    Some local Khmer’s throw rubbish in piles. Other’s (sadly often homeless children) go through the rubbish and sell it on for a pittance. The vast majority of Khmer people are clean and tidy and care about their local habitat. Needless to say, garbage collection is an expense, and burning is often the only viable means of disposal.

    And finally, Jayavarnman, Sihanoukville IS a paradise. One must look past the hustlers and whores – who indeed are often in the ’employment’ of both backpackers and the ‘Dad’s Army’. As with anywhere, don’t visit the beaches that are dead in the centre of town if you want pristine sand and water. There is a plethora of people living there long term that outnumber the sex tourists 5 to 1. Sihanoikville is not a glossy resort with ubiquitous sterile hotels dividing up parts of the beach. Thank Buddha. (The day it starts to resemble Benidorm is the day it will cease to be paradise). It’s what I like to call organised chaos – a small price to pay for the freedoms it offers those who visit.

    Careful what you wish for. If you want to live in a police state where corporations thrive and independent business suffers, where you need a licence to play your guitar on the street, or pay a hefty mandatory tax for your rubbish to be taken away to an out-of-sight-out-of-mind landfill site, for prostitution to be outlawed and pushed underground increasing exploitation, or have to fill out a planning permission application fee to install a window or a door….stay in the West.

  • Skins says:

    Thanks for the info… That’s tough to see. I skipped “Snooky” on my last trip to Cambodia but I was thinking about checking it out soon. Some people like it, some say it’s a dump. I may have to check it out for myself.

  • John Pirie says:

    I travelled with my family to Sihanoukville in December 2011….family of 4, stayed at the Coolabah hotel…great spot and one of the owners, Verona is now heavily involved with the Cleanup Sihanoukville project….it is at a grass roots level still but it appears some of the locals are buying into the idea…..the beaches were really clean when we were there, especially Otres….I was in Kuta in Bali a few months ago and there are warnings about swimming at the beach due to sewage issues…hopefully Snookyville doesn’t go down that pathway of greedy development with no thoughts on where to pump the Poo…

  • Allie says:

    Hey there!

    We were equally as grossed out with the amount of rubbish that were carelessly disposed off on the beaches! We actually wrote an article on our blog about how backpackers/ travellers can travel responsibly. Do read our blogpost: http://travelawakenings.blogspot.com/2014/01/responsible-backpacking-giving-back.html?m=0

  • Jett says:

    With half of my family living in Australia I make the trip from the UK every 2 years and this year thought I would stop off in Cambodia to see Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and and a week of relaxation in Sihanoukville , everything has been wonderful so far until I arrived here in Sihoukville , I wish I had seen this video and the above comments beforehand , it has so much potential however through poor planing/local government it’s a real dump and by advertising it as a backpackers paradise is not doing it any favors because they are not going to bring in the cash to improve the place ! And as for the “Dads Army ” here who camp out here for months spending their pensions on young locals girls – it’s a sight that I certainly don’t want to see !! Just 3 days left… Can’t wait to leave!
    Ps .. To all backpackers – when you come into a restaurant please wear some kind of footwear please !!

  • Chris says:

    This sucks! no matter were in the world you visit there is always going to be plastic found. Imagine 1 million years from now there going to be uncovering Tupperware like we unearth ancient pottery.

  • Mike K says:

    I moved to Sinville from Galveston Tx and I can assure you that if Galveston County did not clean the beaches on a daily basis it would look exactly the same. When I was in N. California away from any town the beaches look the same. Trash here mainly washes down the creeks into the sea or flows in from other counties, cruise ships etc. It does not come from backpackers – Otres , Sokha, and Independence are cleaner because staff picks it up. Hats off to Danny and the STA for trying to do a thankless dirty job that will be barely a bandaid until the powers that be get involved and throw resources (that at present they don’t have) at the problem. The ocean is the world’s garbage dump it is a world wide problem not just Cambodia’s. Education of locals would of course help but up until a few years ago they didn’t have the plastic and styro containers that they use and throw on the ground when through with their meal.(should have stuck to bannana leaves). Glad you could go hide out in your aircon hotel and not have to deal with reality.

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  • Jennifer says:

    Struck a nerve — this happens time and again all over the world. You should see Will Rogers State Beach, a couple miles from my house. Thankfully either Los Angeles County or the state of California as a whole banned cigarettes at the beach a few years ago and things are getting so much better as a result.

  • It’s a shame that the human race has resorted to shedding their consumerism and polluting mother nature with discarded flip flops, used condoms, pregnancy tests, broken beer bottles. It breaks my heart that we are so careless, littering our earth is such a thoughtless manner. Too often guide books and glossy magazine depict an idealistic image of a location. Sad to hear your paradise escape took a turn for the worse.

  • Turtle says:

    I had the same reaction when I got to Sihanoukville a couple of months ago. There seems to be a tipping point for places like this in SE Asia – they go from serene and magical to trashy and crowded in just one season. It’s a pity that the locals don’t think it’s worthwhile to invest in the future.

  • Daniel winter says:

    I know, its not the backpackers! The most of them are worried about the garbage and many take on Events for collecting the stuff.
    Most of that stuffs comes out from the ocean. It´s a shame to made a blog without a good research. The photo in the link was taken by a westerner who like most of us has concerns about the rubbish and hygiene in this country as unlike you we live here.

  • theo says:

    hong kong is more developed, the residents, including xpats, are generally educated, but even so, not so far from the main beaches, whole beaches are completely blanketed in garbage, more severe than what i see in sihanoukville. that’s no excuse for cambodia, but merely identifies that the problem is regional. thailand has it’s bad days also, where i have found littered beaches on the outskirts of villages, swimming in the garbage, submersed plastic bags. unfortunately i caught a staff infection there maybe from the filthy water on a phuket. cleanup your act s.e.a.!

  • DannyH says:

    You’ll all be happy to know that the western business owners in Sihanoukville formed an association to take matters like this into there own hands. The Sihanoukville Tourist Association or STA has been operating for a month now and for the past week Occheuteal beach and the surrounding areas have been really clean and beautiful. That’s not to say the problems are over. The STA is also concentrating on educating the public and visitors alike on environmental, health and safety issues. The STA has employed 14 full time cleaning staff, had signs and posters made in various languages, raising awareness with other business owners, fund raising and is generally doing an awesome job at tackling this issue. Well done to all involved in making Sihanoukville Beautiful again..

  • I also observed the same things when I went to Sihanoukville last year. Serendipity and Occheuttal beach are the dirtiest being the most touristed place. I really hope that the local government along with the many establishments in Sihanoukville come up with a solution and strict implementation to protect this paradise which is also the main source of their livelihood.

  • What good is a beach paradise if it is already ruined? How can we all enjoy the beauty of the place if it is already polluted? We should all be aware and to be responsible enough in taking care of mother nature because we all benefit on this.

  • We were in Sihanoukville in 2008 as well and we remember it being clean, full of people trying to sell you stuff and lots of travellers, but still clean.
    I’m not sure where you guys are now, but you could try out Occheuteal Beach, still in Sihanoukville, but a quieter beach. Or, check out our favourite island in the world…Koh Rong! Not Koh Rong Samlon, but the quiet, stunning island of Koh Rong.

    Cheers & Happy Anniversary 🙂

  • Jayavarnman says:

    I lived in sihanoukville and this article is very superficial and misinformed.

    First of all, the situation in Sihanoukville and in Cambodia is a lot worse than described by the author but at the same the author hasnt even spent some time in the other beaches nearby which are a lot better and without the ubiquitous piles of rubbish, Sokha Beach, Independence Beach, Hawaii Beach, and Victory Beach are another world compared to Occheuteal.

    Occheuteal is the dump of Sihanoukville, and now even Otres is full or garbage, noise, and western knobs.
    And if we talk about trash please take a look at the area along the container port, there’s a 3km stretch with khmers living on stilt homes and throwing bags of rubbish right in the water, there’s so much shit you can’t even see the sand below, and then again you’ve the fishermen village which is an open air dump, must be seen to be believed !

    The author is completely wrong pointing the finger at tourists.
    It’s the local Khmers throwing rubbish anywhere, in the beach, along the roads, and they also burn piles of garbage by night.
    In plus boats throw rubbish in the sea and the currents bring more trash from the port area.

    And finally, Sihanoukville has never been a paradise, that’s a fairy tail spread by gullible backpackers, in the past the only reason to go there was for sex tourism and still nowadays the only tourists staying long term (months) are the so called “sexpats” who dont even care about the beach or swimming or sunbathing and tend to keep a low profile in downtown.

    • Samuel says:

      How convenient to just blame the locals! EVERYONE is to blame for this mess.

      • Jayavarnman says:

        sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the expats running guesthouses and bars tried in vain to clean the beach in the last few years and all they’ve got was the local police asking for bribes and the khmers running bars throwing rubbish straight in the water as they simply see nothing wrong in piles of rubbish as you can notice all over cambodia.

        the expat owners are frustrated by the situation, they even tried to open an association to solve the several problems afflicting Sihanoukville which include electric black outs on a daily basis and now even shortages of water and “tuktuk mafia” at the bus station and in Otres.

        so now tourists skip Sihanoukville and go in the islands ? yeah, last i’ve heard is they’re going to build a private airport in Koh Rong and a new disco with food stores outside … there’s your “paradise island”, and where do you think they’re going to throw the waste and the garbage ? on top of this they recently announced a new ferry service to Koh Rong, i’ll let you imagine the consequences of all this.

  • Laurie says:

    As a few other people have mentioned, Otres Beach is definitely the place to stay at in Sihanoukville. Serendipity is kind of awful…

    Happy anniversary!

  • Congrats on the anniversary! We are thinking of skipping Sihanoukville all together, read the same thing on Globetrotter Girls. Do you have a beach in Cambodia that you’d recommend?

  • Cheryl says:

    Ahhh, that’s too bad! 🙁

    Congrats on celebrating your one year anniversary. Hope you enjoy your time together nonetheless.

  • Dean says:

    I found the exact same thing on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. The place is a perfect tropical beach paradise ruined by tourism. The pristine beach was covered in rubbish, and all the tourists were just sun baking all amongst it. I didn’t get it.

  • Erica says:

    I’d argue that you can travel for any reason you want to, as long as you’re not hurting anyone around you. In this case, I think it’s more of a problem of a lack of respect for a locale and nature in general than the desire to party. When I was in Okinawa, I saw A LOT of garbage (and started photographing a lot of it) but it was actually washed up from other countries. In general, I think that we (myself included) all need to be better about realizing that the cycle (as linear as it has become) does not end where we no longer see it. That one little piece of trash ends up somewhere- it doesn’t just disappear into thin air.

  • This post sparked a lot of opinions!

    Ultimately in these situations it is up to the locals to dispose of their trash properly and if the tourists are littering to put a stop to that. I work in Denali National Park and we have a clean-up day once a year where we collect hundreds of pounds of garbage off the side of the road, and this is in the center of a wealthy and lightly populated state.

    A place like Cambodia is poor and having trash on the beach probably isn’t the greatest concern, but they might not realize the impact on tourism and health.

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  • That’s very heartbreaking. All these can be avoided if there was even a little sense of environmental respect from both travelers and local government. Now my regret about not making it to Sihanoukville during my recent trip to Cambodia just vanished. I know what you mean about the risk of romanticizing a place you once fallen in love with. I had the same experience with Halong Bay. I visited it in 2005 and fell in love with its beauty and rawness. I went back several months ago and was disappointed how commercialized and developed it had become.
    I hope you enjoyed your anniversary celebration in your alternate oasis.

  • DannyH says:

    Once a year around the beginning of April the sea off Sihanoukville (the gulf of thailand) spits out all its trash, in every direction. Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia . I don’t see westerners with baby powder or diesel oil filters (pictured) walking around on the beach much. The litter in your photos was not there at the end of March and was nearly all gone within a week. For the rest of year Sihanoukville and the surrounding coastline enjoy pristine white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. You need to do more research..

  • flipnomad says:

    when i spent a month there last year, in our last week, garbage where swept ashore but on our first three weeks it was really clean.. not sure if it has to do with the tides etc that washes garbage to sihanoukville from other places…

  • Your photos are so powerful and so sad. They deliver your message… together with a great written post. A voice to be heard.

  • Indian Tourist Visa says:

    Its heart breaking.. Locals should keep the beach clean and attractive.

  • Karisa says:

    That sounds so disappointing! I hope your anniversary is not completely ruined. I was in Sihanoukville a few months ago and I was also unimpressed with the beach, the litter and the begging children being exploited by local adults. Rather than stay on the trashy beach, my friends and I took an island hopping boat ride nearby and I’d suggest the same for you to in order to enjoy some of Cambodia’s natural beauty.

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  • John girvan says:

    I live in Sihanoukville and what you have put up about the area regarding rubbish disposal is rubbish blaming the tourists and foreigners for it. I have put a link on for you to see which is what the locals dump and end up in the sea. I bet you never ventured up to the fishing village to see how they live with their rubbish. It would be better if you researched better before you make a judgment only on westerners. The photo in the link was taken by a westerner who like most of us has concerns about the rubbish and hygiene in this country as unlike you we live here. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/25086202/P4050008.JPG

    • Samuel says:

      My judgement was simply to say all parties are to blame. Who cares who made the mess. It’s up to those living and visiting to take responsibility in cleaning it up.

      • Darren says:

        I noticed in your article Samuel, that you had planned some down time to relax and after seeing all the garbage you and your partner decided to check into a hotel and create your own “oasis”… I also noted in one of your responses that you said that all parties were to blame and locals and visitors alike should be helping to clean. …I pose this question. Did you help clean while you were there? Or did you infact, run back to your “nice” hotel and write a blog about how dirty the place was instead?…I’m curious to know. Happy Anniversary!

  • stephen says:

    although of course the clean up is important, lots of this rubbish is washed in from the numerous
    boat trips, who dont want to bring there rubbish back with them.
    maybe if a boat comes back with no rubbish, hit them with a fine.

  • Z-ride says:

    I first came to Sihanoukville in 2005, and quickly decided this is the place for me. I’ve lived her since August, 2006, and have seen a lot of change in the last six and a half years. I’ve read scores of article like this written by people who don’t live here and as usual, have a few issues with this one.
    1) I’m not sure why Westerners think this is some kind of paradise. Today, most locals make about $80-$100 a month. There are all day power cuts from the inept electric company, and now we are in a drought so no water either. These two factors came together recently to start a fire that no one was able to put out, as the water company had turned off the water pipes, even those feeding the fire hydrants. I helplessly watched my place of employment and several other places needlessly burn to the ground, ruining the livelihood of many expats and locals alike.
    In addition, this area was heavily mined during the Khmer Rogue period. That notorious group used the Independence Hotel as both a headquarters and a kind of pleasure palace for their officers, where they would take “dissenters”, mostly young women, whom would never be heard from again.
    2) Regarding the trash problem. Certain other countries have used the seas off of Sihanoukville for years to dispose of their waste, including hazardous medical waste, much of which washes upon the shores here. There has been much building going on near Occheuteal beach over the last several years. Most, if not all, of the land around the are known as Serendipity is owned by one man’s company. He is has been leasing it out to local developers who build there and charge high rent for what they’ve built. The builders, local, hired by locals, typically discard the trash in the easiest and cheapest manner possible, that is by leaving it laying around the building site until the rain washes it away.
    I had until recently rented a shop with my Khmer wife, down by the beach. We built living quarters behind the shop and lived there for about a year. The lady pictured in the last photo here was actually our neighbour. The line of shops leading down the road to the beach are the typical shacks. There is not much infrastructure, most of it being built as new shacks were thrown up. It took awhile for the garbage company to show up. Until then, all the locals would simply throw their rubbish out of there back door. After the garbage company showed up, ALL of them continued to do so rather than pay US $0.75 a month for collection. It harbored vermin of all sorts and was a very unhealthy environment. Most of the Khmers that had shacks their also had children. One of them died for reasons as yet undetermined, but I’m sure the unnecessary squalor had something to do with it.
    This problem is not limited to Sihanoukville by any means. Last time I was visiting in the country side (where I was the only white face around for a million miles), I was appalled to find that the garbage company didn’t work in that town, and the locals simply threw all of their rubbish in a near by stream, where it would sit for the duration of the dry season until the first monsoons washed away and made it “magically” disappear.
    If you walk down Serendipity beach road now, you will see some green bins mounted to the sidewalk. This was an initiative started last Autumn by a group of expat business owners. They bought all the bins, and had the garbage collection company, over much deliberation, agree to pick it up for free. They (the garbage company) have since “accidentally” run over several of these with their trucks.
    So when I hear something like “Beach Paradise Ruined” I really have to question the speakers idea of Paradise, and would like to ask them, who has ruined it?

  • Jenny says:

    Just curious- how do you know backpackers are responsible for the trash? My experience has been that those “westerners” (those of us with enough $ to travel) consume a lot more than the rest of the world, but we’re pretty good about putting our trash in a rubbish bin. It’s possible that some of the garbage isn’t even local. I was on a beach in Honduras that had so much broken plastic I couldn’t see the ground. It was on the unpopulated side of the island and I realized that I was probably looking at garbage from all over the Caribbean.

  • Barbara says:

    Happy Anniversary to both of you!

    It’s so sad to see things like this happening to our environment. I hope things will get better for them in the future. In the mean time, we all need to do our part and also help educate people in ways to better maintain our beautiful world for the future.

  • Amber says:

    I found it a problem when I was there on 2009. Seems like it got worse.

    I remember Cambodia having a trash problem from both locals and tourists. I remember Tonle Sap as being disgusting.

    So far, Myanmar is escaping these probs. organization arrange for trash pick up from Inke Lake and business owners on Ngapali beach are cleaning the sand regularly, making the beach pristine. I hope it stays that way.

  • Wondering&Wandering says:

    Serendipity Beach is definitely in a sad state. I’m kind of glad I hadn’t been before, so I wasn’t able to make any comparisons. Maybe once Cambodia starts to become more like Thailand in terms of tourism in a few years, they’ll start doing beach clean-ups like they do in Thailand. One potential benefit of it becoming more touristy… At least Otres Beach and the islands (Koh Rong, etc.) are still nice…? 🙁

  • Sherry says:

    I live and grew up surrounded by beaches. I think this happens everywhere that it’s allowed to happen. I have spent many hours over the years volunteering to clean up beaches, and many others do the same. The government where I live also has paid employees doing that. The local community needs to react to save places that they gain something from. Any place that is open to the masses will inevitably have trash left behind. But what a shame that people do not have more common decency and show some respect.

  • It’s a very common sight all over the beaches in SEA. Even in Korea at the mud festival at the end of the night, there was about a meter wide patch of plastic beer bottles and cups along the sea shore. I asked if someone would clean it up and the policeman said, “Ajjuma, in the morning!” By the time the morning came the tide washed all the disgusting into the sea. It’s pathetic how little thought people put into throwing garbage around.

    The worst thing I saw was a ferry attendant empty the garbage bins right into the ocean in Malaysia. Our poor planet.

  • OCDemon says:

    Thanks for bringing this sort of thing to the public’s attention. Idea, though: How about harnessing the tens of thousands of Twitter followers you’ve got to come down to the beach for a day or two and clean things up? You could probably partner with hostels in the area, tell your followers to tell their followers, set a date, give it its own Facebook page or whatever, and videotape the whole thing with before and after photos. There must be a few dozen people in Thailand this time of year that have read this post already and would love to help out, so why not throw a party?

  • Abi says:

    Oh, what a shame! I went back in 2001 (!) and it was absolutely beautiful.

  • Jodie says:

    I’m heading there in August and reading this makes my heart sink. I had wanted to visit for all the positive reasons described in so many blogs. It really is a shame that so many young backpackers go around ruining beautiful places and giving the ‘good’ backpackers a bad name. I hope you were able to salvage your trip 🙂

  • Tash says:

    Such a shame.
    Cambodia has much work to do on it’s waste management…..and backpacker always need to remember to leave a place like they found it.
    You should drive down to Kep – that is still the paradise you are looking for!

  • Bianca says:

    I visited in 2011 and it was pretty grotty then. Now I worry for the pristine islands just of the coast and the impact that mass tourism will have there.

  • Happy Anniversary to you and Audrey!

    So sad to see plastic pollution happening around the World. We should do something with plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic anything….

  • Sophie says:

    All that in 5 years. Sad indeed.

  • Rhonda says:

    Hey Sam!
    Congrats to you and Audrey on your anniversary and I hope you have much better experiences during the rest of your travels.
    It is unfortunate that what was once a beautiful place has now turned into a garbage dump. I agree most people spreading trash like this are probably backpackers. And I hate to say it, but perhaps some of them are even popular travel bloggers (not you guys of course!) who love to write about how many full moon parties they’ve gone to, how to hook up in a hostel or get trashed on a budget, etc. I’ve seen a ton of travel bloggers like this. Not putting the entire blame on them, just saying.
    But I think it’s important to share posts like this … hopefully people start to get the message soon and learn what it is to truly travel and respect other cultures.

    • Samuel says:

      Hey Rhonda!

      I totally agree with what you’re saying. Personally, I think backpackers (and travelers in general) really need to think hard about the impact they’re having on a place while trying to maintain as little of an ecological footprint as possible.

  • How sad 🙁 The local tourism of Sihanoukville must do some major clean-up drive in the area in order to salvage one of their natural assets. Now I appreciate the recent efforts being done here in the Philippines. I hope Cambodia will do the same too.

  • Evan says:

    we were there in 2011 and the beaches were clean (especially by Cambodian standards) so this is a shame.
    one observation I would like to point out is we were also there during high season in January and perhaps the resto owners/locals and travellers alike maybe give a shit more and clean up the beach at that time.

    hopefully for Sihanoukville’s case this can get remedied as this beach, especially Otres beach was voted one of the nicest beaches in the world in 2010.

  • Evan says:

    we were there in 2011 and it was still quite beautiful at that time…I went there with horrible expectations however I was pleasantly surprised. it was also high season which you clearly are not there at this time so perhaps the local business owners and/or travellers take better care to keep the beaches clean then and then only (no excuse just an observation).

    I am not sure if you got further down to Otres beach but it was away from all the business and kept clean by the beach hut and lodging owners in that end.

    travel safe

  • Evan says:

    we were there in 2011 and it was still quite beautiful at that time…I went there with horrible expectations however I was pleasantly surprised. it was also high season which you clearly are not there at this time so perhaps the local business owners and/or travellers take better care to keep the beaches clean then and then only (no excuse just an observation).

    I am not sure if you got further down to Otres beach but it was away from all the business and kept clean by the beach hut and lodging owners in that end.

    travel safe

    • Samuel says:

      Evan, I’m glad to hear you had a better experience. I think you’re absolutely correct – visiting the outskirt beaches is the way to go.

  • Maria says:

    Try Otres in Sihanoukville instead – you’ll think you’ve traveled to a different world.

  • Had the same experience in 2009. Absolute dump of a place. And the crowd weren’t to my taste either. Party backpackers and old guys with young locals. Just a filthy place.

  • It could be that Sihanoukville has gotten worse, or it could be that you are getting older and starting to tolerate backpacker ghetto’s less 😉

    • Samuel says:

      Hahaha…I think it’s a bit of both to be honest James. I have been noticing on this backpacking trip (I’m now on the wrong side of 30) that I’m not putting up with things quite the way I used to when I was in my early 20’s 😉

  • That’s really sad. I’m heading to Sihanoukville later this summer. From all the descriptions I have read of it on other blogs, it has seemed like just a backpacker party town, as well as a notorious hotbed for sex tourism and sex trafficking. I am all for having a good time and relaxing, but I don’t understand the mindset of so many young backpackers who seem to just travel to party without any thought to the consequences of their actions on the communities they visit and then leave behind. It makes me sad and ashamed, too … it seems that we are disproportionately a generation of “takers.”

  • Kellie says:

    I also visited Sihanoukville for the first time in 2008 and loved it, but noticed some of the negative parts of tourism creeping in. I’ve heard varying stories over the years about it getting worse and better…so I read your post with a sinking heart. What a shame.

  • OCDemon says:

    Reminds me of the stag party crowd around Eastern Europe. There were hostels on the first floor with brothels on the second floor. I saw drunk Brits shouting at old ladies, too. It’s an intoxicated power trip, and it’s pretty sad.

  • Alissa says:

    This really is a shame! I see lots of signs in Bali and the Gili Islands for “help us keep clean” so I think governments and non-profits always realize they need to be proactive, but it would be less work if they could start these campaigns earlier!

    • Samuel says:

      Alissa, I completely agree with you. Although organizations can help it really is up to the locals and tourists to put in their best efforts as well.

  • budget jan says:

    It is a shame that it has come to this, and presumably it would just be a case of collecting the rubbish and putting it in landfill somewhere, to solve the problem. We are going to Cambodia for a month in Oct/Nov. Can you recommend another beach area in Cambodia? We will be visiting all the main haunts including Kampot, but with a month we could head any direction for a beach.

    • Seagarden says:

      You can go to Otres Beach. Clean, beautiful and quiet!

      • budget jan says:

        Thanks Samuel. I am off to google it now 🙂

      • Geoff says:

        I live here and the last time I went to Otres beach it was covered in rubbish everywhere. Independence beach much better so far but, only a matter of time before the Khmers ruin it, already have smelly microlights landing noisily on the sea. Same said for the town, a filthy dusty place to stay…….forget it!

  • Erik says:

    Cambodia (& Laos) were closed for so long, that, unfortunately, this seemed a bit inevitable. I would guess (and hope) that they can bounce back.

    With Myanmar now opening, you have to wonder if this isn’t its fate, too.

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