Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Sihanoukville: The Ultimate Backpacker Party Paradise

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I didn’t know what to expect in Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s most famous beach destination. Most of what I had heard was that it was a bit of a dirty, grungy beach, and worth visiting, but not worth a lot of time.

Well, you know what?

Sihanoukville is an amazing backpacker hangout and a party paradise. And it’s super-cheap.  Think 50-cent beers, $3 rooms, amazing $2 restaurant meals.

And it is grungy.  But I like grungy.

Even though I was a bit pressed for time, I managed to spend a week in Sihanoukville.  And when you’re spending time in a place like this, you fall into a blissful routine.

A Typical Day in Sihanoukville

7:00 AM: Find out who hooked up last night.

I’m staying in the brand new ten-bed dorm at Monkey Republic, without a doubt the best place to stay in Snooky.  For some reason, guesthouse next door blasts music from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM every morning, waking all of us up. We groan, put in earplugs, and try to fall asleep again.

I quickly take inventory of the wider-than-average bunk beds.  The Swedish girl hooked up with the Canadian guy, the Dutch guy is spooning one of the girls from the UK, and the hot guy from Hawaii has now had a different girl in his bed every night.  Well played, Hawaii.  Back to bed.

10:30 AM: Work and breakfast.

I’m up and heading to the lounge with my laptop.  I grab the WiFi password – today’s is sexdrugsrocknroll – and order a fruit shake.  This may be a party town, but I need to work for a few hours.

I blog away and chat up advertisers with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication, the official album of the Southeast Asia Backpacker Trail, playing in the background.

1:30 PM: Beach time!

I throw on my swimsuit and stroll down to Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville’s most popular beach.  I grab a chair by the water and spend the afternoon luxuriating in the sun and reading a snarky memoirDry, Waiter Rant, and Kitchen Confidential are devoured within a week.

Oh, and the amazing vendors of Serendipity!  I get a foot massage and a pedicure from one of the ladies, and she throws in a peppermint-scented scalp massage for free.  Later, a teen girl makes me fruit salad, chatting me up as she chops the pineapple and dragonfruit.  Altogether, two massages, a pedicure and the fruit salad cost me $8.

5:00 PM: Back to the Monkey.

When the vendors start putting the chairs away and setting up tables for dinner, it’s time to go.  I head back to Monkey Republic, take a shower, and see if anyone new is in the dorm.  There is – a guy from Canada.

After having the usual backpackers’ conversation – “Where are you from?  Where have you been?  How long are you traveling?” – we decide to grab dinner and have some freshly grilled barracuda.

8:00 PM: Happy Hour.

Those tables on the beach are still out, long after the sun’s gone down.  My new friend and I grab a few 50-cent beers and are soon surrounded by kids trying to sell us bracelets.  I get a few more, as I have no willpower when it comes to those adorable, funny kids.

10:00 PM: The party starts!

There are plenty of early nightspots from which to choose – if we’re on the beach, Sessions or the Dolphin are great.  Monkey Republic is a nice nightspot in its own right.  Utopia is a legendary club, but it’s definitely on the skeevy side.

12:00 AM: Everyone meets up…at JJ’s.

What I love about Sihanoukville is that everyone always ends up at the same bar: JJ’s.  It’s right on the beach, the buckets are served in halved two-liter bottles, and everyone’s dancing to Hey Ya.

JJ’s is like Sihanoukville itself — grungy, but in a fun way, and not one bit pretentious! It’s the hottest party in town, and all your friends are there.

Things gets crazier as the night goes on.  People are riding the stripper poles, body paint is being flung around, and suddenly my new friends from Sweden and Australia have convinced me to go on an island cruise with them tomorrow.

3:00 AM-5:00 AM: Bedtime.

JJ’s will be rocking until sunrise, but at some point, I hit a wall.  I walk back to Monkey Republic…stopping for a 75-cent hot dog on the walk back.  As I fall into bed, I remember to put my earplugs in this time.

The typical day can vary. One night, we go to LV, a Cambodian club with no other foreigners.  One day, I hop on that island cruise.  I’ll hang out on the beach with friends or visit one of the tiny movie theaters, where you can get your own room for $6.

Every day in Sihanoukville was fantastic.  Without question, this is one of my favorite destinations of the trip so far. If you’re looking for a cheap, fun and fabulous party destination, look no further!

Comments

54 Responses to “Sihanoukville: The Ultimate Backpacker Party Paradise”
  1. “Well played Hawaii”… that made me laugh out loud.

  2. Ira says:

    I have no words except… in my mind I just added it to my list of places to be, and made it bold.

  3. Alouise says:

    I always hear about the party locations in Thailand, but I didn’t really know of many in Cambodia. Reading by the beach, and drinking and dancing at night sounds like a great way to spend a week.

  4. Sheryll says:

    This just sounds divine! I’ve officially added this to my Life List of places to go. I can’t wait!

  5. Marsha says:

    You sure know how to pick ’em….thanks for the little slice of sunny Cambodia while I’m freezing my butt off in the snowy Northeast.

  6. Cailin says:

    I love that it is also called “Snooky” and that everything there seems very “Snooky-ish” hahaha
    and amazingly cheap! I love a good pedicue and massage on the beach for cheap! Why haven’t I been to Asia yet? 🙂

  7. Nicolas says:

    I think I could spend my days like that… It sounds a bit like retirement for young people.

  8. Andi says:

    Definitely looks like a fabulous place to party!

  9. Sihanoukville sounds like a really fun place to be in

  10. This place sounds awesome!! Your posts make us so excited to get to Asia, I think we’ve said that before but you almost got us looking into cheap plane tickets now 😉

  11. Love how most travel bloggers list all the fun places as grungy, too noisy blah blah but you’re covering them what they are, backpacker party paradises. Everyone used to end up at Nap House (end of the dirt road towards the beach). Sure you’ve already found it.

    Enjoy!

    • Forget it. I love grungy, I don’t mind noisy, and I love FUN. That’s what matters! Didn’t hear about Nap House — Monkey Republic was definitely the place to be.

      • INap House has gone now. It was the place on the corner when you walk down the steep hill onto the beach. The guys behind it now run JJs.

        I adore Sin’Ville – I went there many, many times and would go back many more if I could. I also met my partner there on a very messy night out on the beach 🙂

        Khmer New Year is a great night out in Snooky!

  12. Rebecca says:

    This place sounds divine! I’m heading to Cambodia in April and obviously Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are on the list, but I may have to add Sihanoukville too! Did you hear anything about Koh Rong Samlon? Have heard that’s quite good too?

  13. Nara says:

    I’m Cambodian but have lived in Canada my whole life, Visiting Cambodia for the first time in February. Love the Blog I can’t wait to get there already. Anyone traveling there in February? I would like to get to know some new friends.

  14. Jeremy B says:

    Sounds like a young backpacker’s beach party! However, this post never mentioned who was in Kate’s bed! 🙂

  15. Akila says:

    I think you went to the good side of Sihanoukville because we drove down to J.J.’s and thought about staying there but our scooter had a hard time getting back up the hill, so we didn’t. We stayed in the main area which was awful . . . more than grungy, it was dirty, and so filled with old guys picking up prostitutes, that I was continuously disgusted. We left really quickly and headed to Koh Kong (which we loved) but heard good things about the lower area.

  16. Fran Cormack says:

    I was in Sihanoukville last year Kate and thought it was terrible. Really awful. I suppose it matters what you are looking for. A faded, scruffy town, a pale shade of anywhere i’ve been wasn’t my idea of fun. Loved Kampot though. A “real” Cambodian town.

  17. Matt says:

    OH the LIFE. Sounds fantastic – how dare you top Koh Lanta?! Keep at it!

  18. mike says:

    i wanna go there. always wanted to do the whole asia party thng..thailand or cambodia or wherever! interesting post..

  19. Ratanak says:

    I am from Cambodia….. I like how you describe your typical day in Sihanouk and it’s awesome ,

  20. Just arrived in Sihanoukville. Loved your post. First impressions….great!

  21. We too LOVED sihanoukville and have spent about 20 days there in total over 2 trips. We’d never heard of it until recently and were amazed at the well kept secret that it obviously was as there were certainly a LOT of foreigners there. We traveled with our 2 per-schoolers so didn’t have quite the same sort of day as you, but it’s a good place for families too. It reminded us of how the scene was on the Thai islands 12yrs ago.

  22. Big John says:

    JJ’s is gone, but Dolphine Shack is still there. It would have been nice to see you up the other end of Sihanoukville, Victory Hill. We have a view of the ocean and islands to die for, it’s a 600m walk to a quieter beach, minus the touts and beggars at Serendipity. We’re closer to the pier for boats going to and from Koh Rong, sell tickets there, for bugalows and diving, oh, and our “Posssibly, Better Than SEX….Ribs” are now available at Coco on Koh Rong, so next time you’re in Sihanoukville, if you need a break from all that party, party, party, feel free to drop by and enjoy a little Chil-axn. http://www.facebook.com/chilaxn.hostel.BBQ

    • Big John, you’re welcome to comment, but please refrain from advertising your own establishment in the comments beyond the URL form. Thanks.

    • Kris says:

      JJs is still there circa 2015. Was there in 2010 and is still there today.

      Victory Hill is a good jump-off to Koh Rong, but is too close to the port, hence manky. The place to be is Otres, the other side past Serendipity.

  23. John says:

    wow!!!! you are really experiencing the real culture. I thought you could do all this at home not at the expense of some underdeveloping country and its people.

  24. Big John says:

    Here’s an oportunity to have some fun. Make a video of Chil-axn and Koh Rong, upload it to Youtube and and win 2 free fun dives

  25. Caro says:

    Different strokes for different folks! I found Sihanoukville dirty, overrun by sexpats and by far a poor representation of amazing Cambodia.

  26. Kristine says:

    Yep, I’m sold. I need to go there!!

  27. Paul says:

    I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Monkey Republic burned down on Easter weekend of this year.

  28. Tina says:

    Just been to Sihanoukville, it is definitly a backpackers party area at night. The music was quite good the first night I got there, but the second night it was repetitive. Personally, 3 days or so is enough to spend. People do get drunk like there is no tomorrow cause the alcohol is so cheap.

    Its something to experience at least once in your life.

  29. I was there just this gone March and you nailed the atmosphere just right… sheer party 😀

    You’ll be pleased to know that Monkey Republic was half re-built already while was there and everyone is excited to see it back… those dorms in Utopia really are like prison cells.

    Can’t decide if I liked the party of Snooky or the chill of Koh Rong more… either way I’m going back to both next year.

  30. Jett says:

    Just arrived , got a nice hotel $40 a night and yes being in Cambodia Sihnoukville is not aesthetically pleasing on the eye but that’s no big deal , my problem is with the people here , I so regret booking for 5 nights , you have “the dads army ” with their varicose veins chasing or rather paying for the young local girls ! And then there is the young backpackers , half of them look as though they need a good bath !! Took a stroll last night to a restaurant and along the way got offered cocaine, marijuana and prostitution !! Get to the restaurant and I am eating away when 2 guys come in – vests/shorts no shoes !! Wtf !!

    • Brian says:

      Very judgemental Jett, ”Dad’s army with varicose vein’s” Young backpackers who look as though
      they need a good bath”. Any age group you don’t want to have a pop at ? Maybe your own !
      You were in SE Asia, every tourist town has some bar girls, massage parlours, and drunken, partying backpackers and ex-pat retirees who still enjoy sex. Still plenty to enjoy and quiet beaches to be found, and still room for all those people you want to insult to do their own thing.

  31. Allie says:

    Hey there!

    Really enjoyed your post on Sihanoukville!

    I recently backpacked Sihanoukville with my boyfriend and we wrote about our experiences: http://travelawakenings.blogspot.com/2014/01/sihanoukville-city-by-sea.html?m=0

    Do read it:)

  32. Dottie says:

    Sounds about right, I just spent three nights there. Grungy fun. Stayed in the luxurious Utopia and just wrote a post about it.

    http://www.dotsonamap.net/articles/2014/6/19/utopia-hostel-in-sihanoukville-an-absolutely-shit-show

  33. It’s great to see your experience in traveling cambodia…
    hope to see your another good traveling article here..

  34. Ross says:

    “7:00am see who hooked up last night”……
    This is the reason people shouldn’t travel! The aim of trVelling should be to get away from this pretentious, looks based shallow fkd up world most of us live in.

  35. Kris says:

    Chenda!!

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  1. […] fact in terms of anticipation, it was up there with Angkor Wat. I excitedly read Adventurous Kate’s post on Sihanoukville and ran off to buy my bus ticket from Siem […]

  2. […] location, and the fact that it is a quieter place than, say, beach/bar/backpacker favorite Sihanoukville. Those days, if I ever had them LOL, are gone for me and I am looking for a family friendly […]



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