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Krong Preah Sihanouk
Kompong Som/Kampong Saom
Ochheuteal Beach
Ochheuteal Beach
Map of Cambodia highlighting Sihanoukville Province
Map of Cambodia highlighting Sihanoukville Province
Sihanoukville is located in Cambodia
Location of Sihanoukville in Cambodia
Coordinates: 10°38′N 103°30′E / 10.633°N 103.500°E / 10.633; 103.500Coordinates: 10°38′N 103°30′E / 10.633°N 103.500°E / 10.633; 103.500
Country  Cambodia
Official 1964
Provincial status 2008
 • Governor Chhit Sokhom[1]
 • Total 868 km2 (335 sq mi)
Population (2008)[2]
 • Total 199,902
 • Density 230/km2 (600/sq mi)
  Provincial population
Human Development Index
 • HDI Increase0.750 (high)
Time zone UTC+07
Postcode 18000
Dialing code +855
ISO 3166 code KH-18
Districts 3
Communes 22
Villages 94[3]

Sihanoukville (Khmer: ក្រុងព្រះសីហនុ - Krong Preah Sihanouk), also known as Kompong Som or Kampong Saom, is a province (khaet) in the south of Cambodia at the Gulf of Thailand. The provincial capital, also called Sihanoukville, is a port city and a steadily growing urban center located on a headland, 185 kilometres (115 mi) southwest of Phnom Penh, the national capital. The province is named after former king Norodom Sihanouk. The city of Sihanoukville evolved alongside the construction of the Sihanoukville Port, which commenced in June 1955. So far it remains the only deep water port of Cambodia.[4] The islands and beaches of Sihanoukville province are an international tourist destination.[5]

The province is served by the Sihanoukville International Airport, 18 kilometres (11 mi) from Sihanoukville town, although by 2014 it sees limited commercial operation. The airport currently only schedules national passenger flights of Cambodia Angkor Air to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

In addition to the port and the growing tourism industry, the activities of countless NGO's and international investment have contributed to an unprecedented economic growth of the province over the course of the last decade.[6] Economic sectors, that further deserve mentioning are the textile industry and the rapidly expanding real estate market.[7] Sihanoukville is the home of Angkor Beer, one of Cambodia's major breweries.

Sihanoukville province was the place of the last official battle of the United States Army during the second Indo-China war, notably the incident took place outside Vietnam. The event is called the Mayaguez incident, unfolding from 12th to 15th of May 1975, which involved US forces and the Khmer Rouge combatants. Near Koh Tang, one of Sihanoukville;s outer islands, where the most of the battle to free the SS Mayaguez took place, two shipwrecks in a depth of 40 metres (130 ft) down can be observed by divers.[8]

The initial Sihanoukville municipality was elevated to a regular province on 22 December 2008 after King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree converting the municipalities of Kep, Pailin and Sihanoukville into provinces, as well as adjusting several other provincial borders.[9]

Origin of the name[edit]

The official name in Khmer is: Krong (city) Preah (holy) Sihanouk (name of the former king), which adds up to: "City of the holy Sihanouk" or "Honorable Sihanouk City". It honors the former king Sihanouk (reigned 1941–1955 and 1993–2004) who was revered as the Father of the Nation,.[10] Internationally it is written Sihanoukville. The name "Sihanouk" is derived from Sanskrit through two Pali words: Siha (lion), and Hanu (jaws).

The former name, Kompong Saom (also romanized as Kompong Som and Kampong Som), (Khmer: កំពង់សោម) means "Port of the Moon" or "Shiva's Port".[11] Saom is derived from the Sanskrit word "saumya", the original (Rig Vedic) meaning of which was "Soma, the juice or sacrifice of the moon-god", but evolved into Pali "moon", "moonlike" "name of Shiva".[12] The word Kampong or Kompong is of Malayan origin[13] and means village or hamlet. Its meaning underwent extension towards pier or river landing bridge.[14]


The modern province and its capital were established in 1960 after independence from France, in order to provide Cambodia with a sea port for international trade. The project was undertaken and overseen by the government of then–Prime Minister Prince Sihanouk.

The construction of the port began in 1955, as a counter-measure to the Vietnamese tightening of control over the Mekong Delta (made possible by the waning power of the French), which increasingly restricted river - and eventually marine - access for Cambodian commercial vessels. Most of the families of those involved in the construction of the port settled near in its vicinity, effectively being the first wave of new inhabitants in addition to the existing indigenous population of the Kompong Saom fishing community.

During the Vietnam War the port became an intensive military facility, first in the service of National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam and after 1970, under the government of Lon Nol, in the service of the United States.

The port was the last place to be evacuated by the US Army, only days before the Khmer Rouge guerrillas took control of the government in April 1975. The events surrounding the taking of the US container ship SS Mayaguez and its crew on 12 May by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent rescue operation by US Marines played out on the waters of islands and off the coast of Sihanoukville province. During the two days of action, the US commenced air strikes on targets on the mainland of Sihanoukville including the port, the Ream Naval Base and airfield, the railroad yard and the petroleum refinery in addition to strikes and naval gun fire on the islands.[15]

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and the subsequent opening of the economy, the port of Sihanoukville resumed its importance in the development and recovery of the country. With the further opening of new markets in 1999, the province became one of the leaders of economic growth of Cambodia.

The Ream National Park was established in 1993 per royal decree of former King Sihanouk.[16]

On 26 May 2011 the province joined the Paris-based club Les Plus Belles Baies Du Monde (The most Beautiful Bays in the World). The organisation officially accepts the Bay of Cambodia as one of its members at the 7th General Assembly.[17]


Tourists at Serendipity Beach

Sihanoukville province is located at the coast of the Gulf of Thailand in southern Cambodia, occupying an area of 868 km2 on a sizable and hilly peninsula, southwest of Phnom Penh with an average distance of 230 kilometres (143 mi). Moderately developed beaches and a number of pristine islands in its proximity are the decisive features that attract national and foreign visitors. A small group of islands dot the near coast due south and west. The commercial and international deep water port is located at the north-west. Sihanoukville province borders Koh Kong province to the North and West, Kampot province to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the South.

Beaches that line the western side of the city from north to south are: Hun Sen(Prek Treng) Beach, Victory Beach, Lamherkay/Hawaii Beach, Koh Pos Beach, Independence Beach, Sokha Beach, Serendipity Beach/Ochheuteal Beach and Otres Beach. The most popular beaches are Ochheuteal, Otres, Sokha and Victory. Ferries bring a steadily increasing number of tourists to the nearby islands' guesthouses, to diving - and snorkeling trips and game fishing.

The peninsula is separated from the central plains of Cambodia by the Damrei Mountains. The province incorporates the Ream National Park with a size of 210 km2 that includes the islands of Koh Thmei and Koh Seh.[18]

Being a comparatively small province, Sihanoukville province has only two urban centers: the Sihanoukville city itself and the Prey Nob District, 46 kilometers north from Sihanoukville town. The province is connected to Phnom Penh by National Road No 4; to Kampot Province by National Road No 3 and to Koh Kong Province by National Road No 48.

Sihanoukville town: The town’s layout reflects little structural planning. Neighborhoods accumulate around the major road "Ekreach(Engl.=independence)". It winds along the headland's rolling hills and halfway between Victory Hill in the north - and Ochheuteal quarter in the south are banks, shops, the local markets, hotels, administrative facilities and most corporate businesses. The post office and the inter-provincial bus station are located towards the north between Victory Hill and the port.


Clear shoreline of Bamboo Island
  • Ochheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach: Ochheuteal Beach is a 3.3 km long and narrow strip of beach lined with Casuarina and Tamarisk trees, grass umbrellas, rental chairs and little drink huts as well as bigger restaurants and night-time party spots. The northern section has become known as Serendipity Beach and is a popular beach with western tourists, noted for small guesthouse rooms right on the beach. Aside from these guest houses on the beach there are around 30 beach huts serving good value meals and a wide selection of drinks. The sustainability of the Ochheuteal beach was a primary consideration of various stakeholders, which brought about the development of a tourism development and management plan in 2005. Serendipity beach is technically the western end (roughly one fifth or 600 m) of Ochheuteal beach. It has been named by an American fellow, who came here in the Nineties. Struck by its (then) unspoiled beauty and pristine condition, he came up with the term, which quickly entered common vocabulary.[19][20]
  • Otres Beach: is around 4.6 km long and beyond the small "Queen hill" headland at the southern end of Ochheuteal Beach. It is far less developed and commercialized and known for its long stretch of clean white sands. It has developed into a kind of special lodging place for Westerners. From 2004 to 2011 the place was kind of a mix of late Goa and after-the-wall-anarchy. Police made a clean-up that year, removing 70% of the Hippie places. Permanent structures beyond the road supplement the remaining places by now - a very popular, well established holiday retreat – but prices have also risen considerably.[19]
  • Sokha Beach: Sokha Beach is around 1.2 km long and located just west of Serendipity Beach. This beach is privately owned by Sokha Beach Hotel,[21] the first five-star luxury beach hotel in Cambodia. It provides many facilities on a wide white sandy beach, visitors have to pay for the use of facilities and beach vendors are not allowed.
  • Independence Beach: Independence Beach is around 1.3 km long and located north-west of Sokha Beach. The beach is named after the old Independence Hotel. Situated at its northern end is the Independence Hotel. Behind it follows Koh Pos Beach with Snake Island(Koh Pos) only 350m off the coast.
  • Victory Beach: Victory beach is around 300 m long and situated at the furthest north of the peninsula of Sihanoukville. It was the original backpacker beach and is still popular with budget travelers. The deep water port is located at the northern end of the beach. Apart from white sand and blue sea, this beach offers a good spot to enjoy the sunset. A consortium of Russian business people undertook large scale development here. Although some of the project's installations and features might be a bit too grandiose, the beach is being taken care of and is subsequently clean and nice.

At the south end of Victory Beach is another small strand of sand called Lamherkey or Hawaii Beach. It is the place where a French/ Cambodian construction team laid groundwork for the construction of the new Port of Kampong Som during the 1950s. At this beach, one can hire a boat to nearby islands.

  • Hun Sen(Prek Treng) Beach: is the northernmost beach of the city with a length of around 1.5 km, situated behind the local port and essentially empty without beach huts and bars, it sees only weekend - and holiday visitors. The water is very shallow and could be a great place for families with kids. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is inconvenient and there is definitively a garbage problem.
  • Ream Beach: is situated south of Otres beach and with an overall length of around 7.7 km it consists of several sections with occasional stretches of rocks and vegetaion. Koh Ta Kiev island lies just 800 m off its southern end.
  • Beaches inside the National park : At Ream National Park's southern coast exist several unnamed beaches with an approximate length of 10 km.
  • Beaches of Prey Nob district : Beyond Sihanoukville's oil port lie two sizable beaches inside the Komong Saom bay, belonging to Prey Nob district.


There are 22 islands administered by Sihanoukville province. An increasing number are either in the process of or have been assigned for extensive touristic development. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem in particular have so far undergone years of unplanned development with plenty of guesthouses and bungalow resorts that offer accommodation from basic dorms to furnished air-con bungalows. Most guesthouses, travel agencies and restaurants inSihanoukville town offer booking packages to these individual island resorts.

  • Koh Russei, កោះបស្សី: Also known as Bamboo Island. This medium sized island is located a few kilometers out from Otres Beach or Ream. There is a small navy base and is currently under large scale development.
  • Koh Rong, កោះរ៉ុង: Situated 26 km west of the Sihanoukville coast. It offers a fantastic strand of beach on its southwest, stretching about 5.7 kilometres (4 mi). It has fresh water resources on the island and four fishing communities that provide basic supplies including fresh water, fish and crab. Daily ferry service and dozens of guesthouses and restaurants.
  • Koh Rong Sanloem, កោះរុងសន្លឹម: South of Koh Rong and smaller, beautiful beaches are on the west and east coast, where a large heart-shaped bay with some shellfish cultivation is located, The marine life around Koh Rong Sanloem is very diverse and offers some amazing diving. Daily ferry service and many guesthouses spread all over the island.
Koh Rong Sanloem Island, Saracen Bay Beach
  • Koh Tang, កោះតាង: Located 53 km from the main shoreline of Sihanoukville. Going there requires trippers to stay overnight on board. It offers interesting diving spots, most of which are not frequently explored. The island is home to a military outpost and travelers should expect to be boarded by military personnel when out at the island.
  • Koh Pos, កោះពស់: Also known as Morokot Island or Snake Island. This island is 800 metres (2,625 ft) off Victory Beach. It is under development by Russian investors and converted into a luxury holiday destination.[22] It was linked to the mainland with a bridge in July 2011. The bridge is not currently open for traffic.
  • Koh Dek Koul, កោះដេកកោល: This small private island is 7 kilometres (4 mi) off Victory Beach. The luxurious Russian owned Mirax Resort is located on this island.


Angkor Beer bottles

The economy of Sihanoukville province is to a great part defined by its international port and the nearby oil port with numerous import - and export companies settled in the area and the attached freight-transport sector with the local cargo storage facilities. Other sizable economic sectors of the province are fishery, aquaculture, agriculture, mining, frozen shrimp processing, the garment industry, the Angkor Beer brewery, the real estate market and the vast tourism industry.[23]


Roads and streets[edit]

  • NR4: Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville are connected by the National Road 4. The road has been built and financed by the USA to accommodate heavy freight containers and gasoline tank trucks connecting the port with Phnom Penh. There are three toll stations along its entire distance of around 250 km. However, it is considered the most dangerous road of Cambodia due to dense traffic, regular traffic accidents and little control by authorities.[24]
  • NR3: Connects Sihanoukville with Kampot province. The road joins the NR4 at Prey Nob district. It is paved and in a relatively good condition, but poor in traffic signs. Here like on most highways Cambodia has no control over free roaming cattle and other livestock that regularly block road traffic.
  • NR48: Connects Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh with Koh Kong Province,to the southwest of Cambodia. The road eventually ends at the Thai-Cambodian border. There used to be several ferry crossings over the rivers along the route which were replaced by solid bridges. This road has very little traffic and is in relative good condition.
Moto-dup (taxi motobikes) wait for customers at "Psar Peanichakam", Sihanoukville.

Streets in Sihanoukville town and province are in relative good condition. However, traffic does not follow Cambodian Traffic law[25] and rules, the police does little in the way of enforcement of international norms. Cambodia follows the right-hand traffic. In urban and residential areas there is an overabundance of motorbikes due to the absence of public transportation and taxis. Highways and Sihanoukville city are considered unsafe for driving. Drivers of motorbikes do not wear helmets, drive indiscriminately on any side of the street, do not have mirrors and it is common to see motorbikes with more than two passengers or vehicles driven by children and underaged people. Traffic lights are being ignored altogether.[26] In 2008 the government ordered the enforcement of the use of helmets countrywide, but these rules are not yet followed.[27]

The province does not have a scheduled public transportation system. Therefore, there exists an informal communal and urban transportation system of mini buses, taxis, motor-taxis (moto-dups) and tuk-tuks. This system is not administered by authorities, as anybody can become a bus -, motor-taxi - or tuk-tuk driver. As a consequence, prices of services are ad-hoc, insurance non-existent and service quality varies considerable. It is recommended that foreign visitors confirm prices before using any of these services and ask advice from tourist agencies and hotels.[28]


The Sihanoukville International Airport was formerly called Kaong Kang (កោងកាង/ថាស=mangrove) airport. It is located in Ream commune in central Sihanoukville province, near the sea on top a former mangrove lagoon 18 kilometers from Sihanoukville town, along the NR4.


The long distance-bus station is located near the port. Cambodia is home to many competing companies[29] running frequent services from/to all major provinces. Direct destinations are Phnom Penh, Koh Kong and Kampot. Some companies offer services to Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap through a connection in Phnom Penh.

Long distance taxi[edit]

Taxis for long distance transportation are available at the bus station and in all hotels..


Wooden pier near Sihanoukville

Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem have daily ferry service.[30]

There are no more official scheduled boat services from or to Sihanoukville Province to Koh Kong Province.

Small long-tail boats and medium size cruising boats can individually be hired for sightseeing -, fishing -, diving - and drinking trips at guesthouses, travel agencies and diving operators.

Occasionally large cruise ships stop at the port during their voyages in Southeast Asia.


The moderate railway network of Cambodia is currently under re-construction by Toll Holdings which has obtained a concession.The currently rather deteriorated train station near the port used to - and will again - link the province with Phnom Penh via Kampot.


The 2008 census of Cambodia counted 199,902 inhabitants of Sihanoukville province.[31]

Khmer are the main ethnic group. In addition there are other groups like Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham, Thai, French, British, Korean Europeans, Australians and Americans, due to its status as an international port and a tourist destination. Krong Preah Sihanouk has a relative high Human Development Index (HDI)of 0.750 in average, compared to the national average HDI of 0.523.[32]


Yeay Mao, a guardian spirit at Pich Nil is venerated throughout the Sihanoukville province

Cambodian culture is of distinct Khmer origin and tradition based on Pan-East-Asian beliefs, among century-old minor Chinese and Vietnamese influences. The prolonged presence of foreign and Western people in the province contributes to a distinctly modern multi-cultural manifestation vastly influenced by modern media - in particular in Sihanoukville town..

The inhabitants of Sihanoukville province celebrate all traditional feasts of Cambodia and other festivities such as Cambodian New Year (April), Chinese New Year (between January and February), Water Festival (November), Pchum Ben (honor to the ancestors in October) and Kathen Ceremony (offerings to the bonzi (monks)) among a number of secular holidays (8th of January, Day of Cambodian - Vietnamese Friendship).

The ethnic and minority religious groups celebrate Christmas Day (25 December) and Holy Week for the Catholics, Ramadan for the Muslims, Valentine's Day and the International New Year (31 December).

The inhabitants and families of Sihanoukville province are strongly dedicated to commerce, fishing, agriculture and light industry. It is common that families visit the beaches and waterfalls at the weekends. Generally, people of Sihanoukville province are considered easy-going and friendly, they are used to visitors from other Cambodian provinces and to foreigners from all over the world.


USS Gary docked at Sihanoukville Port

Sihanoukville used to be a municipality, it held the same status as a province. It was converted into a full province on December 22nd 2008.[33] There is a provincial governor and three deputy governors. It is subdivided into 3 districts (Khan). The port has itsown autonomous administration.[34] The districts are divided in 22 communes and 94 villages.

ISO Code District Romanization Population Communes Villages
1801 មិត្តភាព Mittakpheap 67,440 5 19
1802 ព្រៃនប់ Prey Nob 75,142 14 65
1803 ស្ទឹងហាវ Stueng Hav 13,108 3 10


The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port was finished in 1960 as the international sea port of Cambodia. It has an area of 290 meters length and 28 meters width. Its exterior berth depth is 8.50 to 13 meters and 7.50 to 8.50 meters depth in the interior. Four medium vessels can simultaneously moor at the port.[34]

The port is located 18 kilometers/11 miles from the Kaong Kang Airport and 4 kilometers/2 miles from Sihanoukville town. Ships' passengers are allowed to visit Sihanoukville town. The terminal itself has no shopping center, banking or tourist offices, only toilets.[35]


As of 2004, there were 27 Theravada Buddhist pagodas in the province with a population of 1,918 bonzes.[36] Buddhist Pagodas are central in Cambodian culture as the defining spiritual source of villages and cities. Some of the most important pagodas in the province:

  • Upper Pagoda: It is also known as "Wat Chotynieng", or "Wat Leu". is Located on a hill that overlooks Sihanoukville bay, it is dedicated to Samdech Preah Sangareach Chhoun Nath, a Cambodian Buddhist leader before the Khmer Rouge rule.
  • Lower Pagoda: It is also known as "Wat Krom". Located in Sihanoukville town. It is dedicated to Yeay Mao, a popular southern Cambodian divinity. (Both Wat Leu and Wat Krom are named according to their local geographic location, on top of the hill and way down like at the bottom of the hill).
  • Ream Pagoda: It is located in the Ream commune, near the Ream Naval Base.

Sihanoukville province is home to other minor religious groups like Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Animists. Other places of worship:

  • St. Michael's Church: It is the center of the Catholic communities. Every Sunday evening there is a celebration for faithful visitors to the port in English. The church was built in 1960 by sailors and it is located on the same hill as the Upper Pagoda, facing the port.
  • Iber Bikhalifah Mosque: It is run by the Muslim communities. It is located in Sihanoukville town, just at the popular Psah Leu (upper market) area.


The province hasn't got full educational coverage, but has improved during the last decade. The 2004 statistics[36] show the following centers of education: 33 pre-schools with 1,670 children, 52 primary schools with 34,863 students, 5 colleges with 4,794 students; 2 high schools with 1,449 students; 10 vocational training with 961 students and 13,728 students inprivate schools.

Private educational institutes in Sihanoukville are: Life University, University of Management and Economics, Built Bright University, Khmer Technology and Management Center, Don Bosco Technical School and Don Bosco Hotel School.

Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "General Population Census of Cambodia 2008 - Provisional population totals" (PDF). National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning. 3 September 2008. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Philpotts, Robert (March 2006). A Port for Independence. England: Blackwater Books. p. 18. 
  5. ^ "Introducing Sihanoukville". Lonely Travel. Retrieved 5 February 2009. 
  6. ^ "Cambodia, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ Cambodia in the Early 21st Century: Islands of Sihanoukville: Koh Tang, page 669, Royal Government of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, February 2004. ISBN 2-9513524-0-9
  9. ^ Posted by Khmerization (2008-12-31). "Decree creates three new provinces". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  10. ^ Cat Barton (September 7, 2007). "Cambodia: King Father Sihanouk holds ECCC at bay". Asian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved February 5, 2008. 
  11. ^ Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. Cambodian-English Dictionary. Bureau of Special Research in Modern Languages. The Catholic University of America Press. Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-8132-0509-3
  12. ^ "View Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ US Department of Defense document "History of the Pacific Air Forces 1 July 1974-31 Dec 1975". p 426. accessed 24 Nov 2013
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Cambodian National Parks". Retrieved 5 February 5, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Cambodia in Focus : Developing Tourist Resorts Islands". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  23. ^ Economic Activities, pages 662-664, "Cambodia in the Early 21st Century", Royal Government of Cambodia. Phnom Penh, 2004, ISBN 2-9513524-0-9
  24. ^ "Travel Guide for Sihanoukville". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Cambodia: more deaths on the roads than in minefields". International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents. September 20, 2007. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  27. ^ Sok Khemara, Voa Khmer (January 3, 2009). "Police begin enforcement". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  28. ^ "Getting Around Sihanoukville". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "General Population Census of Cambodia 2008 - Provisional population totals". National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning. September 3, 2008. 
  32. ^ Normal Template, [2]. Retrieved 2012.
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b Introduction "The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS)". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  35. ^ Cruise Asean: The Autonomous Port of Sihanoukville, APS
  36. ^ a b Structure of Sihanoukville Municipality, pag. 670, "Cambodia in the Early 21st Century", Royal Government of Cambodia. Phnom Penh, 2004, ISBN 2-9513524-0-9

External links[edit]