Cambodia has not really made it to the world map as a leading dive or snorkeling site, and yet those who have visited the coastal city of Sihanoukville are convinced that this country is blessed with the most beautiful underwater resources. Snorkeling in Sihanoukville is quite a treat since there a number of beaches and surrounding islands to visit. The waters are calm and very inviting throughout the year.
Tourism in Cambodia is mostly focused on the temples and historical landmarks. Easily the most popular tourist attraction is the enigmatic Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is an ancient temple complex built for the King of Cambodia in the early 12th Century. Its amazing architecture and intriguing bas reliefs simply astonish everyone who comes here. A good number of travelers, backpackers and religious pilgrims come to Cambodia primarily and solely for Angkor Wat. Another well-known destination is, of course, the capital city of Phnom Penh. There is so much history here.
Sadly, the history and people of Cambodia are primarily remembered for the sufferings they have experienced under the monstrous rule of the Khmer Rouge army. Led by the despotic Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge is one of the most notorious and bloodthirsty band of soldiers that ever marched into the history of man. They imprisoned and tortured hundreds of thousands of innocent victims, mostly the rich, cultured and educated people of Cambodia. Counting the innocent lives that were murdered at the infamous Killing Fields and scores of people who died from extreme hunger and starvation, Pol Pot is responsible for the death of more than 2 million of his own countrymen, including the elderly, women, children and his own relatives and neighbors. He ruled from 1975 to 1979: the longest four years in the history of the country. Needless to say, this greatly hampered the growth and development of Cambodia. In those four years, all schools and business centers including tourism establishments such as museums and hotels were shut down to rot and be infested with bats. In the 1960’s, one of the most modern hotels in Southeast Asia was Independence Hotel in Sihanoukville. This 7-story hotel was converted into a practice shooting range for the Khmer Rouge soldiers. Even the beautiful beaches were abandoned, to be enjoyed only by crabs, birds, and Khmer Rouge soldiers who were stationed in the area.
Today, after three decades, tourists from around the world have returned. Sihanoukville is steadily gaining international recognition as one of the best beach destinations in Southeast Asia. Cruise ships traveling along Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam regularly dock at the port of Sihanoukville and passengers get to spend an entire day around Sihanoukville before their ship sails off again. The most visited city landmarks are Independence Square, Golden Lions Monument, and Cambrew Brewery. Some cruise passengers decide to be left behind in order to see Angkor Wat.
The pride of Sihanoukville is in its beaches, which are Ochheuteal Beach, Sokha Beach (the most popular beach), Serendipity Beach, Independence Beach (where the Independence Hotel was located), Victory Beach, and far-away Otres Beach. The most enjoyed activities here are swimming and snorkeling in Sihanoukville.