Top beaches in Asia are among the prettiest, calmest and most attractive in the world. However, these beaches are also the most crowded, sometimes untidy, and often full of mobile vendors pestering tourists to buy all sorts of commodities from trinkets to tattoos and body piercings. This is not the case for Independence Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Independence Beach is calm, quiet and free of local hawkers.
Independence Beach is exactly how westerners imagine an island-paradise. The beach is an endless strip of blinding white sand that disappears into the calm blue waters. Vacationing here transports guests into a world of fantasy, untouched and undisturbed by the busy and chaotic streets of Cambodia. Located in the southern coast of Cambodia and jutting into the Gulf of Thailand, Sihanoukville is the most picturesque and relaxing tourist destination in Cambodia, and Independence Beach is the most tranquil and inviting beach in Sihanoukville. This elongated beach is right next to Sokha Beach, which is another popular destination.
Independence Beach got its name from the majestic 7-floor hotel, Independence Hotel, which used to stand prominently on the hill. It saw its heyday in the 1960’s, boasting to have hosted Jacky Kennedy during her whirlwind visit to Cambodia. The hotel was quickly gaining popularity as one of the top hotels in Southeast Asia before Pol Pot destroyed any hopes of Cambodia or any of its structures from becoming internationally recognized. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army pillaged their own country and executed their own people. Although until today it is difficult to determine exactly how many Cambodians suffered and died from this inhumane regime, many believe that the number could reach to as many as 2 million. The growing tourism and industries of Sihanoukville, as well as the rest of the country, came to a halt from 1975 to 1979. Independence Hotel became a practice shooting range for Khmer Rouge soldiers who patrolled the area. In 1979, the North Vietnamese army arrived and pushed back Pol Pot and his blood-thirsty army. Although North Vietnam was not the friendliest of liberators, Cambodians welcomed their troops and celebrated the end of Pol Pot’s tyranny. The country, however, never picked up from where it left off. It took decades before tourists came flocking back to Independence Beach and Sihanoukville began to regain status a serious tourist destination in Southeast Asia.
Today, more and more foreign travelers and backpackers are making their way to Sihanoukville. It is a short 4-hour bus ride from the capital city of Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh International Airport is, in fact, experiencing traffic as regular flights from Los Angeles, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, arrive every day bringing in scores of visitors. The three most important cities in Cambodia are Phnom Penh (commercial center), Siem Reap (for its temples and religious landmarks including the mystical and very popular Angkor Wat), and, of course, Sihanoukville (for its casinos, bars, and beaches, including Independence Beach).
At Independence Beach, visitors get the most of their vacation by simply lying down on the sand all day, picnicking with family or friends, or sun bathing on this pristine seaside while enjoying the cool sea breeze.